Minister for cycling Robert Goodwill, who is also responsible for road safety, has told fellow MPs that he will ride his Brompton tomorrow on a tour expected to include some of London’s most dangerous junctions. Meanwhile, British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman has welcomed a ten-point plan from Labour to improve the safety of cyclists around lorries, agreed earlier this week.
Mr Goodwill, who became parliamentary under-secretary for state at the Department for Transport following October’s ministerial reshuffle, was speaking on Tuesday in a Westminster Hall debate on the safety of cyclists in London, following six deaths of cyclists in the city earlier this month.
The MP who chaired it – Tory backbencher, Philip Hollobone, who represents Kettering – opened the debate, brought by Brentford and Isleworth MP Mary Macleod, by confessing that he himself had once been knocked off his bike in the capital.
“I will be on my Brompton again on Friday morning as I cycle from King’s Cross station to Westminster,” said Mr Goodwill, who represents Scarborough and Whitby.
“My officials have devised a route for me that will allow me to experience both the worst and the best of cycling roads in London,” he added.
The minister also outlined some steps the government is taking to improve cycle safety, acknowledging: “if we are going to improve cycling safety in London significantly, we will have to reduce the threat of trucks where full segregation is not possible.”
But he deflected Ms Macleod’s call for a cycle safety summit to be held as a matter of urgency, pointing to various separate meetings he has held with British Cycling, the CTC and Sustrans, as well as one next week at the DfT with Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Ms McLeod had called for “all the London stakeholders [to be brought] around a table to discuss the vision, strategy and plan of action going forward,” including “the Department for Transport, the Mayor’s office, Transport for London, the Metropolitan police and each of the London boroughs.”
She also envisaged cycle campaign groups being involved and said: “It would be a conversation around a table about a joint approach and a plan of action to get things moving.”
Besides his recent meeting with Mr Goodwill in his role as policy advisor to British Cycling, former world and Olympic champion Boardman also met with shadow transport minister Mary Creagh and her Labour colleagues this week at the party’s London Cycle Safety Summit.
Items on the agenda included:
• How do we improve cycle safety in London – what lessons can be learned from the fatalities on the capital’s roads?
• In what ways should traffic law and enforcement change and how do we improve training and awareness?
• What should be our approach to HGVs and other large vehicles in terms of equipment, restrictions and improving awareness?
• How do we encourage greater levels of cycling – what are the lessons from the continent, and how do we promote, incentivise and provide opportunities to cycle for all?
• How do we improve cycling provision – what is the right way to plan and design cycling facilities and improve existing roads?
Following the meeting, Boardman said: “The Labour Party has the opportunity to develop a solid set of targets and ambitions for cycling ahead of the 2015 general election.
“The Get Britain Cycling inquiry report is a blueprint we would like to see all political parties use to develop robust plans for cycling in this country driven by appropriate targets and incentives.
“Cycling is the solution for so many problems that we currently have in this country. There is a huge obesity issue at the moment which in turn puts a huge strain on the NHS. Getting more people on bikes would also go a long way to tackling problems with pollution and congestion.
“It was encouraging to hear today’s announcement from Mary Creagh about Labour’s ideas to deal with the problem of dangerous HGVs.
“We will now fully consider her 10 point plan and will continue to work with all political parties to ensure that cycling sits at the heart of manifesto plans ahead of the 2015 general election.”
In an article written for the London Evening Standard, Ms Creagh, who succeeded Maria Eagle as shadow transport secretary in October, said that Labour “aims to get more people on to two wheels more often. The more people cycle on our roads, the safer it becomes for all of us.
“We’re calling for an end to the Government’s stop-start approach to supporting cycling, and a move to long-term infrastructure investment, including dedicated, separate safe cycling routes.”
She added: “We also need action on heavy goods vehicles. Labour would bring in a new charter, laying down tough safety rules for HGVs. Despite making up just six per cent of traffic, they are involved in around 20 per cent of all cycling fatalities. This can’t continue.
“By the middle of next year, we want to see all HGVs fitted with safety kit — including rear-view cameras, rear warning signs for cyclists and flashing lights and beacons.
“By the end of 2017, we want all HGVs fitted with audible warning systems for drivers, sideguards and blind-spot elimination devices.”
Ms Creagh added that if Labour is returned to power following the general election in 2015 election, “we will legislate to make these safety features compulsory.”
She concluded: “So let’s end the blame game and get to work to make our capital’s streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians alike.
“Solving the problem of cycling safety needs education, enforcement and engineering. Labour’s HGV Safety Charter is an important first step on that journey.”
Cycling will be in the spotlight at the House of Commons again on Monday when the Transport Select Committee holds a follow-up oral evidence session on cycle safety that aims to build on the findings of its inquiry into road safety last year.
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.