Active Travel — [Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:27 am on 9th July 2019.

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Photo of Matt Western Matt Western Labour, Warwick and Leamington 10:27 am, 9th July 2019

I congratulate Robert Courts on bringing forward this clearly important issue. Like him, I sit on the all-party parliamentary group for cycling. I am a keen cyclist; according to The Sun on Sunday, I am a “fanatic”—I am not sure how that came to be. I would say I am an advocate; let us leave it at that. In that vein, I put it on record that I am a member of my local Cycleways group, which I congratulate on its campaigning work, as well as Sustrans. It is important that we have such bodies who speak out and campaign in these areas.

We have heard about the generic benefits we can get from cycling: the great health advantages, both mental and physical; the reduction in congestion as a result of using existing capacity more efficiently; and the improvements to air quality from taking more polluting vehicles off the road. That is particularly relevant to my constituency, which sadly every few weeks registers the worst air quality in the country.

We have also heard about how the lack of safe provision on our roads is deterring new cyclists and road users from taking up a really important form of transport. Last week’s tragedy in Battersea, in which a young design student, Giovanna Cappiello, was killed, is a reminder of how vulnerable people can feel. Our thoughts are with her friends and family. The priority must be to make our routes, particularly routes to schools, safe, to encourage behavioural change, and to encourage the next generation to think about how they move.

Let me focus briefly on a scheme in my constituency and in Kenilworth, which adjoins it. The Kenilworth to Leamington scheme is a three-mile route that has been talked about for 20 years, although no progress has been made. I believe it would be transformational. It would cost just £3.5 million, including a bridge that would cost £1 million. A petition has been signed by more than 1,000 people. The route would enable students and academics to access the University of Warwick from the town of Leamington far more easily. That would reduce queues and congestion, particularly on the A425. I encourage Warwickshire County Council to look closely and favourably at this scheme, because its expenditure on cycling is a fraction of the £7.50 average.

Infrastructure is holding us back, but as we have heard, a revolution is coming, particularly through e-bikes. In Germany, 960,000 e-bikes were bought last year. That compares with 64,000 in the UK, which was up by just 1,000 on the year before. France has a subsidy of €200 for every e-bike. That is driving active travel, particularly among women, who make up 58% of participants, while 21% of those who use the scheme are retired. Half of e-bike trips replace a car trip; that is the advantage. We need a revolution.