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Cycling and Walking

Volume 647: debated on Thursday 11 October 2018

A man can only dream.

My hon. Friend will, I hope, be delighted by the enormous energy that the Government have been showing in the area of cycling and walking, following our investment strategy published last year. That includes: the new safety review; new funding; cycle ambition cities; the transforming cities fund, which is being heavily used to improve urban environments for cycling and walking; support for changes to the “Highway Code” on close passing; and a great number of other measures. When we announce the response to the cycle safety review later this year, I hope there will be more to say on this topic.

If we are going to get half of all children cycling to school, as happens in the Netherlands—that can be compared with the paltry 3% here in the UK—so that we can cut pollution, congestion and obesity, can we ensure that all new roads and housing estates have safe cycle infrastructure designed into them, as it is more expensive to retrofit later?

I certainly share that ambition. As my hon. Friend knows, the Government are seeking to have a child of 12, as well as people of all sexes, races and backgrounds, able to cycle without fear or impediment. Not all housing estates will be suitable for this kind of change—[Hon. Members: “Why not?”] Some may be too far removed from urban city centres, but where they are suitable, I would support that ambition in the way that the Government have done by looking at electrification for new housing.

The Transport Department’s own statistics show that the Government are set to miss their target to increase the number of people who regularly walk and cycle. Walking is barely increasing, and many people are scared to cycle, as has been suggested, with nearly 60% telling the British social attitudes survey that they felt cycling was too dangerous, apparently because of the volume of traffic on the roads.

The Minister himself has said that the UK has a long way to go to improve levels of cycling and walking. Is it not high time for the Government to show some leadership and invest properly in walking and cycling, rather than paying lip service to pedestrians and cyclists?

Well, I think I said that we had a long way to go to match the standards set in some European cities that have been pioneers in this area. I do not think there is any doubt that the Government are doing more than any previous Government have done, and certainly more than the last Government by a factor of some three times in terms of funding per person—[Interruption.] The national chuntering club is out on the other side of the House. We have also taken a host of other measures to try to support cycling and improve safety, with precisely the laudable aims that the hon. Gentleman has in mind.