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Cyclists: Safety

Volume 751: debated on Thursday 30 January 2014


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they propose to take action to promote the safety of cyclists.

My Lords, the Government take all road safety, including cycle safety, very seriously and have committed £278 million of funding directly for cycling. Furthermore, the department has made it considerably easier for local authorities to implement a 20 miles per hour speed limit, Trixi mirrors, new designs of advanced stop lines and other highway measures to support cycle safety. We also continue to work with the haulage industry to drive up vehicle standards and awareness of vulnerable road users.

I thank the Minister very much for that response, which is very encouraging. Many of us wish to encourage safe cycling. In that context, is the Minister in a position to seek to secure a review of all the measures relating to cycling safety—restrictions on heavy goods vehicles, cycling lanes, the 20 mile an hour zone that he mentioned and the vexed question of cycling helmets—and involve in that review cycling organisations, motoring organisations and other relevant bodies?

My Lords, we are continuously reviewing a number of safety measures. On cycle helmets, this week I had a brief discussion with the Secretary of State in the presence of our Minister for cycling, my honourable friend Robert Goodwill. Our approach is non-legislative—we do not want to make cycle helmets compulsory. We would rather encourage and support people to wear helmets for safety. It is not good to burden cyclists. We would rather see more cyclists on our roads and cycling safely.

My Lords, I was pleased to hear the Minister's comments on cycle helmets, because that is not the issue that needs to be addressed. He said that he was encouraging local authorities to spend more money on cycling. Will he confirm that there will be some ring-fenced money for cycling, as local authorities’ resources are very stretched? Will he further confirm that much of that money will be put towards better use of road space for separate cycle lanes so that cyclists can feel safe in respect of other road users?

My Lords, the investment in cycling safety in any area depends on the local authority, but we have allocated £278 million of funding and are spending double the amount in this Parliament compared to the last one. Local authorities make their own assessment of dangerous cycling spots in their areas and can apply for cycle safety funds. With regard to cycle lanes, new roads are designed in such a way as to take cyclist safety and cycle lanes into account.

Will my noble friend give us some indication of how best practice in the world of cycling is actually applied? Do the Government encourage cycling? What do they do, or is it left to local authorities and charities?

My Lords, we need to see more cycling and safer cycling. Hence, we have allocated funds for local authorities to make it as safe as possible. We encourage cycling and want to see more cyclists on our roads. It is the best and cheapest means of transport.

My Lords, as both a cyclist and a motorist, I am often struck by the number of cyclists riding with no lights after dark, creating a hazard both for themselves and for others. What educational or other steps can the Minister take to improve the standards of cycling behaviour and to ensure that, where necessary, the law is enforced equally for cyclists and motorists?

My Lords, lately there have been conflicts and hostility between the cyclist and the motorist. The Government are doing everything possible, along with the Mayor of London and Transport for London. We have launched a THINK! campaign for motorists and cyclists to eliminate those problems.

My Lords, pedestrians should expect to be able to use the pavement and our roads safely, without any collision or confrontation with cyclists. Where cyclists cause problems, it is a matter for the police to take the necessary action. We want to see safe cycling, not dangerous cycling. The noble Baroness raises a very important point about pedestrians, who do sometimes have problems with cyclists, and the Government are taking the necessary action through the police to make sure that bad, dangerous or careless cycling on our pavements is prohibited.

My Lords, the greatest danger to cyclists, particularly in our towns, comes from heavy goods vehicles, which are responsible for 20% of cycling deaths, and a much greater percentage in London. Will the Minister note that the Mayor of London is at present berating the Government for their failure to accelerate actions in Europe to make European-wide provision for safety in terms of heavy good vehicles having the necessary equipment to see cyclists more readily? Will the Minister also join in Labour’s campaign to make cycling safe by addressing problems with heavy goods vehicles?

My Lords, the differences between the Mayor of London and the Government on heavy goods vehicles cropped up this morning in the papers. I do not have a briefing on that subject but would be very happy to write to the noble Lord. We work continuously with a number of stakeholders, including the haulage industry, to make heavy goods vehicles safer. We have introduced Trixi mirrors and passenger left-hand side mirrors, and we will introduce sidebars for lorries. A number of other measures have also been taken, including written and oral tests for haulage drivers. However, we have to wait for what we call the cycle delivery plan, which will take a number of factors into account and is due out in autumn this year.

My Lords, following up the supplementary question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, does my noble friend agree that one way of improving cycling safety is to persuade cyclists to obey the law of the land?