The Get Britain Cycling Parliamentary Inquiry concluded at Westminster yesterday with appeals from campaigners and members of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), which hosted it, for political leadership from the top down on issues relating to cycling.
Broadcaster Jon Snow, who is also president of national cyclists’ organisation CTC, told the inquiry that “The politician that takes leadership on cycling and really revolutionises it will leave a legacy for generations,” adding that the single most important step that could be taken would be to “make it compulsory for cycling provision to be included in all new road schemes.”
Meanwhile, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, welcomed to the revelation by Transport Minister Norman Baker that David Cameron had been directly involved in discussions with the Department for Transport by urging the Prime Minister to ensure cycling was given priority.
Mr Baker had told the inquiry that cycling needed to be viewed as a “mainstream form of transport,” adding that a greater focus on it in Whitehall was fostering “a greater understanding and commitment on cycling, including significant interest from the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister.”
Responding to those comments in a press release issued after the session, Jason Torrance, policy director at Sustrans, said: “The government must work together to deliver a bold vision for cycling under the leadership of the Prime Minister himself,” he said. "The resounding message throughout this inquiry has been that leadership on cycling must come from the very top.
"The Prime Minister needs to take cycling to the top of the agenda and set out a plan that includes every element of government so we can all lead healthier, more active lives."
Witnesses at the sixth and final session of the inquiry, which focused on the role of government, included Mr Baker and his ministerial colleague at the DfT, Stephen Hammond, London’s recently appointed Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, the Crown Prosecution Service, Kevin Mayne of the European Cyclists’ Federation, and an expert from the Dutch Cycling Embassy.
In a summary of the final session’s proceedings, Ian Austin MP, co-chair of the APPCG, said: “Yesterday was a fitting end to the inquiry’s evidence sessions.
“The debates covered political will, sentencing, London’s plan for the next four years, what is happening in Wales and, most importantly – we heard from two government ministers about how seriously they are taking our mission to Get Britain cycling.
“Everyone involved in all areas of local and national government - including transport, health, the environment – has a role to play in stepping up to this challenge.
“But Jon Snow’s comment about how political leadership from the very top is key is a message that really resonates and brings us full circle from the first session.”
The inquiry’s report will be published on 24 April, and Mr Austin said: “I’m pleased to hear that the government is going to take our findings seriously, treating them like a Select Committee report, and I look forward to publishing our recommendations next month.”
Andrew Gilligan, the journalist who now has the role of Cycling Commissioner for London, gave a preview of some of the plans for cycling in the capital due to be unveiled by Mayor Boris Johnson later this week, including that by 2016, spend on cycling in the city will equate to £18 a head, or £145 million a year.
He also said that perception of cyclists needed to change, partly through making it more inclusive, observing that “the key thing is to broaden the amount of people cycling. The typical cycling is male, white and employed.”
The Welsh Assembly’s Minister for Transport, Carl Sargeant, told the inquiry about the Active Travel Bill that is currently going through the legislative process and said that he wants “walking and cycling to become the norm – that means a shift in culture.”
Kevin Mayne, Director of Development at the European Cyclists’ Federation, and previously Chief Executive of CTC, said that his travels to a dozen countries in Europe to study their attitudes towards Europe had led him to the conclusion that the Netherlands was “uniquely good” and the UK “uniquely bad.”
Roelof Wittink of the Dutch Cycling Embassy added: “It’s not about the number of cars, it’s about focusing on the people in a city who are shopping or socialising We need to aim for an optimal share of cycling as a form of transport.”
Dr Julian Huppert MP, Mr Austin’s fellow co-chair at the APPCG, said: “We need firm leadership from government and a dedicated funding stream if we are to make significant progress in cycle safety and accessibility, so it was entirely appropriate that today we heard from the ministers that can make that happen.
“It is only by making significant improvements to our infrastructure, introducing clear and enforceable regulations to protect cyclists, and investing in training programmes that we will really start to make a difference.”
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.