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Members of the House of Lords question the government on cycle safety and funding

Pedestrian safety, bike lights, and the 'vexed question of cycle helmets' all big concerns for peers of the realm...

A Conservative peer has led a debate in the House of Lords calling for a concerted effort to improve cycle safety by reviewing HGVs, cycle lanes, 20mph zones and the efficacy of cycle helmets.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth kicked off the questioning by asking the government “whether they propose to take action to promote the safety of cyclists?”

The answer, coming from the Conservative peer Lord Popat, was that: "We are continuously reviewing a number of safety measures,” and that the government “have committed £278 million of funding directly for cycling.

“Furthermore, the department has made it considerably easier for local authorities to implement a 20 miles per hour speed limit, Trixi mirrors, new designs of advanced stop lines and other highway measures to support cycle safety.

We also continue to work with the haulage industry to drive up vehicle standards and awareness of vulnerable road users.”

Undeterred, Lord Bourne went on to ask whether there could still be a review into these aspects, including cycling and motoring organisations - including research into “the vexed issue of cycle helmets”.

For those fearing an Australian-style cycle helmet mandate - worry not. Lord Popat for the government responded on his earlier point: “We do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety. It is not good to burden cyclists. We would rather see more cyclists on our roads and cycling safely.”

The Labour peer Lord Bradshaw was next up, wondering whether some local authority funding could be ringfenced for cycling, given the constraints on local government spending.

Lord Popat responded that the £278 million allocated to fund cycling - of course that should be viewed in the context of a total of nearly £13bn Department for Transport spending this year - was to be spent at the discretion of the local authorities.

He added: “With regard to cycle lanes, new roads are designed in such a way as to take cyclist safety and cycle lanes into account.”

Crossbencher Lord Aberdare was concerned about "the standards of cycling behaviour”, but Lord Popat seemed to assuage some of his fears by noting that he hoped a recent THINK! campaign aimed at cyclists and motorists could ‘eliminate’ problems such as cyclists riding without lights at night.

Lord Popat acknowledged that "there have been conflicts and hostility between the cyclist and the motorist" but when it came to pedestrian safety, well that was a matter for the police, with government support “to make sure that bad, dangerous or careless cycling on our pavements is prohibited.”

The most interesting new aspect of the debate came at the end, when Lord Popat revealed that come  autumn, the ‘cycle delivery plan’ would outline new safety measures for HGVs, “including written and oral tests for haulage drivers.”

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