5.38 pm

Ruth Cadbury (Brentford and Isleworth) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. Along with the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk), I co-chair the all-party parliamentary cycling group, and I refer the Chamber to its 2013 report, “Get Britain Cycling”.

I want to try and resist using the term “cyclists”, as it might imply that people who ride bikes are in some way a protected category. Most households have at least one bike in their shed or garage. Many people cycle occasionally and some cycle regularly. Many more would cycle regularly if they were encouraged to and if they felt their route was safe.

The advantages of cycling for people’s health, the economy and the public purse are clear and have been alluded to by other speakers today. However, to increase cycling, we need to see not only financial investment from the Government, but investment in political leadership and policy development and the setting of a good example. If the Dutch Government can make the journey that they have made over the past 30 to 40 years, there is no reason why the UK Government cannot follow.

Safety is at the heart of the investment strategy, for people will not get on their bikes unless they feel safe. There are a number of examples of improvements that need not cost the public purse anything but which could be described as investment in cycling. Transport for London has trained 20,000 heavy goods vehicle drivers in cycle awareness and many thousands of cyclists in HGV awareness. The “Exchanging Places” programme educates HGV drivers and cyclists in London about the problems of visibility from the driver’s cab of a cyclist trying to pass. That is now being rolled out in other cities.

There has been work in London to improve the mirrors installed in drivers’ cabs, and also to install alarms, but we ask the Department for Transport to make those mandatory. If TfL can enforce such standards in London, the Department and police authorities can surely work together to do that nationally. It would be really helpful if the DFT required all HGVs to install full-length windows on their left-hand cab doors—a small expense if it can save a life. While waiting for EU law to catch up, the DFT could set an example by requiring all contractors on major transport schemes to use such cabs.

The all-party group on cycling has invited the Secretary of State for Transport to see for himself a new generation of HGVs—I invite the Minister to see them too—as used by a company called Cemex; the lorries are made by Mercedes. We hope to bring a demonstration model into the precincts of the Palace of Westminster so that all parliamentarians can see it.

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Many Members will join me in expressing deep concern about today’s story from Nottinghamshire that the Crown Prosecution Service is unable to prosecute the driver of a hire car who was filmed carrying out a brutal and deliberate hit and run attack. There is not a good defence. Nottinghamshire police can surely work out who drove the car and enforce the law.

We seek a single, national set of design guidelines, building on the excellent work of TfL and the Welsh Assembly. I hope the DFT will put aside a modest budget to house a repository of good practice knowledge.

5.41 pm

Stewart Malcolm McDonald (Glasgow South) (SNP): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Bone. Like other Members, I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing the debate this afternoon. In his opening remarks, he noted that cycling is an important part of transport policy, and he is absolutely right to mention that. Although there is a good story to tell on cycling across the UK, it could be so much better, as has been highlighted by every contribution made.

There might be a question as to why Scottish Members wish to contribute to a debate on an issue that is entirely devolved, but I hope the fact that Sir Chris Hoy comes from our part of this island puts to bed any question over our interest in cycling.

We are meeting here in the great cycling city of London. On Friday morning, I will take the Eurostar train to Paris. To take my bicycle, I would have to box it up and pay a fee of £30 to get to another great European cycling city. That would cost me more than the ticket cost me to get there in the first place—I happened to find a good deal in a sale, but it is more expensive to take a bike on Eurostar, so I hope the Minister will have discussions about that.

In my constituency in Glasgow we had the Commonwealth games, as a result of which there has been an enormous interest in cycling. Cathkin Braes in my constituency overlooks the entire city of Glasgow. There is a fantastic new development there involving the national lottery and Ardenglen Housing Association to create a new mountain biking facility. The great thing about it is that there is a special interest in making sure that it is available to local people and not just the middle-class, middle-aged men who we have heard about this afternoon. I invite all Members in this debate to come to Menock Road in my constituency and look at some of the hellish cycle lanes put down by Glasgow City Council. They will have to cycle through bins, bus stops, lamp posts and people’s driveways to have a safe cycle up and down that street.

The ambitious target in Scotland of 10% of all journeys being made by bike is an example to the UK Government. My hon. Friend the Member for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey (Drew Hendry) has already outlined some of the things the Scottish Government are doing and the fact that cash has been put in place to get more people on to their bikes. There is therefore no need for me to rehearse that, but it is something that central Government and devolved and local government can work well on, so that we start to look more like European cycling cities than we do at the minute.

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The hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) rightly mentioned the Dutch example, which has been an excellent example of a cycle-friendly place for many years. I think Members of all parties want to see the UK Government catching up with that.

5.44 pm

Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this debate.

We have heard a wide range of strong contributions today, including from my right hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw), who asked the Minister exactly the right question: why can’t we do it? Let us hope the answer is “Yes, we can”. We also heard from both co-chairs of the all-party group. I want to follow up on the comments that my hon. Friend the Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Ruth Cadbury) made about safety.

I recently met Kate, who is here watching the debate today. Her husband, Martyn, died in 2011, while on a charity cycle ride, after hitting a pothole and ending up in the path of a car. The Government said in their recent road safety statement:

“Behind each and every collision statistic there is an individual story.”

They are right: these are real policies that affect real lives. That is why investment in cycling infrastructure and safety must never be an afterthought. Kate is here today because she is passionate about making sure that we do everything possible to make sure that what happened to Martyn does not happen to others.

Mr Andrew Smith (Oxford East) (Lab): I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. Does he agree that we really do need concerted action to make sure that urban design guides—street scene manuals—factor in safe and, wherever possible, segregated provision for cyclists, because it does not happen enough?

Daniel Zeichner: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right.

A few years ago, buoyed up by the fantastic British cycling achievements in the 2012 Olympics, the Prime Minister promised a cycling revolution, but as so often he has failed to deliver on that promise. He has back-pedalled. There is a real gap between the Government’s rhetoric and the reality for cyclists.

The Government say that funding for cycling in our country has risen to £6 per person per year, and that it is at over £10 per person in London and the eight cities that secured cycle city ambition grants. The figure of £10 was recommended by the all-party group in its excellent report, “Get Britain Cycling”, and I pay tribute to my predecessor, Julian Huppert, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), for their work. So far so good. What the Government will fail to mention is that while funding levels in London and the cycle cities lift the country’s average, funding for cycling outside those areas, after the spending review, is projected to be around just £1.39 per person.

Furthermore, the cycling and walking investment strategy is slowly making its way forward not at a cycling pace, nor at a walking pace, but at perhaps a snail’s pace. How will it be funded? Cycling has apparently been allotted £300 million in funding until 2021, but as

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we push for further detail, we seem to repeatedly run into a brick wall when attempting to get from the Government how much they actually intend to spend. In fact, in answer to a written question that I tabled about funding levels outside of London and the cycle cities in November, the Minister said:

“It is not possible to predict the geographical distribution of other funding for cycling at this stage.”

It therefore seems that the Department for Transport is unable to predict the outcomes of its own spending commitments. Indeed, funding has been disconnected, as others have said—split between various initiatives, bundled into grants, not ring-fenced—and data on local authority spending are no longer centrally collated.

What we do know is that the £300 million that has been promised for cycling over this Parliament includes the £114 million for the cycle city ambition grants and continued funding for Bikeability training, which we support. What funding, if any, will be left over to fund the investment part of the cycling and walking investment strategy?

There is a real danger that the Government are drawing up an investment strategy with no investment. That matters, because the strategy to improve infrastructure, which was included in the Infrastructure Act 2015 after a powerful campaign, is key to increasing cycling safety. The Conservative party promised in their election manifesto,

“to reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year”,

but the Government have failed to set national road safety targets, claiming that it is a matter for local authorities and thereby trying to absolve themselves of responsibility.

This debate is really important, because cycling safety is a key factor in encouraging people to get on their bikes in the first place. Anxiety and fear about safety stops many people cycling, especially women and older people. In London, three quarters of those aged 65 and over can ride a bike, yet only 6% ever do. Two thirds of non-cyclists and half of all cyclists say that it is too dangerous for them to cycle on the road. We must put in place the right measures to make cycling a safe, accessible mode of transport for all, whatever a person’s age or gender.

5.49 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing this important debate on investment in cycling. Indeed, as part of the Greater Manchester cycle ambition programme, new cycleways are being built in his area: there will be some in Bolton town centre and a route towards Salford along Archer Lane. I also congratulate the hundreds of Twitter users who helped to instigate this debate.

This subject is as close to my heart as it is to the public’s, as I am a self-confessed sprocket head. Indeed, I have made three cycle journeys already today, and before joining the Government I was an active member of the all-party group on cycling. Last week, I spoke in front of that group for an hour, so although my time today is very limited, many of the Members present will have heard what I had to say on that occasion. Also, I was proud to be at last year’s Tour de Yorkshire finish line in Scarborough.

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The short answer to the questions asked by the right hon. Member for Exeter (Mr Bradshaw) and the shadow Minister is: yes, we can. But we are of course in an era of devolution of power and budgets. We need to trust the people in the local enterprise partnerships, local authorities and combined authorities to understand the importance of cycling. The evidence so far is that that is working. Indeed, I had a meeting with some LEPs today and made it clear that cycling should be central to some of their work.

The Government want to create a walking and cycling nation, where cycling and walking become the norm for short journeys or as part of a longer journey. Our vision is of streets and public places that support walking and cycling, and a road network where infrastructure for cycling and walking is always being improved. The evidence tells us that more people would cycle if cycling on the road was made safer—incidentally, the risks in London are about the same per kilometre for cycling as they are for walking, but we do not hear people saying, “You must be crazy to walk in London.” The evidence also suggests that the greatest opportunity to increase the levels of cycling in England is to focus investment on providing infrastructure in dense urban environments and towns. Cities that have invested in infrastructure have seen significant increases in cycling.

The cycling and walking investment strategy will go some way to delivering our vision for cycling. In February 2015, the Government introduced through the Infrastructure Act 2015 a duty on the Secretary of State to set a cycling and walking investment strategy in England. Our first publication, “Setting the first Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy”, was published on 17 December 2015. It set out the timescales for publication and our intended structure for the strategy. We aim to consult on a draft first strategy in the spring, with the final strategy published in the summer.

In 2010, under the Labour party, for every person in this country £2 was spent on supporting cycling. Spending on cycling is currently around £6 per person across England and, as we have heard, around £10 per person in London and our eight cycling ambition cities. In future, long-term funding will be available from a wide range of sources, including the new access fund, the integrated transport block, the highways maintenance block and the local growth fund. That means that everywhere that wishes to invest £10 per head will be able to. Local enterprise partnerships are also doing what they can.

In conclusion, the Government understand the importance of a cycling revolution. We absolutely back the Prime Minister in wanting to have that revolution, and we are delivering it with both money and policies.

Mr Peter Bone (in the Chair): I congratulate the hon. Member for Bolton West (Chris Green) on securing the debate. We have had 13 speeches and 16 interventions in an hour.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered Government investment in cycling.

5.52 pm

Sitting adjourned.