Minister criticised for not knowing cyclists ARE allowed on his roads

Road safety minister unaware that many cyclists DO use major A-roads - but more don't due to safety fears

by Simon_MacMichael   January 16, 2012  

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National cyclists’ organisation CTC has described as “unbelievable” comments by Transport Minister Mike Penning that he hopes cyclists are not on the section of the country’s road network for which he is responsible.

CTC tweeted its comment with a link to a report of a Parliamentary questions session on road infrastructure last Thursday, including one put to the minister by Cambridge MP Dr Julian Huppert, joint chair of the All-Parliamentary Group on Cycling.!/CTC_cyclists

Dr Huppert asked Mr Penning: “Cycle infrastructure is sadly lacking across the country and that causes a number of safety problems, such as a recent tragedy at King’s Cross and many others around the country. What steps is the Minister taking to improve the quality and amount of cycle infrastructure on our roads?”

The minister dodged Dr Huppert’s question, saying that he hoped fellow Transport Minister Norman Baker “was listening closely,” although since his responsibility also includes road safety, there seems no good reason why he shouldn’t have responded.

However, he began his reply by displaying an apparent lack of knowledge about the roads cyclists are allowed on.

“Most of the roads I am responsible for are part of the national road infrastructure, and I hope there are no cyclists on that part of the infrastructure,” he said.

The national road infrastructure comprises motorways – from which cyclists, of course, are banned – but also major trunk roads, which they are entitled to use; indeed, in some places, there is no viable alternative, or if there is, it is poorly signed.

That said, in many places, only the most confident cyclists would venture onto such roads, although there is always the possibility that less experienced or assertive riders may end up there too.

Given his brief for road safety, it is unfortunate that he appears misinformed that cyclists should not be on the roads that make up the national road infrastructure; while many cyclists wouldn't choose to use those roads, others do exercise their rights to ride there, sometimes at the cost of their lives.

Those include army officer Major Gareth Rhys Evans, killed while taking part in a time trial on the A1 in Cambridgeshire in May 2009 by a teenage driver who claimed she had not seen him.

Mr Penning did agree that “Cycling is vital not only to community and enjoyment but to the health of the nation,” although it is to be hoped that he may gain a better grasp on which roads cyclists are permitted to use.

Later, in an article published on his website, Dr Huppert urged the government to take more steps to improve the safety of cyclists.

“If we want people to see cycling as a safe alternative to other forms of transport we have to do everything we can to improve the safety of cyclists on our roads.

“In Cambridge we have invested a great deal of money on cycle lanes and improvements to junctions and signage and the result has been that we have the largest number of cyclists commuting to and from work and school and riding for pleasure than anywhere else in the UK.

“Sadly, this is not replicated across the country as a whole and as a result, particularly in London, cyclists do not enjoy the same level of safeguards. This leads to accidents involving cyclists and recently an accident between a lorry and a cyclist claimed the life of a young fashion student,” he continued.

“We have to make cycling infrastructure a priority across the country; only then can our government expect people to really take it seriously on this issue,” Dr Huppert concluded.

10 user comments

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I was using a 2km stretch of the A5 for my commute for September - December last year, and was unfortunately knocked off my bike on the A5 just a week before I was scheduled to stop riding that route.

Good to know that the minister responsible for such roads takes the safety of cyclists so seriously Rolling Eyes

posted by graemeshaw [21 posts]
16th January 2012 - 12:20


Finger on the pulse as always!

Giant Rob.
King of the East Midlands

posted by Giant Rob [60 posts]
16th January 2012 - 12:23


Keeps his ear to the ground (and obviously listens to a lot of dog sh*t)

andylul's picture

posted by andylul [418 posts]
16th January 2012 - 12:53


I just took it to mean that he hoped we wouldn't use those roads. Just another stupid anti cyclist comment. Surely everyone knows that cyclists can use roads but not motorways.

posted by Animal [39 posts]
16th January 2012 - 14:07


I used to commute on a major single-digit A road because the only alternative were winding ratrun lanes that were more dangerous and longer. This comment by the minister responsible is unacceptable. Resign!

posted by a.jumper [833 posts]
16th January 2012 - 16:21


On some of the roads he looks after, there are marked (but pathetic) cycle facilities - the A43 between Bicester and Northampton, for instance.

And the A5 goes through the middle of Dunstable. Less trunk than urban traffic jam.


posted by Edgeley [242 posts]
16th January 2012 - 20:47


With muppets like this in power the situation will only ever get worse the "no go" areas are increasing all the time.

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [264 posts]
16th January 2012 - 21:26

I have sent my thoughts why not send yours?

onward ever onward

bikecellar's picture

posted by bikecellar [264 posts]
16th January 2012 - 21:51


Seems Dr Huppert is equally poorly informed. Cambridge had high cycling levels BEFORE they invested in cycle lanes, junctions and signage. And most of what they invested in is the usual junk that is of no use to or detrimental to cyclists.

posted by Tony [104 posts]
21st January 2012 - 16:20


Considering many A roads have (small) cycle lanes up the edge of them you'd think he'd be aware of cyclists using them.

The A38 out of Bristol to Gloucester is one of them.

posted by Adam Ef [4 posts]
22nd January 2012 - 23:44