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Mr. Bob Russell: Is the Minister promising additional Government finance? Does she accept that there are schemes and examples of initiative and enthusiasm across the country, but they lack resources?

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): The Liberal Democrats have spent all the money already.

Ms Jackson: As my hon. Friend points out, that miraculous 1p that the Liberal Democrats were going to

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use to solve all the nation's problems has been spent 12 times. I understand that the approach of some Liberal Democrat-run local authorities to the road network is benign neglect.

The extent of the traffic congestion in the capital means that cycling now offers the fastest journey time for trips in inner London. Cycling has the potential to confer a range of positive benefits. It is widely available and gives direct, door-to-door, flexible and reliable transport at any time. It offers equivalent personal freedom to that associated with the car at a fraction of the cost, and without the negative impacts of pollution, congestion and inefficiency. In addition, cycling helps to sustain fitness--that is particularly relevant for the nation's children--and mobility for people of all ages.

Last year saw the launch of the national cycling strategy--a blueprint for cycling. It was developed by a steering group comprising central Government, local authorities, the commercial sector and voluntary organisations. That spirit of partnership remains an essential prerequisite for delivering the targets set out in the strategy, which the Government are keen to support.

The objective of the strategy is to establish a culture that favours the increased use of bicycles for all age groups. We want to develop innovative policies and good practice, with a central target of doubling the amount of cycling by 2002, and doubling that again by 2012.

The aims of the strategy link in with the Government's wider objectives of air quality improvement, sustainable development, transport efficiency and personal and public health. We need to recognise the bicycle as a serious transport option for going to work, to the shops, to the bus or train station, or to school. That means focusing on infrastructure as well as attitudes.

Mr. Chope: On which of the occasions that the Minister has just described does she use her bicycle?

Ms Jackson: I regret that my ability to use my bicycle to go to the shops has been somewhat precluded. Given the pressure of work, my ability to go to the shops is almost nil.

A national cycling forum has been established. It is responsible for ensuring that national and local policy and provision deliver increases in cycling, in line with the identified NCS outputs. The forum also co-ordinates the contributions of a number of working groups. Seven such groups have been established to look at a range of subjects.

One of those groups is exploring ways to maximise the opportunities for combining cycling with public transport. That is a major issue that involves not just bicycle carriage on other vehicles, but the provision of physical facilities at stations, bus stops and major interchanges, and of information about what is available to those planning multimodal journeys.

We are looking to train and station operators to play a major role in developing a cycle-friendly railway system. That will be achieved only if operators deliver what cyclists want--facilities for cycle carriage, convenient and secure facilities at stations, and comprehensive information. The voluntary code of practice, "Providing for Cyclists", launched earlier this year, offers helpful guidance to operators. The code was developed by the cyclists public affairs group, the Cyclists Touring Club

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and Sustrans--to whose valuable and inspirational work my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Valerie Davey) paid tribute.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South mentioned earlier, I was invited to make the first cycle mark award earlier this year to Anglia Railways for its "Bikes on Trains" initiative, developed in partnership--again I use that word partnership--with cycle user groups, the community, local authorities and the Government. Chiltern Railways has installed secure cycle racks at its stations. Great Western Trains has increased capacity and reduced its charge for reserving cycle carriage from £3 to £1. Thames Trains is providing flexible space for carrying bicycles on its trains. Those companies have pointed the way and we expect others to follow.

Making the railways more cycle-friendly is not the responsibility of just the train and station operators. On 6 November, we issued new objectives, instructions and guidance to the franchising director, placing a new duty on him to ensure that, as far as possible, the railway provides suitable facilities for cyclists. If a franchisee plans to order new rolling stock, the franchising director is now required to discuss with the franchise operator the provision of suitable space for accommodating bicycles on the trains. The franchising director is also required to encourage operators to provide suitable facilities for cyclists at the stations that they manage.

Hon. Members on both sides have mentioned the key issue of safety. We have announced our intention to set a new road safety target for the years beyond the turn of the century. The perception that promoting more cycling and reducing road casualties are not compatible must be challenged. One of the forum's working groups aims to ensure that the national cycling strategy can work in harmony with the development of the road safety strategy. Traffic management and related highway engineering offer enormous potential to make cycling conditions safer and more attractive to use. Networks of bus and cycle lanes, advanced stop lines for cyclists at traffic signals and one-way streets with contraflow are just some examples of possible measures. My hon. Friend the Member for Wyre Forest highlighted the need for planning to take the needs of cyclists into account when creating new buildings and workplace environments.

Cycle security is a perennial concern for cyclists. No matter what measures are put in place to encourage people to use their bike, the chances of their doing so are diminished if they do not have a reasonable expectation of finding it, with all its pieces in working order, where they left it.

A working group has been exploring the potential for developing a graded set of security standards for locking devices and is also keeping in touch with Southampton city council's review of existing guidance on the design, manufacture, planning and siting of cycle parking equipment.

Local authorities are the primary agents for delivering physical improvements for cyclists. My Department is developing guidance to help authorities to review the cycle-friendliness of their existing networks and proposals for new road infrastructure.

The strategy invites local authorities to contribute towards its headline target by putting together their own local cycling strategies. Some authorities may find it relatively easy to achieve--or exceed--a doubling of

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cycle use. Others will find it more realistic to adopt a more modest target. That is why the strategy does not prescribe local targets, but encourages authorities to determine for themselves what is appropriate and achievable.

Public transport operators, bus and train station managers and employers can also be more proactive by providing secure cycle parks and shower facilities at work and by improving cycle access, as my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) pointed out. My Department offers interest-free loans to staff to purchase bicycles. There are excellent facilities available at Eland house and Great Minster house for staff who cycle to work. We have issued a green transport guide to all Departments. All Departments work together on a green Cabinet Sub-Committee to put the environment at the heart of all our policies. Transport has a major impact on our ability to achieve our aims for a sustainable economy and an acceptable and improving environment.

Putting in place practical and physical improvements will help to provide some tangible evidence of better provision for cyclists. There is a wealth of good practice. Information on successful initiatives, new approaches and innovations needs to be spread widely. There is much value in sharing knowledge and experience. The forum's best practice group has taken on the challenge and will be looking at topics such as cycling and town centres and cycling and health. Its task is to generate and disseminate guidance covering the principles of the national cycling strategy and relevant best practice examples.

Recent experience in cycle challenge and elsewhere has demonstrated the importance of establishing strong partnerships for action. I have asked my officials to analyse the outcomes of cycle challenge and ensure that the results are disseminated widely. Public transport operators were involved in a number of cycle challenge schemes. They include Greater Manchester passenger transport executive's drive to improve cycle parking at Metrolink stations and an initiative by Transport Management Services in conjunction with Stagecoach Cumberland to enable buses to carry bicycles on rural routes.

Examples from the health sector include a partnership between Southampton city council and Southampton University Hospital NHS trust to improve cycle parking on the hospital site and to reduce the number of cars coming on site. Stockport health authority received cycle challenge funds to operate a cycle leasing scheme to staff willing to give up their cars.

Employers, too, took part in cycle challenge. Dover council worked with Pfizer UK to improve cycle facilities for staff on the site, to fund cycle facilities in the town of Sandwich, and to improve access and local routes for cyclists. BNR Europe established cycle facilities and improved access to its site at Harlow in Essex.

Many voluntary groups either received cycle challenge funds or--


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