Wednesday morning will see the opening session of the Parliamentary Inquiry called ‘Get Britain Cycling,’ that seeks to answer the question of how cycling can be made easier and safer to encourage more people to take to their bikes. The introductory session will feature contributions from a number of high-profile names within the British cycling community.
Launched last autumn, the inquiry is being part-financed by News International, parent company of The Times newspaper which unveiled its Cities Fit For Cycling campaign in February last year, the issues raised by the initiative becoming the focus of a parliamentary debate later the same month.
The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) is holding the inquiry, which is supported by the UK Cycling Alliance, the umbrella organisation whose members are the Bicycle Association, CTC, Cyclenation, the London Cycling Campaign and Sustrans.
Members of those bodies will be among three panels that will give evidence at Wednesday morning’s session, which will be held between 9.30am and 11.30am.
Those panels are: (1) British Cycling: Martin Gibbs, CTC: Roger Geffen, Cyclenation: Andre Curtis and Sustrans: Jason Torrance; (2) Bicycle Association: Phillip Darnton, Transport for Quality of Life: Lynn Sloman and University of Westminster: Rachel Aldred; and (3) Bikebiz: Carlton Reid, The Guardian: Peter Walker and The Times: Kaya Burgess and Phillip Pank.
Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North, who with Dr Julian Huppert MP is co-chair of the APPCG, commented: “We’re launching this inquiry to build on the momentum created by the Times’ brilliant campaign which has given cycling safety a higher priority than ever before.
“It’s great that all the political parties have expressed support for the campaign, but the time has come for the government to commit to real change in the way Britain’s transport system is run to make cycling safer and get more people on their bikes.”
Dr Huppert, who represents Cambridge, added: “We have made huge headway in getting the government to support this campaign to make our cities safer for cyclists, with action from the Cycling Minister – but we need more to happen.
“It’s time to turn [Prime Minister David] Cameron’s commitment into a year-on-year budget so that when the cycling inquiry releases its findings they can be acted on quickly and efficiently. Every day that goes past without action is another day a rider could be seriously injured or killed. This is not a risk any of us wants to take.”
Mr Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are expected to make a major announcement related to cycling sometime in the early months of 2013.
According to a press release published today:
The Inquiry will look into the full range of issues affecting cycling in the UK, including road safety, urban design and how public transport and cycling can work together better. Further sessions will be held on the following dates:
23 January – Introductory session
30 January – Safety
06 February – Planning and design
13 February – Active lifestyles
27 February – The local perspective
06 March – Government
The [All Party Parliamentary Cycling] Group will produce a report of the Inquiry’s findings, which will be presented to government in April 2013.
Cycling was also one of the principal areas of focus of a separate parliamentary debate held in October on the impact of sentencing into victims of crime and their families, with British Cycling leading a campaign calling for a fresh approach to the prosecution and of cases where cyclists are the victims and harsher sentencing of offenders.
In December, representatives of British Cycling and other organisations involved in the campaign met with Justice Minister Helen Grant, who has pledged to support it.
That campaign was given added impetus last week with the news that taxi driver Ichhapal Bhamra had been fined £35 by Solihull magistrates for driving without due care and attention following an incident in which cyclist Tom Ridgway was killed after being carried on the vehicle’s bonnet for 90 metres before it struck a tree.
While the penalty itself has attracted strong criticism, in effect it resulted from the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to bring more serious charges against the motorist since it felt that it could not be established whether Mr Ridgway’s death was due to being struck by the taxi, or when he struck the tree.
Martin Gibbs, Policy and Legal Affairs Director at British Cycling, said today: “Once again the justice system has failed us. Mr Bhamra could provide no explanation of why he didn’t see Tom Ridgway and continued to drive 90m with him on the bonnet before crashing into a tree.
“There is no other reasonable conclusion than that Bhamra’s driving caused Tom’s death and the CPS has failed to bring the appropriate charge. These failures send completely the wrong message about how we expect people to behave on our roads and demonstrate the need for an urgent review of the justice system.”
You can find out more details regarding the Justice Review Campaign led by British Cycling here.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.