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Cyclists (Road Safety)

Volume 983: debated on Wednesday 23 April 1980

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asked the Minister of Transport what action is being taken to improve road safety for cyclists.

We give advice and encouragement to local authorities on the provision of better and safer facilities for cyclists. We shall seek to improve machine safety, particularly braking. We shall continue to encourage cyclists to make themselves more conspicuous and other road users to treat cyclists with more care and consideration. We commend RoSPA's national cycling proficiency scheme, which last year trained 300,000 children between the ages of 9–14.

In spite of those facts, is not the Minister being rather complacent about this important issue in view of the great increase in the number of cyclists, which is likely further to increase because of present circumstances? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman consider the introduction of a massive publicity scheme on do's and don'ts for cyclists? Will he consider including in that campaign the need to make car drivers more aware of the existence of cyclists? Is he satisfied with the accuracy of the present cycling accident statistics?

We are not complacent. The hon. Gentleman is right to observe that, with the steady increase in cycling—which on the whole we welcome—there is a tendency for the number of accidents to increase. I am satisfied with the accuracy of the statistics that we have, but my colleagues and I will always consider ways of improving them. There is scope for publicity, apart from the other features that I have described. I agree that publicity must be aimed at cyclists themselves, especially children, and to other road users, including motorists, to make them more aware of cyclists. Many accidents are not the fault of the cyclist.

Will my hon. and learned Friend continue to emphasise that there are two crucial safety factors, namely, that cyclists should be seen and, if possible, separated from other road traffic? Does he agree that many cyclists now seem to be using fewer lights than some years ago, and that that is one of the reasons why there are more accidents?

The problem of lighting on cycles is largely one of enforcement. Cyclists should be seen, and we do everything that we can to encourage the wearing of conspicuous clothing by cyclists. The separation of cyclists from the main traffic is a desirable aim wherever possible. We give considerable help to local authorities to bring forward schemes to try to segregate cyclists from other traffic.

Will the Minister consider the Swedish and Swiss experiment of banning children under the age of 5 from cycling on public roads? Is he aware that the experiment has had a phenomenal success in reducing the casualty rate for young children? May I urge him to consider it, and to do so rather more quickly than his consideration of introducing provisions to increase motor cycle safety?

I shall consider the hon. Gentleman's suggestion, now that it has been brought to my attention. We must weigh carefully the need for a ban on any use of the roads. Most children under the age of 5 should not be on a bicycle on any public highway that has a normal amount of traffic use. I shall deal on another occasion with the allegation that we are being slow on motor cycle safety. We are near to producing our proposals.

Due to the rather disappointing progress throughout the nation that has been made in the provision of cycle tracks by local authorities, will my hon. and learned Friend consider the possibility of making it a legislative requirement that local authorities should provide cycle tracks for reasons of safety?

We are limited by finance and sometimes by the physical geography of particular towns. We give financial grants to local authorities which introduce experimental schemes. There are some interesting schemes at Peterborough and Middlesbrough, and four or five other schemes are on the way. Certain towns are easier to adapt for the use of cyclists than others. We must face up to some of the practical problems.