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Cyclists: Safety

Volume 760: debated on Tuesday 3 March 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the findings of the YouGov survey on cycling safety commissioned by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

My Lords, I received the top lines of the YouGov report only late last week. The YouGov survey asked many useful and interesting questions about attitudes to cycling and is sufficiently data rich to stand more detailed analysis. One key finding, which we are pleased to note, is the evidence of considerable latent willingness to engage in more cycling, which justifies the Government’s strategy on supporting cycling provision.

I thank the Minister for her reply and declare an interest as a vice-president of RoSPA. The RoSPA-commissioned YouGov poll has given us some compelling insights into the need for greater provision for cyclists. One-third of people think that cycling safety is one of the biggest transport issues we face; two-thirds back the idea of a network of cycle routes; and 78% say they would like to see separate cycle lanes. The Government have given money to certain cities, but with more than 100 cyclists a year being killed, what will the Government do now, given these findings, to accelerate the introduction of safe cycling provisions for all our roads?

My Lords, one death from cycling is one death too many, so obviously we are very concerned with safety. Your Lordships will be aware that we launched a THINK! Cyclist campaign in 2012, and a third round of this is planned to run in 12 cities in March 2015—the original five cities and seven additional ones. We have made it easier for councils to introduce 20 miles per hour zones and 40 miles per hour zones in rural areas, and Trixi mirrors. The Deputy Prime Minister announced £100 million to improve conditions for cyclists and walkers, alongside and crossing the strategic road network. We have set up a task force with Transport for London to raise awareness of safety among HGV drivers and to take targeted enforcement against the minority of potentially dangerous operators, drivers and vehicles. We are always looking at more ways to make cycling safe.

My Lords, I do not have any numbers with me on pedestrian safety, but I will be glad to write to my noble friend on that issue. Pedestrian safety is obviously a key consideration as well.

Does the Minister agree that a cyclist’s main protection should be his or her own eyes and ears? The eyes are there to warn against impending danger from the front and the ears ought to assist in identifying impending danger from behind. I cycle regularly from my flat in Camden to Westminster—it used to be Lincoln’s Inn, then it was the Royal Courts of Justice and now it is Westminster—and I am appalled by the number of cyclists who bicycle with earplugs in their ears listening to music. If they listen to music, they cannot possibly hear any danger approaching from behind. There are regulations to ensure the use of lights on bicycles in dark or dingy weather. Should there not also be a regulation to prevent the highly dangerous practice to which I have referred?

My Lords, it is important that everyone does all they can to try to improve cycle safety. In London, many of the recent incredibly sad deaths have been related to collisions with HGVs. Europe has adopted, and we are enforcing, new rules on goods vehicles in consequence of that, and London is taking it further with its Safer Lorry Scheme, which will be more fully implemented in September. There is a whole variety of actions that we can take; London’s superhighways are another example. Much of the money announced today for the eight cycle cities may well go on segregated cycle provision.

My Lords, why are the Government so resistant to introducing 20 miles per hour limits for vehicles in cities and towns throughout the country?

My Lords, it must be a local decision. There are some areas where decisions should be made not by government at the centre but by local government, which understands the local circumstances. Changes have been made to make it much easier for that to be implemented. Change in the rules on road layouts and changes in signage mean that it is now much easier for a community that wishes to have 20 miles per hour limits to make sure that they are in place.

My Lords, since three recent fatalities of cyclists in London have been caused by tipping lorries, and as most of the fatalities have been caused by heavy lorries, often turning left, is it not a top priority for the Government to see that heavy lorries are redesigned so that the driver’s vision is not restricted? As for road junction safety, is it not a scandal that, as revealed by the Mayor of London in response to a Liberal Democrat question, something like £50 million of the present budget available for cycling safety has not been spent in the current financial year?

As my noble friend knows, central government made £15 million available to London to deal with some of the worst junctions. That has been important and I obviously want to see that implemented. We have a wide range of approaches to dealing with issues around HGVs, including new rules that will mean that cabs are safer and vision is better. We are working on the technical standards that will apply to those rules.

My Lords, please will the Minister address the question raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, about the case for regulation to prevent cyclists cycling with earplugs in their ears?

My Lords, enforceability is always absolutely crucial. I hesitate to tell cyclists exactly what they should do when there is so much scope for us to make improvements in other areas, and I suggest that we pursue those. Obviously, cycle training matters and addresses many of those issues, and we have invested a great deal in Bikeability.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, asked a question about headphones. I do not think that he got an answer to it and no doubt the noble Baroness the Minister will wish to respond. However, the Government’s Cycling Delivery Plan, published more than a year late, contains no specific targets on increasing the percentage of journeys undertaken by bike from the current level of 2% and no specific long-term funding targets for cycling. Bearing in mind that, following pressure from Labour and cycling organisations, among others, the Infrastructure Act included a requirement to produce a cycling and walking investment strategy, do the Government intend to update the Cycling Delivery Plan by including the specific targets that are currently lacking and to which I have just referred?

My Lords, noble Lords will be aware that the Government have committed over £588 million to cycling—more than double the previous Government—and that has been absolutely crucial. The cycling and walking investment strategy will require a major piece of work, including a great deal of consultation, to design investment for the future, but our goal is to get to the £10 per head benchmark, which I think is widely accepted as the right number.