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21 Jan 2011 : Column 1205

My hon. Friend rightly highlighted safety issues as being one of the barriers that can sometimes deter people from cycling. It is not really for me to start dictating to the Crown Prosecution Service about their decisions on prosecutions—I am sure that he anticipated that answer—but there are a range of other ways in which the Government can help to tackle concerns about road safety and cycling. First, of course, The Highway Code emphasises the importance of watching out for cyclists. I agree with my hon. Friend that strengthening driver awareness of cyclists should be an important priority in our continuing work to improve the driving test and driver training. It is already very much a focus of driver training and the driving test, but we acknowledge the continuing importance of that work.

Secondly, we encourage local authorities to make their roads safer for all users. We stand ready to offer advice on the options available, including the 20 mph zones that my hon. Friend supports. However, I am sure that he will agree that such decisions need to be taken locally, in the light of local circumstances. Thirdly, we are providing local government with the funding to improve cycle routes and networks through local transport plans and, in future, via the local sustainable transport fund.

My hon. Friend is right: we should be careful not to overestimate the risks associated with cycling, in case we find ourselves being part of the problem and deter people from doing more cycling. It is worth noting that the health benefits offered by cycling clearly outweigh the road safety risk. We still need to make our streets more welcoming to cyclists. The DFT’s “Manual for Streets” emphasises the importance of providing for cyclists and pedestrians. My hon. Friend is right to say that a user hierarchy recommended in that document places pedestrians and cyclists at the top. “Manual for Streets 2” was recently published after a lot of input from different stakeholders. My understanding is that those documents are heavily used by local authorities in their work on our roads and streets. The uptake of those documents is more extensive than my hon. Friend has been led to believe.

In response to my hon. Friend’s point about signage, I, too, very much welcome the trial of the “No entry—except cycles” sign. He is right: it has been a very long time coming. The results of the trial will be part of the signs review included in the White Paper which was announced this week by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge, I hope that that sign will be seen more widely on England’s streets in future.

As for road racing, officials from the Department for Transport, the Department for Culture, Media and

21 Jan 2011 : Column 1206

Sport and the Home Office have been working with British Cycling and the Association of Chief Police Officers to explore ways of improving procedures for holding cycle races on public roads and addressing the issues that my hon. Friend rightly raised. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary met British Cycling representatives earlier this week, and we have identified an existing legal power that enables the police to give directions for places at which traffic must stop for the race, and for cycle race marshals to hold a sign for that purpose. It is not sorted yet, but we hope that that might provide a solution to the major concerns expressed by the cycle racing community. Working with British Cycling, we have identified amendments to regulations to improve procedures for authorising cycle races, and the Under-Secretary is keen that they should be introduced.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge concluded by expressing concern about the Department for Transport developing its own cycle journey planner when good websites such as CycleStreets are already available. Given the importance of the issue, there is room for Government action to complement the websites provided by the private sector, particularly given our focus on providing novice cyclists with the information that they need to encourage them to go out cycling, so that they are confident they can identify easier and safer routes.

We have begun to see real progress on cycling. My hon. Friend discussed the long history and success of cycling in Cambridge. London, too, is a great success story, as the number of cyclists in the capital has more than doubled over the past decade. Some 27,000 people now enter central London by bike every day. That shows that with the right measures it is possible to make a difference and create the right conditions for cycling to grow, generating the health, congestion, carbon and quality-of-life benefits that he rightly highlighted.

In conclusion, the 19th-century reformer and suffragette, Frances E. Willard, wrote in a preface to one of her books:

“She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.”

I am not sure whether that overstates things, but there is no doubt about the benefits that cycling can bring for quality of life. I strongly recommend it to all hon. Members, and I look forward to working with my hon. Friend in encouraging greater uptake of cycling by members of the public.

Question put and agreed to.

2.58 pm

House adjourned.

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