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Volume 767: debated on Monday 23 November 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to increase compliance by cyclists with traffic laws and regulations.

My Lords, like all road users, cyclists have a duty to behave in a safe and responsible manner. The enforcement of cycling offences is an operational matter for chief officers of police. Depending on the offence, officers can issue verbal warnings or fixed penalty notices, or report the road user for formal prosecution. The Government support any action taken by the police to deter and reduce the number of cycling offences.

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. When I was in the other place, cycling on pavements—terrorising pedestrians—was the issue that incensed my constituents most in regular open meetings, apart from dog mess. The situation seems to be getting worse. As record numbers of cyclists take to the roads in big cities, we see increasing examples of this sort of behaviour. Just a few weeks ago I was on Marylebone Road and I watched a cyclist jump a red light and weave off down the pavement between pedestrians, talking on his mobile phone as he went. When I said that perhaps he should not be doing that, he got off his bike and asked me to fight him. When I declined the invitation and pointed out that he was breaking the law, he said, “I know I’m breaking the law and you can’t do anything about it”. However, the Minister could. I would be grateful if he could tell the House what more he could do to stop these bully boys on bikes terrorising pedestrians and bring some law and order to our pavements.

My Lords, the noble Lord describes an experience that I am sure we have all shared. When I was on the Back Benches in this House, I served in the City of London. I often said that the biggest challenge for a commuter in London was avoiding not trucks and cars but the cyclists who were possibly jumping red lights or riding on the pavements. I am sure the noble Lord is aware of some of the initiatives that we have taken forward. Road safety is primarily the role of the police. Most recently, Operation Atrium was launched in July 2015, when the London police issued tickets to cyclists breaking the rules. They were then invited to look at the challenges faced not just by pedestrians but by lorries in London as well, which can quite easily miss cyclists. Other initiatives such as THINK! Cyclist and Bikeability will help us to educate cyclists, not just about the law but also about their responsibilities.

My Lords, can my noble friend inform the House how many motorists are killed or severely injured by cyclists in a year; how many pedestrians are killed or severely injured by cyclists a year; and how many cyclists are severely injured or killed by motorists and pedestrians in a year?

My noble friend raises a very important point about statistics. I will write to him on the first two issues. I think we acknowledge that the number of cyclists injured on the roads is increasing, but when we compare 2008 to 2014, the number of deaths on the road has not significantly increased. For example, 104 cyclist deaths were reported in 2008 and 113 in 2014, which is an increase of four on 2013 figures. Nevertheless, it is 113 deaths too many and we need to eradicate this problem.

Order! It is the turn of the Lib Dems. Could I urge noble Lords to allow the Minister to sit down before they stand up and try to ask questions?

My Lords, I hope the Minister will provide the figures that he says he will provide and make them available in the Library, although the serious injuries caused by cyclists must pale into insignificance when compared to those caused by motorists. Does he not agree that everything possible must be done by the Government to encourage and support cycling, as was splendidly shown recently with the opening of the cycling superhighway route in London? After all, bicycles are the most efficient machine yet invented for turning energy into motion. Indeed, the bicycle has been accurately described as a kind of green car, which can run on tap water and tea cakes and, moreover, has a built-in gym.

The noble Lord raises the benefits of cycling, about which I agree with him. I am sure he recognises that the Government have committed more than £100 million between now and 2021 in improving investment in both walking, for example through walking paths, and cycling. I have already alluded to the schemes that the Government are supporting, such as Bikeability.

My Lords, I am not quite sure what figures the Minister has promised to give, but can he say how many cyclists have been issued with fixed penalty notices, how many cyclists have been prosecuted and how many prosecutions have been successful?

If the noble Lord is asking about all the statistics from England, I will need to follow up in writing as that will be quite a detailed answer. I will write to the noble Lord.

My Lords, is it not the case that cyclists are not required to carry identification and therefore all they have to do is give a false name to the police officer and tear up the fixed penalty notice?

My noble friend raises the issue of identification and is right to do so. As I said, we need to encourage education for cyclists and responsibility in cyclists. When they ride on pavements or jump red lights, they break the law, and there is a need to review with the police how we can apply the law effectively to cyclists as well as to any other road users.

My Lords, we have had a continuing string of tragedies involving cyclists being crushed by lorries, often while turning at traffic light intersections. What progress is being made—I think the European Commission was considering a directive at one point—in making it a matter of law that all lorries should be fitted out in such a way that the driver has vision of the full length of his or her cab from the cab itself?

Again, we have seen investment being made in this. The noble Lord points to a particular type of mirror, which is being encouraged by the Government. Right here in London, we have seen separate areas created for cyclists to ensure their security and safety. As I said, any death on the roads, whoever it is—whether a cyclist, a pedestrian or any other road user—is one death too many. We should seek to ensure safety and security for everyone.