Get Britain Cycling Parliamentary Inquiry calls for leadership from the top and cash for infrastructure

Inquiry opens at Westminster with evidence from cycling organisations, experts and media

by Simon_MacMichael   January 24, 2013  

Palace Of Westminster At Night © Andrew Dunn.jpg

Political leadership and commitment to invest in facilities were highlighted as the key to getting more people in Britain riding bicycles at yesterday’s opening of the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary inquiry. Held in a committee room at the Palace of Westminster, a panel of MPs plus one member of the House of Lords heard evidence from representatives of cycling organisations and the media as well as experts on cycling in the first of six sessions to be held over the coming weeks.

In a summary of the morning’s hearing, Ian Austin, MP for Dudley North and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), underlined the consensus displayed among those who gave evidence about how to bring about a transformation in the status of cycling as a means of getting around.

“We couldn’t have wished for a more illuminating start to our Get Britain Cycling inquiry,” he said of the opening session, which aimed to take a strategic overview of the current situation an initial examination of the way forward.

“It’s clear to me that political leadership and will at the very top is needed to get thousands more people on bikes and it was fantastic to see all of the witnesses in agreement on the issues that really matter.

“The level of ambition and expertise in the room was inspirational and I look forward to continuing the discussions next week.”

That’s when the second session, which focuses on cycle safety, takes place and yesterday the perceived danger of cycling was regularly highlighted as the biggest single barrier to getting more people riding, with investment in infrastructure such as segregated cycle lanes and improved safety at junctions.

It was a theme taken up by several speakers, with Roger Geffen, Campaigns and Policy Director at CTC, saying that “"A cycle journey is only as good as its weakest link."

“Only when we feel comfortable taking our eight year olds or 80 years olds out on the roads will we know that enough has been done,” added Martin Gibbs, Policy and Legal Affairs Director at British Cycling.

He added that Great Britain’s success on the road and track showed that change was possible. “There is a real Olympic legacy to play for,” he explained. “We have fixed the sport. Let’s take that and punch it through to the mainstream.”

But that, he said, would take investment. “I think infrastructure is very, very important for many reasons. It physically represents an invitation to cycle and says that we expect you to cycle.”

Participants were also keen to underline the benefits of riding a bike, with Geffen saying: “Cycling has a huge range of benefits: for our health, our streets and communities, our environment, our economy and our quality of life.

“However, maximising these benefits requires action from a wide range of local and national organisations,” he added.

"Council departments, schools and colleges, businesses and employers, police forces, public transport operators, retailers and leisure promoters all have important roles to play.

“Ensuring they do so requires a joined-up approach to getting Britain cycling, supported by politicians of all parties, locally and nationally. That way we can secure the funding needed, now and for the long term."

It was those calls for political leadership and investment that provided the main message from the session.

Philip Pank, transport correspondent at The Times, which last year launched its Cities Fit For Cycling campaign and whose parent company, News International, is part-funding the Parliamentary Inquiry, said: “Real change for cycling must come from the very top, it has to come from the Prime Minister down.”

David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg are expected to make what has been billed as a major announcement on cycling in the coming weeks, and Philip Darnton, Executive Director of the Bicycle Association, was among those who highlighted that change would only come about with the support of politicians at the very highest level.

“We will not create a cycling culture until we have leadership which makes clear this is a decision for the long term,” he maintained. “We need long-term, very senior political leadership.”

Jason Torrance, Policy Director at the charity Sustrans, commented: "There is a poverty of ambition and a lack of vision from our governments when it comes to getting more people cycling.

"Leadership, investment and significant cultural change are needed to get more people on their bikes and start to build a healthier, cleaner UK.

"To reach the ambitious levels of cycling that will truly transform the UK, we need a combination of investment, infrastructure and policy change."

Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co chair of the APPCG, remarked: “We need better cycling infrastructure, improved safety on our roads for cyclists, measures to make drivers more aware and a change in the law to offer greater protection.

“Our government has shown some commitment to cycling with recent investment but it can do so much more year-on-year. It’s time for real change.”

The subjects of the other five hearings, together with their dates, are:

Safety - 30 January 2013
Planning and design - 6 February
Active lifestyles - 13 February
The local perspective - 27 February
Government - 6 March

15 user comments

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Lack of gritting - other than Cambridge? - to be mentioned in the safety heating, I hope.

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
24th January 2013 - 18:40

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Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co chair of the APPCG, remarked: “We need better cycling infrastructure, improved safety on our roads for cyclists, measures to make drivers more aware and a change in the law to offer greater protection.

This.

Am slightly worried that concentrating on segregated cycle lanes will bring about an expectation in other road users that all cycles should be on them all the time, and a subsequent backlash against roadies. After all its extremely unlikely that the lanes will be suitable for someone going over 20mph. That's why I think we should be putting equal focus on cyclist awareness, proper policing and appropriate action by the justice system.

While you can kill a cyclist and get a £35 fine then we've still got a long way to go.

posted by qwerky [130 posts]
25th January 2013 - 9:52

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qwerky wrote:
its extremely unlikely that the lanes will be suitable for someone going over 20mph. That's why I think we should be putting equal focus on cyclist awareness, proper policing and appropriate action by the justice system.

Isn't the guideline that cycle tracks are only built to cope with speed under 20 kph (= 16mph) unladen? Go faster or carry significant cargo (such as taking stuff out to the recycling centre or bringing shopping home), then you're expected to use the road.

Never mind equal focus, the predominant focus should be on cyclist awareness, proper policing and appropriate action by the justice system. Many places already have almost enough infrastructure: the barriers are the hostile roads and near-total lack of enforcement of existing laws.

Let's document this problem. Take pictures of infractions of existing laws and post them to the cyclestreets.net photomap or fixmystreet.com or something

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
25th January 2013 - 12:02

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Having to use cycle lanes doesn't seem to worry Dutch roadies here's a link from David Hembrow explaining this - http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/search/label/cycle%20paths

The critical issue is "high quality". Segregation WILL fail unless we campaign for consistently high quality infrastructure.

Of greater concern should be the fact that the "Get Britain Cycling" inquiry isn't taking evidence from people who don't cycle but would like to. What's the point of listening to a bunch of cycle campaigners (i.e. existing hardened cyclists) saying what they think/want when they really need to be asking those who want to ride but are scared (or the scared parents of kids who want to ride). One of the problems is that to ride confidently in traffic you need to be strong and fit but frankly most people aren't - would you let a 9 or 10 year old ride to school in Britain's roads? - 40% of them do in Holland.

posted by shockleader [20 posts]
25th January 2013 - 12:25

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hmm… I'm not sure that the issue of roadies on cycle paths is that cut and dried in the Netherlands, shockleader. Dutch cycling organisations have expressed concerns about fast riding cyclists, particularly in groups mixing with slower moving ones, and I'm pretty sure we've reported on a fatality involving a chap out on a training ride being killed after colliding with slower moving riders coming the other way.

Re the Inquiry - Wednesday was the first of six session, and it would seem odd if cycling organisations weren't allowed a say in an inquiry about cycling.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4130 posts]
25th January 2013 - 12:51

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Hi Tony, I don't doubt that there will be "issues" however I would suggest that the fatalities involving bike on bike incidents are of a magnitude lower than bike on motor vehicle. The inquiry is however "Get Britain Cycling" not "Keep Cyclists Cycling".

Of course cycling organisations should have there say - they are also hearing from Roadpeace, the AA, the police and even Martin Porter QC. They don't seem to be asking (for example) head teachers who have banned cycling to school, groups such as mumsnet - why some of them don't let their kids ride bikes and so on.

posted by shockleader [20 posts]
25th January 2013 - 14:35

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Actually IIRC bike on bike accidents are disproportionately higher than bike on motor vehicle accidents.

posted by Tony [66 posts]
25th January 2013 - 22:41

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a.jumper wrote:
Lack of gritting - other than Cambridge? - to be mentioned in the safety heating, I hope.

Gritting? Cambridge? Where?

posted by Tony [66 posts]
25th January 2013 - 22:42

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shockleader wrote:
Of greater concern should be the fact that the "Get Britain Cycling" inquiry isn't taking evidence from people who don't cycle but would like to. What's the point of listening to a bunch of cycle campaigners (i.e. existing hardened cyclists) saying what they think/want when they really need to be asking those who want to ride but are scared (or the scared parents of kids who want to ride).

The problem is that those who don't cycle don't know what they want. Segregated facilities are often quoted but then when they are built, there is no influx of new cyclists. And nobody says they want a bike hire system but the bike hire systems in London and Dublin and Paris have been phenomenal successes in getting people cycling.

posted by Tony [66 posts]
25th January 2013 - 22:47

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why not have a look at how Holland or Germany do it? don't reinvent the wheel

posted by berni [32 posts]
25th January 2013 - 23:41

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Tony wrote:
a.jumper wrote:
Lack of gritting - other than Cambridge? - to be mentioned in the safety heating, I hope.

Gritting? Cambridge? Where?


The middle? http://cycle.st/p47318

Not great but infinitely better than the lack of gritting cycle tracks elsewhere.

Oh and I cycle and I've campaigned for bike hire. No/difficult bike hire is why I don't cycle in many cities.

posted by a.jumper [679 posts]
26th January 2013 - 1:37

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But cycling at 20 MPH and over may be fine on the track and easily achievable but is not the sedate upright style that we love to cite with Europe cycling. Cycling at those speeds, or too fast among slower traffic is bound to contribute to cycle accidents and injuries.

The Government should aim for more achievable and slower local style. Longer distance high speed cycling cannot & will never be done by most people.

Like any road transport it's too fast that causes accidents.

Road safety 'experts' are often folk who's CV doesn't cut the mustard.

posted by Sedgepeat [61 posts]
26th January 2013 - 12:09

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Success? Have we seen the balance sheets? I doubt many London commuters have changed their travel mode much. Mostly public transport & Shank's Pony.

Road safety 'experts' are often folk who's CV doesn't cut the mustard.

posted by Sedgepeat [61 posts]
26th January 2013 - 12:12

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RoadPeace? The AA? The police? Martin Porter QC? Err the first two have vested interests are profitable Registered Charities not genuine charities. The Police? What was the expertise of the officer? Most police do not specialise in driving & Martin Porter's profession is lawyer. On that basis why not ask Cherie Blair? When will the enquiry ask honest road safety and driving experts? But the All Party Group is a cycling group. How objective is that? Just un upper tier cycle lobby group!

Road safety 'experts' are often folk who's CV doesn't cut the mustard.

posted by Sedgepeat [61 posts]
26th January 2013 - 12:20

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Cycle lanes.
Simple.
Our local 'vote' as to whether to have Congestion Charging was heavily advertised as 'Vote NO' and most people duly voted as they were told, saying things like "It's not an ideal deal. I'm voting for more public transport by voting no".
So, Manchester congestion charge is dead (As those in power had planned) and not only will it never be raised again, but it stands as an argument in all future proposals as "They were offered it in Manchester and the people themselves turned it down. Congestion charges just aren't popular".
Vote for cycle lanes. Only then will the argy-bargy about details have ANY relevance.

posted by Phytoramediant [23 posts]
27th January 2013 - 14:37

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