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Volume 264: debated on Monday 23 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what steps the Government are taking to make it easier for people to cycle to work. [36472]

We have taken a number of initiatives, building on the Government's policy statement last year. The most recent is our £2 million cycle challenge competition, which is designed to generate new ideas and partnerships capable of widespread application in the United Kingdom.

Does the Secretary of State agree that this country has the lowest percentage of cyclists compared with our European counterparts and that there is, therefore, much more to be done? However much the Government blow their own trumpet about the difference that £44 million from the millennium fund will make, that is no substitute for real action across the country through Department of Transport spending. I hope that the Secretary of State, as a well-known cycling enthusiast, will back up his words with action. If he is really concerned, will he consider making new money available from his Department's budget to make cycling available to people in all our villages, towns and cities?

I agree with the beginning of the hon. Gentleman's question: there is scope to increase the percentage of journeys travelled by bicycle in this country, as the percentage in many other European countries is far higher than in the United Kingdom. So far as policy is concerned, the hon. Gentleman will know that we are bringing forward a national strategy for cycling in concert with a wide range of other interested parties. On resources, the hon. Gentleman mentioned the very welcome contribution from the millennium fund, and the Department is supporting the national cycle network—particularly where it crosses roads owned or managed by the Department. On local authority investment, we are promoting the package approach by local authorities, and I shall certainly look for transport policies which make fuller provision for cycling so that the potential for cycling is unlocked.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are many ways to heaven? Will he legislate to enable people wishing to ride a horse to work to use cycle paths?

This exchange has so far been exclusive to Members representing the London borough of Ealing, but I am sure that the interest in cycling goes far wider. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand if I say that I will take note of his suggestion about the greater use of cycle paths by horses; perhaps I may write to him when I have completed some extensive research into the possibility of combined use.