A Parliamentary cycling debate, held yesterday, has reached a record 2.1 million people via social media
The Westminster Hall debate on government funding for cycling attracted a number of MPs described as “unfamiliar faces” in cycling debates, as well as reaching more than 2.1m Twitter accounts, the highest number ever for a digital debate, according to Conservative MP Chris Green.
Campaigners say this sends a “clear message” to government that people want to cycle, and more investment is needed to tackle safety concerns. Among issues raised were the need for design standards to avoid more “unusable” bike lanes, as well as the importance of getting more women, and more black and ethnic minority groups, cycling.
In response to the debate Martin Key, British Cycling’s campaigns manager, said: “Today’s Westminster Hall debate on government investment in cycling illustrated how much progress has been made in recent years.
“Cycling didn’t have much political attention in the past and rare debates like these would be poorly attended and often missed the point. Today, we have MPs from all parties and all across the UK representing the very real concerns of their constituents and British Cycling’s 117,000 members – namely that the vast majority of people actively want to use their bikes more often, but are put off by concerns about safety.
“A clear message was sent to government today that more investment is needed in segregated infrastructure to make our roads and junctions safer. Does this amount to the kind of political will to deliver the ‘cycling revolution’ promised by the Prime Minister? No. Is it a step forward? Yes. We will keep the pressure on.”
Conservative MP, Chris Green, who secured the debate, said: “If a cycle lane is unusable, is it really a cycle lane? We often see overhanging branches, impassable potholes, large puddles, parked cars and poor-quality surfaces, which are especially noticeable for those on racers. I have a racer, and I cannot use some cycle lanes.”
He pointed out the government predicts a 55% increase in road congestion by 2040, and while £75 per person per year is spent on motorised transport, around £4 per head per year is spent on cycling, including funding in London. Excluding London the annual spend on cycling per person in England is £1.39.
Green said “too often it seems the bare minimum is done” by local authorities, adding “if those who made decisions about cycle tracks were cyclists, they would understand better what should be implemented”.
Ruth Cadbury, MP for Brentford and Isleworth, and Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, said: "We seek a national set of design standards that reflect those that have been created in Wales and in London, to ensure we get good quality space for cycling".
The national cycling charity, the CTC, says there was too little recognition of the importance of cycling funding in the debate, and that cycling minister, Robert Goodwill’s, speech suggested a lack of leadership on cycling, and “passing the buck”.
Campaigners want to see £3bn of the £15bn roads fund allocated to cycling, rather than a number of pots of funding given to local authorities without what they call clear leadership, meaning many councils don’t end up investing in cycling.
CTC’s Policy Director, Roger Geffen MBE, said: "It's heartening that once again MPs from across the political spectrum have spoken up for the investment needed to make cycling a safe and normal activity. Cycling is not just for healthy young males, but for people of all ages and abilities. I hope the government will now listen, find the funding, and put in place the design standards that are needed to ensure it is well spent”.