Thoughts on the Parliamentary debate on cycling – 23 Feb 2012

Cyclists at ParliamentI’ve just read through the transcript of the debate, prompted by The Times “Cities fit for cycling” campaign. You can read it yourself here: Part 1 and Part 2.

I found it extremely encouraging. Cambridge MP Julian Huppert, who secured the debate summed up neatly.

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.

Though there were a very small number of predictable digs — jumping red lights, terrorising pedestrians, and failing to use lights or to wear hi-vis — these were mercifully few (and deftly defused in hilarious annotations by Andrew Avis). By and large the consensus was that cycling is a generally safe and healthy activity, that it needs to be encouraged and facilitated, but that there are aspects that need attention: among them HGVs, problem junctions and half-baked cycle lanes. Several MPs lamented the demise of Cycle England. Many called for expanded training schemes.

Of local interest, Winchester MP Steve Brine highlighted the threat to NR23:

I thank the hon. Gentleman, with whom I enjoy working on the all-party group. I want to back him up on his points about the Prime Minister having the power, and about Departments working together. In Winchester we have works above junction 9 of the M3, which are needed and wanted, and have been campaigned for by Members of Parliament; but they threaten to put a stop to national cycle route 23. With a little more thought and planning we can avoid such situations. Such not-joined-up thinking is literally getting in the way of cycling.

Brine also praised the contribution of local heroes Sue Coles and Jacey Jackson.

One comment made by Maria Eagle, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, struck a familiar chord for SCC members:

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.

All-in-all a very encouraging development. I’m looking forward to 2012’s summer of cycling.

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