I am delighted by the huge amount of support that campaign by The Times has generated and we should study carefully the 7,000 stories about cycling in this country that have been given to that campaign, to see what first-hand guidance they can give us as we try to make cycling much safer. I broadly welcome most of the key points of the “Cities fit for cycling” manifesto

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developed by

The Times

. I was going to quibble with just one of those key points, but I do not think that I have the time to do so.

I want to pick up on the point made by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and say that this issue is not just about our cities. Some of the most dangerous roads for cyclists are our rural roads. I do not know what is currently in the Highway Code or the advice given to learner drivers, but we should treat cyclists—wherever possible and particularly on our rural roads—as if they were a young girl on horseback. Cars should slow up and not try to overtake if there is traffic coming in the other direction. So long as the visibility and sightlines are right, they should pull out slowly and purposefully and go into the opposite carriageway if there is nothing coming in the other direction. Our cyclists, particularly our young cyclists, deserve no less.

I am proud to represent a constituency—Woking—that has made outstanding progress on encouraging cycling in recent years. More than 26 km of off-road network has been added in Woking since 2008, including a substantial route along vast swathes of the Basingstoke canal towpath, thus demonstrating that it is often possible to open up significant new routes, even within highly built-up areas. In addition, I look forward to the culmination of the Hoe valley scheme, which the Prime Minister visited recently. Basically, that scheme aims to take lots of homes out of the local flood area, but there will also be new homes, including affordable homes, and new parkland, which will have terrific new off-highway cycling routes.

Many colleagues have said that the promotion of safe cycling is crucial. In Woking, we have had special activities such as “neon nights”, which are supervised evening cycle rides to promote the use of high-visibility clothing and lights, encouraging cyclists to be seen and to be safe.

I started my contribution on a very sombre note, but let me end on a light one. I very much enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Oliver Colvile), who talked about being a fat man on a bicycle. My younger brother—he is younger than me, but the same sort of age—was getting corpulent a few years ago. Within a year, he had successfully competed in L’Étape, which as I understand it is a stretch of the Tour de France that amateurs can ride. So I say to my hon. Friend, “Set your sights high, my friend”, and if he succeeds in riding L’Étape, perhaps we can go on a tandem together, as my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) talked about, but I would first like to have proof beyond all shadow of a doubt of his stability and fitness for purpose. Given that proof, I look forward to that prospect and perhaps we can do it in aid of charity.

5.3 pm

Heidi Alexander (Lewisham East) (Lab): I am not quite sure how to follow that last point by the hon. Member for Woking (Jonathan Lord), but I do want to say what a fantastic debate this has been. It is so good to see so many right hon. and hon. Members here to support this excellent campaign on cycling.

I may not look it, but I am a reasonably regular cyclist. A number of years ago, however, I was knocked off my bike outside Stockwell tube station. The driver

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of the car drove off. After that incident, I was put off cycling for a couple of years. However, I have got back on my bike and last year—I want to put this down on the parliamentary record—I completed the London to Brighton cycle ride, even getting up Ditchling beacon without getting off my bike. Anyone who has ridden up that horrible hill will know what I mean.

Part of my reason for speaking today is that every day that I come to work—whether I am on my bike, going to the train station or in my car, and I admit to driving into Parliament on the occasions when the House is sitting until 10.30 at night—I go past a “ghost bike” on Lewisham roundabout, which shows where someone has lost their life while cycling. When anyone goes over Lewisham roundabout, they feel like they are taking their life into their own hands, and the same is true whenever anyone goes over the roundabout at Elephant and Castle. This year alone two cyclists have been killed at the Bow roundabout in London. I do not think that we should wait until people lose their life before we act. We must find a way to get in the investment to tackle those really key junctions and roundabouts where, as anyone who rides a bike will know, cyclists fear for their lives.

Cycling safety is also about basic road maintenance. We have heard lots of right hon. and hon. Members talking about the horrendous potholes that exist. As a south-east London MP, if I cycle into Westminster, I go back home down the Old Kent road and there is a huge rut that cyclists get into. When cyclists get into it and lorries and buses are going past on the right-hand side, they are never sure how they will get out. When I am in that situation, I think to myself, “It can’t be beyond the wit of man for Transport for London and the local councils to get together and sort out this stretch of road.” Some really basic issues need to be addressed.

Meg Hillier: My hon. Friend has talked about cyclists who get injured. Last year, in Hackney, including my constituency, between January and October there was one fatality of a cyclist, which is tragic, but there were 36 serious injuries. As she suggests, it is not just the cyclists who die who should make us act; we should also remember those cyclists who are seriously injured and who often have to live with their injuries for the rest of their lives.

Heidi Alexander: My hon. Friend makes a very important point, and we must tackle these basic issues of safety on our roads if we are to get more people to cycle. In addition, if we are to get more people to cycle, we must also tackle the perception of what it is like to cycle. As a woman, I think that some of the time women can be a bit put off by cycling, including by the idea of turning up at work after cycling.

Sheila Gilmore (Edinburgh East) (Lab): Although safety issues are absolutely paramount—there are loads of junction issues in my own city of Edinburgh—one of the things that makes cycling so popular in other countries is that, partly because of the sheer number of people who cycle, people do not have to go through all that stuff about needing to have all these things to put on—the helmet and everything else—which can be off-putting. If we can get to the stage where people feel that

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they can just come out of their houses, get on their bikes and cycle somewhere safely, we will have far more cyclists.

Heidi Alexander: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I was about to make the point that, when a cyclist arrives at work, especially if they are not as fit as they should be, they will need to find somewhere to have a shower and sort themselves out. So it is incumbent upon employers and the planning departments in councils, when they are considering new developments, to find a way to make cycling easier and more convenient for people.

Lots of things can be done. We must address safety, but we must also make cycling more convenient, which is absolutely key. I will not take up any more time today, as other hon. Members who want to speak. I pay tribute to the campaign and to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) for securing this debate, and I really hope that it results in the changes that we all want to see.

5.8 pm

Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on securing this important debate and I also congratulate The Times for its leadership on this issue. There has been an impressive turnout today of Members from all parties, and I truly hope that this debate can be part of a momentum for change.

In East Dunbartonshire, seven cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on our roads since 2006. That is indeed a sobering statistic. However, we are fortunate to have an award-winning organisation called the East Dunbartonshire Cycle Co-operative. Under the dynamic leadership of Mark Kiehlmann and with a committed and growing team of volunteers, the organisation has secured funding and put in place a range of different initiatives to get people cycling and enjoying using bikes as a means of transport. So far, it has delivered 1,000 hours of cycle training, including cycle mechanics, because, as was mentioned earlier, being able to fix a bike is very important.

There are cycle clubs at many local schools. There has been a cycle map with different routes distributed to more than 20,000 individuals, and we now have an annual cycle festival with more than 1,000 people participating. Summer cycle rides are organised. Importantly, it is often the children who are enthusiastic and they are encouraged to bring their parents to get them cycling for the first time in 15 or 20 years. When we have families cycling together, it is more likely to be something that sticks.

The group has even organised a Guinness world record attempt for simultaneous bike bell ringing with the help of Classic FM and the “Blue Danube”. It has achieved great success. In less than a year, there has been a 5% modal shift in cycling to school in one town. St Matthew’s primary now has nearly 20% of the pupils cycling to school, which is a great achievement and shows what can be done. It has also inspired other initiatives. We have Bishopbriggs BMX club for 10 to 19-year-olds, with 100 members. One of its founders, Christopher Eastwood, was a winner in the first national BMX competition at the end of last year.

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Mountain biking is popular in Scotland. The charity Rebound is trying to ensure that new facilities can be put in place in East Dunbartonshire, particularly in Lennox forest, where it is hoping to build tracks that can be used both as a leisure pursuit and to host competitions and events. I look forward to meeting that local group tomorrow.

I want to touch on two issues. One is a slight controversy about cycling on pavements. I had an initiative in my constituency called Cycle Train. Children as young as five would cycle to school on the pavement, with an adult at the beginning and at the end of the group of children cycling. Once the pupils had passed their cycling proficiency test, they would move to cycling on the road. It was a safe way for children to get to school, but it had to stop, because it was not in accordance with the law. Although there are undoubtedly problems with irresponsible cycling on pavements, there is a role for responsible, supervised pavement cycling for young children. We would not expect five or six-year-olds to cycle on the road, but getting practice in place would be helpful. I discussed it with the then Minister with responsibility for cycling in 2009 with a delegation. I hope that the Minister with responsibility for cycling now will consider that.

I strongly support point 6 of The Times campaign for 20 mph limits. There is a big campaign in my constituency to encourage that in residential areas. It is very popular indeed. I hope that my local council will outline a timetable for moving towards that. I understand that time pressure is upon us. With so much enthusiasm for this debate, perhaps we need further debates on this issue, even on the Floor of the House. I hope the enthusiasm for the debate today and the wealth of ideas put forward will empower and embolden the Minister with responsibility for cycling. He is no doubt keen to take this forward and make a real difference on this issue.

5.12 pm

Jane Ellison (Battersea) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on securing this debate. I also congratulate The Times on its campaign. This debate is happening in Back-Bench time. It is an illustration of how Back-Bench time has enabled the House to be topical. Perhaps that flexibility was not there before. One reason why the Backbench Business Committee awarded time today was because the hon. Member for Cambridge made the case that it would be topical to hold this debate at a time when our constituents are so engaged with the issue. I will also say, for the record, that debates that have been this well subscribed in Westminster Hall have on occasion bid successfully for more time.

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): The hon. Lady may not be aware that I presented a ten-minute rule Bill on Tuesday, which incorporates many aspects of The Times cycling campaign. If the Minister could persuade the Leader of the House to find time for a Second Reading of my Bill, we would be able to further debate the merits of this campaign and bring it into legislation.

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Jane Ellison: I am sure the Minister heard that plea. I echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) by saying let us celebrate the joy of cycling. My father is a veteran road racer. In his youth, he was a stage winner of the Tour of Britain on more than one occasion. He still goes out with his friends who are in their 60s, 70s and, I think, 80s, and does hundreds of miles a month around the Yorkshire dales. They are collectively a great testimony to the joys of cycling and to its great health benefits. I am not remotely in his class, but my bike is an invaluable way of getting around my constituency, particularly at weekends between engagements. I have sometimes taken cycle superhighway 8. I am lucky, because it runs from Wandsworth to Westminster.

I want to focus on one specific area, which is the role of our highway engineers in making junctions and cycling safer. Many people have highlighted particular junctions and problems in their constituencies. Some particularly bad junctions in London where terrible accidents and fatalities have occurred have been mentioned. The Mayor of London has asked Transport for London to review hundreds of key junctions. I hope that that review will generate fresh ideas and fresh thinking, and that hon. Members around the country can ask their local highway engineers to look at the ideas and take them up. People have alluded to the lessons to be learnt from continental Europe and the excellent engineering and integration solutions that we see there, but there is also innovation going on in Britain. Transport for London engineers have been working on particular junctions and roundabouts. I met them recently at a problem one in my patch. They are also working with cycling groups and others to look at specific junctions that have been highlighted in this debate.

I put on record a word about the early-start initiative, which is a proposed new design that will be introduced first at the Bow roundabout, and to which other hon. Members have alluded. It will have two lines of signals. Cyclists will have an early start on the traffic. They will come up to a signal ahead of the vehicular traffic and get a head start. They will have their own lights to get away so that they are potentially 12 metres ahead of other traffic, before it even sets off. There is interesting thinking and good innovation there. It is hoped that it will be in place in time for the Olympics, but certainly later this year. The idea is for cyclists to get to the front of the queue without having to filter through general traffic. There will be a generous space for them to wait. Cyclists will have their own space in front of the traffic and get ahead of it early. Hopefully, because of that early start, the potential for conflict on difficult left turns off the roundabout will be reduced.

I hope the Minister will monitor the success of the scheme, because it clearly has potential application around the country at other roundabouts that suffer some of the same problems. With that call to look at what our engineers can do for us, and echoing the words of the many hon. Members who have talked about the joys of cycling, I again congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge on securing this debate and The Times on its campaign. I thank the many constituents who contacted us with their interesting stories and asked us to take part in this debate. I think this is the beginning of a big conversation rather than a one-off debate. I am delighted to have taken part in it.

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Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): I am pleased to say that every Member who was standing was able, on an abbreviated basis, to contribute to the debate. We now come to the wind-ups.

5.17 pm

Maria Eagle (Garston and Halewood) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley. It is entirely appropriate that a well-known and regular parliamentary cyclist such as yourself should be in the Chair for part of our debate at least.

It has been an excellent debate. There is a simple reason why we are holding this debate today—the awful day last November when a young news reporter, Mary Bowers, was critically injured just yards from her workplace. Other Members have described the experience of their constituents’ lives being similarly affected. Mary Bowers was crushed by a lorry while cycling. I have been to see the junction in Wapping. It is little short of a miracle that she is still with us, and of course she has an unimaginably tough and lengthy recovery ahead of her.

To the immense credit of The Times, it has not just accepted this appalling tragedy. It has recognised that collisions involving cyclists are not simply accidents, but have a cause and therefore can be prevented. They are ultimately the consequence of our collective failure to do enough to make our cities fit for cyclists—the apt title of the campaign that The Times has launched as a result.

This is campaigning journalism at its best and, despite the progress made, I know that all those involved at The Times will continue to work hard on their campaign to gather more and more support. I know that MPs from all parties have been impressed by the personal commitment that the editor of The Times, James Harding, has given to this issue. He contacted all MPs personally in advance of this debate, and he is here to listen to it.

It is entirely appropriate that the all-party group on cycling secured the debate. I congratulate the hon. Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert) on securing the debate and on his own work to support cycling, as co-chair of the all-party group. I also congratulate the other members of that group—not least my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin)—on their work, some of which we have heard about today.

Something that has had an impact on me and our thinking on the issue comes from the moving piece by Times journalist Kaya Burgess, who has been a driving force behind the campaign. Writing about his friend, he said:

“Mary, a news reporter, would be first to ask why it is not mandatory for lorries driving on city streets to be fitted with sensors and mirrors to pick up cyclists in their blind spots. Or why training for cyclists and drivers on how to share the road responsibly is so poor. Or why some junctions are so dangerous that jumping a red light can actually be a safer option than lining up alongside HGVs at the lights like a racetrack starting grid. Or why London trails so far behind cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen in terms of the infrastructure and legislation to protect vulnerable cyclists and to help the drivers who are trying to avoid them.”

What struck me was just how obvious the changes that we need to see are. The issue is not one that needs a major ideological debate between us all to be won; some common sense and a renewed commitment to cycling safety would do. None of those things need be impossible or even difficult to deliver. It is about will as much as money.

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I am also aware that there has been a tendency, however well meaning, to give the impression that the responsibility to prevent collisions rests simply with cyclists. Despite the importance of cycling proficiency and awareness, we must never believe that they can be a substitute for measures to improve road junctions, create alternative cycle routes and improve safety equipment on HGVs. That is the real lesson of the campaign, and it should be the focus of our response.

In responding to the challenge that has been put to us as parliamentarians, it is important for us to be careful not to give the wrong impression about the safety of cycling and risk discouraging people from getting out on their bikes. We need to make it clear that cycling casualties are down 17% across the last decade, at a time when increased numbers of people were taking to their bikes. Cycling becomes safer, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and others have said, the more people there are on bikes out on our roads. Therefore, it is important that as we address safety issues, we do not put people off.

Cycling is one of Britain’s success stories in recent years, and it is important that we talk it up—there are 20% more people cycling than a decade ago. Yet, if we go to the Netherlands, as I did as part of our policy review, it is apparent how much further ahead parts of the continent are. In Holland, a third of all trips to and from rail stations are by bike, compared with 2% here. I have seen for myself the fantastic facilities for cyclists at stations in Holland—not just bike spaces, but covered staffed storage with people on hand to repair and maintain bikes while their owners are off at work during the day. The matter is about spending—10 times more per person is spent on cycling there than in the UK—but it is also about attitude and commitment.

I am proud of the steps forward that we took when we were in office, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter set out in his remarks. Those increases in cycling numbers and reductions in cycling casualties did not happen by chance, but through some of the decisions that were taken. I pay particular tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick), and I am glad that he has been able to join us. I know that he was respected across the whole House as a Minister in the Department for Transport for his passionate and energetic advocacy of improving road safety, which delivered policies that saved lives.

I particularly want to recognise what was achieved through Cycling England and the national funding of the “Cycling city and towns” programme between 2005 and 2010. For the first time, we saw proper, dedicated investment in measures to boost cycling numbers. The reports from each of those towns and cities are on the DFT website and worth a read. Progress was made up and down the country, including a 36% rise in the availability of cycle parking in Aylesbury; the quadrupling of the number of children cycling in the schools targeted in Colchester; the introduction of bike swap, recycle and resale schemes and new cycle spaces at schools; and the establishment of school bike clubs. There were also new dedicated cycle lanes and controlled crossings.

I regret that, instead of rolling out the success of those projects across the country, the Government chose to abolish Cycling England, along with its £60 million annual funding, and end the “Cycling city and towns” scheme. That was a mistake. While I recognise and

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welcome the local sustainable transport fund, it is not a great deal of money spread over the whole Parliament, and cycling is just one area among many that the fund has to cover. While the £15 million of additional targeted funding announced a few days ago by the Minister is also welcome, that comes nowhere close to replicating the levels of support that went before, let alone increasing them, as we clearly need to do.

I would like briefly to set out a few conclusions that the Opposition have already reached in the policy review that we, as a party, have been carrying out. They have been reached as a result of listening to cyclists and of The Times’scampaign.

First, we have heard that our roads have simply not been designed with cyclists in mind, which has been the case over many decades. We will need to spend significant sums of money to address the deficiencies. Therefore, as a first commitment, let us at least agree that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past, and let us start taking into account the impact of road design on cyclists. I propose that we subject all future road and other major transport schemes to a cycling safety assessment before approval, in the same way that all Government policies and spending are subject to an economic impact assessment and an equality impact assessment. That might enable us to avoid some of the mistakes that we have made over the past decades.

Secondly, we have heard why we have to move faster at improving safety on existing roads, in addition to ensuring that new road and transport schemes consider the cyclist. We have heard how that is especially the case at junctions—almost two thirds of cyclists killed or seriously injured were involved in collisions at junctions.

It is time to agree that a specific proportion of the roads budget should be set aside for improving our existing roads. As part of our responsible approach to public spending, where we have backed two thirds of the Government’s spending cuts, we have made it clear how we would fund £100 million each year to begin that work. Let us recognise that simply painting a thin section at the side of the road a different colour does not create an adequate safe cycle route. We need to look at proper separation, as is common on the continent, and at other measures, such as traffic light phasing to give cyclists a head start.

Thirdly, we have heard calls to do more to encourage and enable our local authorities to promote cycling. At the least, let us create a best practice toolkit based on what we have learned from the “Cycling city and towns” programme. Let us also back local authorities that want to extend their 20 mph zones in residential areas.

We have listened to the concerns regarding the Government’s decision to end ring-fenced road safety grants to local authorities and all support for speed cameras, including removing 100% of the funding available for road safety capital. By removing ring-fencing of what remained, cash-strapped councils were faced with raiding road safety money to fill the gap caused by other cuts that they face. It is worrying that Ministers have said in parliamentary answers:

“No assessment has been made about the effect on road accidents that may result from changes to road safety grants.”—[Official Report, 2 December 2010; Vol. 519, c. 948.]

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As part of the costed approach to spending we have set out, we would not have made that cut, and the Government ought to look at it again.

Fourthly, while it is vital that we never give the impression that responsibility for safety rests solely with cyclists, we have heard how important cycling proficiency for children and young people is. The Government should therefore look at restoring cycling proficiency’s position as an ongoing dedicated funding stream, rather than relying on bids to the local sustainable transport fund. I also worry about the impact of the decision to cut funding for the “Think!” road safety campaign. The Government should also look again at their decision to abandon the need for schools to develop school travel plans and encourage working between local authorities and schools to encourage cycling and promote safer routes.

Fifthly, we have heard concerns about the decision to give the green light to longer heavy goods vehicles. We should take steps to switch freight from road to rail, not make it more attractive to do the reverse. The Department for Transport projects that rail freight will increase by 262% by 2025, following the approval of longer HGVs. Yet, if it had not gone ahead with that change, it says the projected growth of rail freight would be 732%. Heavy goods vehicles are three times as likely to be involved in fatal accidents compared with all other vehicles, and the dangers for cyclists are significant. I hope that that Government will think again about that and abandon the plan. I also hope that Ministers will consider our suggestion for an HGV road charging scheme, with an estimated annual income of £23 million. Let us hypothecate that new income to work with the road haulage industry on equipping lorries with safety equipment, such as side under-run protection to avoid cyclists falling under the wheels, and blind spot mirrors. We also need to improve driver training and awareness.

Finally, I have previously made a commitment to restoring the national targets on reducing deaths and serious injuries on our roads. I worry that the Government’s decision to axe those targets risks our collectively taking our eye off the ball, and that we will see as a result a reversal of the incredible progress that was made over the past decade. I hope that the Minister will take those things into account in his reply.

5.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Norman Baker): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Dr Huppert), as everybody else has, on securing the debate. Let me make it absolutely clear at the start that I am delighted by the turnout and by the cross-party nature of the vast majority of contributions. As far as I am concerned, the more interest in cycling there is, the better, because, frankly, that helps me and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), in our work in the Department to make sure that the issue goes even further up the agenda than it has done so far. There is a good story to tell, to which I will come very shortly.

The structure of the reply I want to give—I say this for the information of colleagues here—is to refer briefly to what the Government have done generally, to deal with the specific points raised by T he Times campaign

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and then to pick up other points that hon. Members have made. My normal habit is to take a large number of interventions. However, if hon. Members will forgive me, on this occasion I will not—at least not at the beginning of my contribution—because I want to get through the points made and respond to them properly.

I will respond to the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) first. He asked if we would do a U-turn. I encourage him not to go down that particular road because we are doing a lot of what he wants, much of which is also in the pipeline. If we were to do a U-turn, that would not be welcome to him.

Mr Bradshaw rose

Norman Baker: I just said that I will not take interventions, so I will stick with that. However, I will come back to the right hon. Gentleman later if time allows.

Mr Bradshaw: I was actually supporting the hon. Member for Cambridge, who said that he thought it was a mistake to abolish Cycling England because it was an important body that campaigned coherently. That is what is missing now.

Norman Baker: I wrote down what the right hon. Gentleman said, but let us not argue about the nuance of that. Suffice it to say that we are doing a lot of good work, to which I will now refer.

First, the coalition agreement explicitly refers to the promotion of cycling. That document was put together quickly and it is short, but cycling is very clearly mentioned. As a coalition Government, we recognise that it is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for personal health to get more people cycling. That is the direction of travel we have been trying to pursue since the Government were formed. The local sustainable transport fund has been mentioned by some hon. Members this afternoon.

Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) (Con): Will my hon. Friend give way?

Norman Baker: I will in a moment because my hon. Friend has not spoken so far and I promised I would let him in. That is an exception to the rule.

Without arguing about the detail of the local sustainable transport fund, I want to put it on the record that I was advised that the £560 million, which is a very substantial sum, is greater than the aggregate of the schemes under the last four years of the previous Government. I do not want to make a partisan point, but I say that in response to the suggestion that we have cut funding. We have not; we have increased it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge suggested that we should do even more in the local sustainable transport fund for cycling. As he recognises, 38 out of the 39 projects so far awarded money have involved cycling. We cannot go much further than we have gone already in ensuring that cycling is reflected. The bidding for tranche two closes tomorrow. I can tell him that there are a large number of cycling elements in that and, no doubt, a large number of projects will be funded as part of tranche two of that important fund.

Last week—as the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) mentioned—I was able to find a further £15 million

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directly for issues that Members have argued for today. I am very happy to say that. There is £8 million for Sustrans and specific routes, nearly all of which will probably be off-road. That will secure the separation Members rightly identify as being useful for safety purposes and for getting more people to have confidence in cycling. Some £7 million will go to the Cycle Rail Working Group, which is an extremely useful body that will help provide better infrastructure at our railway stations to improve the encouragement of end-to-end journeys and deal with the deficiencies that people have rightly identified at some of our major stations. Match funding for that will add a further £13 million to make £28 million for that package, which was announced just last week. So there is no shortage of funds coming from the Government in terms of the commitment to cycling.

We are also in discussions with Network Rail, which has allocated a further £7 million to cycle improvements at stations. There will be a transformational arrangement at our railway stations as a consequence of the Cycle Rail Working Group and Network Rail.

The hon. Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), who is no longer in his place, said that Amsterdam was the place to emulate. Of course, Amsterdam and the Dutch experience is fantastic. I have been to Leiden to see how they do it over there. Frankly, I am very envious of what they have been able to achieve in Holland so far. He did himself a disservice by not referring to the Leeds cycle hub, which is a major achievement that put cycling bang in front of the station there. That is an example of the integrated cycle approach everyone wants to see—not simply somewhere to put a bike, but somewhere to put a bike safely under cover. People also want somewhere to hire a bike and to get a bike repaired when they go off to work. They can then pick the bike up when they come back in the evening. That is the sort of integration we are keen to develop. I hope that more of those hubs will be introduced with the money that Network Rail has allocated—the £7 million.

Let me make it clear that the bikeability funding has been guaranteed for this Parliament. That was a request made by cycling groups when we took office. They said that the most important thing was bikeability, so we said as an Administration that we will guarantee that right through the Parliament—£11 million this year and £11 million next year through to the next election. I hope that that underlines our commitment to bikeability.

I was asked about bikeability for adults. There is a range of training available to suit all requirements, from the complete beginner who wants to boost their confidence to those who want to develop more advanced skills. Some local authorities are providing free or subsidised adult cycle training. I am considering further what we might do, if anything, to deal with the need to ensure that adults who want to have training can access it.

I should also say that, on a personal level, I was asked on day one if I wanted a ministerial car and I said no. However, I do have a ministerial Brompton, which is parked downstairs somewhere in the House of Commons. It is important that those of us who want to cycle do so and indicate that it is not a minor activity for a few people. Cycling is central to how we want to get around individually and as a society. That is a key message I want to get across.

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I have also formed a cycle stakeholder forum, which was established last year. The cycle groups represented and I agreed that the forum should not be a talking shop. It is about getting things done. There are a series of sub-groups, including a safety sub-group that is meeting on 6 March to take forward a range of proposals. We are very interested in listening to those involved, and that forum provides very useful advice. We want as Ministers to ensure that we understand what the cycling groups and others regard as important.

On safety issues, Members rightly said that more people are cycling. When more people cycle, motorists adjust. Motorists are far more tolerant of cyclists when they are in large numbers and are more common than they are of individual cyclists. The right hon. Member for Exeter and others said that if we get more people cycling, it makes it safer. That is another reason to encourage the development of cycling in our country. We should also encourage councils—as we do—to take forward their plans to improve cycle infrastructure in their areas. We want more people cycling.

It is also worth pointing out—as others have, including the shadow Secretary of State—that it is not a question of the campaign being about an unsafe activity. Cycling is not an unsafe activity. She rightly referred to the fact that the incidence of collisions has decreased. That is a result of a great effort, and we are all pleased with that. If we consider the long-term trend over the past 20 years, cycling is getting safer, with the rate of those killed or seriously injured decreasing by 50% from more than 1,500 per billion miles cycled to between 800 and 900. I very much welcome that downward trend. We obviously want that to continue as a result of the efforts we put in. I know that that is a priority for the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead as well; he has made that very plain.

On the number of deaths, any death is too many and is a tragedy for the families involved. However, we can take some comfort from the fact that the average between 1984-88 was 186 deaths a year. That figure is now down to 111, which is about a 40% decrease. It is 111 too many, but it is going in the right direction in terms of the long-term trend. The casualty rate per billion miles is down 43%. However, we must do more. We must make every effort to ensure that that rate continues to decrease, and we intend to try to do that.

I welcome The Times campaign and the eight points it identifies. It is really helpful and positive, and I am delighted that it has been taken up not just by hon. Members of all parties, but other newspapers, too. I hope the campaign will continue, because it is putting cycling centre stage, and that has not been the case for some time. The first point states:

“Lorries entering the city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.”

The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead is leading discussions at European level on improving standards for heavy goods vehicles to help reduce accidents caused by poor visibility, and to look at those precise issues. We want to ensure that any steps agreed achieve the outcome we want—that is the very careful caveat we put on that. For example, if we have sensors on the side of lorries

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that then detect bus stops, litter bins and everything else, it is possible that drivers will ignore them, and that could make the situation worse. We have to be careful, therefore, that what we do achieves the result we all want, which is to reduce cycle injuries and to ensure that lorry drivers are more aware of cyclists. That is a technical caveat, but we are leading discussions at European level to consider what can be done to achieve the best outcome.

The second point states:

“The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors”.

I am happy to say that in the past two weeks I gave authority to all local authorities in England to install Trixi mirrors as and where they deem it appropriate. Previously, that was a London pilot only and local authorities had to come to me with lots of paperwork to ask for permission, which was nonsense. Local authorities are able to make their judgments about their own junctions and where they should apply the mirrors. I encourage local councils to do so. It is not our job in central Government to determine which junctions around the country should be fitted with Trixi mirrors, but it is our job to give a lead to local authorities. We have done that and I strongly encourage local authorities, on the record, to look at their junctions to see what might to done to take that further.

Road safety is a criterion under the local sustainable transport fund. Bids can come in, and have come in, to improve road safety for cyclists at junctions and elsewhere. We will look sympathetically at any such bids in the next round. We have also published guidance on cycling infrastructure through the “Cycle Infrastructure Design” and the “Design Manual for Roads and Bridges” documents to try to give clear guidance to local authorities about how best to incorporate the needs of cyclists into the roads they are designing.

Jack Lopresti: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. My own local authority, South Gloucestershire council, is working very hard to promote cycling, both in my constituency and across the wider Bristol area as part of the West of England partnership, thanks to the funding that has been recently secured through the first phase of bidding for the Government’s local sustainable transport fund. The council has submitted a larger funding bid as part of the next bidding round. I urge the Minister to look favourably on that bid and support local efforts to promote more sustainable means of travel across the sub-region.

Norman Baker: I hear that that bid has come in. I had better not comment on it until I have evaluated it, but my hon. Friend has placed his point on the record, which is no doubt what he wanted to do.

The third point in The Times campaign asks for:

“A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.”

The Department for Transport already maintains a range of data sources on cycling levels and road casualty statistics, and we consider them very seriously. This year we have also commissioned a new question in the Sport England Active People survey to give us more detailed

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information on cycling at local level. That will be public information and we will be happy to share it with hon. Members.

The fourth point makes the suggestion that

“the Highways Agency should earmark 2 per cent of its budget for next-generation cycle routes”.

I am hesitant about a specific figure, because it seems a little arbitrary. I agree, and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead agrees, that we have to reflect on what the Highways Agency does and where it might do more on the roads for which it is responsible. For example, it has traditionally been the Highways Agency’s approach to put cycle lanes next to improved roads as opportunity costs have been made available, but that has sometimes meant that cycle routes stop in the middle of nowhere. Looking at those sorts of routes first seems to be a sensible first step. My hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead has indicated that he is undertaking a stocktake of Highways Agency routes to consider what we might do further in that regard.

The fifth point was:

“The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.”

Apart from the bikeability matters to which I referred, there are six questions in the driving test on vulnerable road users. We are considering how to increase motorists’ awareness of cycling issues. We welcome initiatives such as Exchanging Places, which was mentioned earlier. I welcome the commitments made by the freight industry, including the Freight Transport Association, regarding cycle safety to encourage all drivers of large vehicles to become more cycle aware. I mentioned that I had established a cycle safety sub-committee of the stakeholder forum. It meets next month and deliberately includes motoring organisations. The AA, the Road Haulage Association, and the Freight Transport Association will all, I hope, be present at that meeting so that they, not just the cycling groups themselves, are aware of the cycling issues. The driving test has been made more realistic and less predictable. We are considering how to improve training for drivers after they pass their test to help them develop their driving skills and knowledge with regard to cyclists.

The sixth issue in The Times campaign was the 20 mph speed limit, which hon. Members have suggested should become the default speed limit. I hope hon. Members know that I have already taken action on that front—last year, in fact—to make it much easier for local authorities to introduce 20 mph zones and a 20 mph limit by reducing the bureaucracy, removing the requirement to submit a whole load of paperwork and allowing them, for example, to have roundels painted on the road in place of repeater signs, therefore reducing the cost of such 20 mph limits. We have done that already. Some local authorities, such as Portsmouth, have done a great deal of work on 20 mph limits and I congratulate them on that. I encourage other local councils to follow suit.

Point 7 states:

“Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.”

What can I say, except that I agree? We will send the message out from the Department for Transport to encourage that action.

The eighth point states:

“Every city…should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.”

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I happen to think that that is a good idea, especially for large urban areas. Ultimately, it is a matter for local authorities to take forward, not for us to dictate to them. I would certainly endorse and welcome any such action by local authorities.

I hope that hon. Members will see that we are doing, and have done, quite a lot already. Of course, more needs to be done and I welcome the excellent campaign from The Times and the signatures—I was told there were 25,000, but now it is up to 30,000—which it has managed to accrue.

The right hon. Member for Oxford East (Mr Smith) asked what the requirements were to look after cyclists on roadworks sites. I am advised that the code of practice contains advice on signing, lighting and guarding road and street works, including provision for cyclists, and that utility companies must comply with it. This is in the process of being revised, with a note on the need to take account of cyclists in particular.

An issue was raised about Ministers working together across Departments. I assure hon. Members that that does happen. For example, I have met one Health Minister to talk about the benefits of cycling for health purposes, and how we can work together on that. I have also met a Minister at the Department for Education about encouraging children to get to school by bike. That sort of co-operation does, I am happy to say, already exist. I have no doubt that we could do more, but we are working to try to ensure that that works across Government as far as possible.

May I just say that starting a speech with

“Thirty years ago, I fell in love on a tandem”

is probably the best opening line I have heard for quite some time? I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Dr Wollaston) on her 50th birthday. The issue of safer manhole covers is serious for cyclists and motorcyclists. We are looking at that, not least because they are subject to metal theft—it is on the agenda. I have referred to the separation of routes for cycles and vehicles. The money we are giving to Sustrans will, I hope, go some way towards dealing with that. On guidance to councillors with regard to road design, that is covered in the guidance notes, “Cycle Infrastructure Design”, which cover local roads and providing appropriate measures for cyclists. Much of that guidance on traffic management measures also includes guidance on cyclists. I hope that they cover that issue, but we are happy to look at it again.

My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr Leech), who has long been a champion of road safety in the House, advised me to speak to the Leader of the House, who is interested in cycling, to advance my hon. Friend’s 10-minute rule Bill. I will pass on the message. That is probably as far as I can go in promising—[Interruption.] The Leader of the House is here and has heard that remark.

I have tried my best to get through as many points as possible. If I have missed any point, it is not for lack of trying. I will write a letter to any hon. Member who has raised a specific point and place a copy in the Library.

5.50 pm

Dr Huppert: Thank you for chairing the second half of this debate, Mr Bayley. The attendance at this excellent debate shows how much we all care about cycling. More

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than 75 Members have attended, including three Ministers: the Leader of the House, the Minister, who has responsibility for cycling, and the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mike Penning), who has responsibility for road safety and whom I am delighted to see at this important event.

I am delighted by the largely consensual nature of the debate. If all debates in the House of Commons were like this, we might make more progress on a number of issues. This shows that the Government have a clear mandate to act now and act strongly. I hope that the Minister for Cycling wins the fights that he will have to have with the Treasury and all sorts of people to make much further progress on all these issues, which all hon. Members care about so much.

I encourage hon. Members to join the all-party cycling group, if they are not already a member, and have more such events. I invite all hon. Members to our annual reception and the launch of the “Summer of cycling” on 14 March, which will be a huge event for the year,

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and to our parliamentary bike ride on 13 June. Special celebrities may yet join us at both those events.

This is an immediate issue, but we need to keep it going for the future. It is not about them and us: it is about making roads and cities that work for everyone. Safety is important. We should also remember all the great benefits of cycling: it is cheap, healthy, efficient, sustainable and fun. We must remember the sheer joy of cycling.

Cycling must become a normal activity that people can engage in from eight to 80, and beyond both those ages. I thank all hon. Members who have attended and those in the Public Gallery and others out there who have been following the debate. Many congratulations to The Times on all its work in leading this campaign. We can make a difference. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

Question put and agreed to.

5.52 pm

Sitting adjourned.