Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, has said that the biggest challenge for “a London commuter” is avoiding cyclists, not trucks and cars. Answering a question as to what action was being taken to increase cyclists’ compliance with traffic laws and regulations, he pointed to the Bikeability scheme – which is likely to suffer a large cut in funding tomorrow.
BikeBiz reports that the question was asked by Labour peer, Lord Wills, who said that cycling on pavements was the issue that most incensed his constituents “apart from dog mess.”
“The situation seems to be getting worse. As record numbers of cyclists take to the roads in big cities, we see increasing examples of this sort of behaviour. Just a few weeks ago I was on Marylebone Road and I watched a cyclist jump a red light and weave off down the pavement between pedestrians, talking on his mobile phone as he went. When I said that perhaps he should not be doing that, he got off his bike and asked me to fight him.
“When I declined the invitation and pointed out that he was breaking the law, he said, ‘I know I’m breaking the law and you can’t do anything about it.’ However, the Minister could. I would be grateful if he could tell the House what more he could do to stop these bully boys on bikes terrorising pedestrians and bring some law and order to our pavements.”
Lord Ahmad agreed, saying that when he was an MP, “I often said that the biggest challenge for a commuter in London was avoiding not trucks and cars but the cyclists who were possibly jumping red lights or riding on the pavements.”
He pointed to Operation Atrium which involved London police issuing tickets to cyclists breaking the rules as well as cycle training initiatives such as THINK! Cyclist and Bikeability, saying such schemes would “help us to educate cyclists, not just about the law but also about their responsibilities.”
Conservative peer Lord Robathan seemed unimpressed by the tone of the debate and asked how many motorists are killed or severely injured by cyclists in a year; how many pedestrians are killed or severely injured by cyclists a year; and how many cyclists are severely injured or killed by motorists and pedestrians in a year.
Lord Ahmad said he would answer in writing.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Taverne said he would also be keen to see such figures before suggesting that everything possible should be done to encourage more people to cycle.
“The serious injuries caused by cyclists must pale into insignificance when compared to those caused by motorists. Does he not agree that everything possible must be done by the Government to encourage and support cycling, as was splendidly shown recently with the opening of the cycling superhighway route in London? After all, bicycles are the most efficient machine yet invented for turning energy into motion. Indeed, the bicycle has been accurately described as a kind of green car, which can run on tap water and tea cakes and, moreover, has a built-in gym.”