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Volume 768: debated on Wednesday 10 February 2016

Question for Short Debate

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are taking to promote cycling as a safe means of transport.

My Lords, I welcome this opportunity to promote the cause of cycling and am grateful to noble Lords for postponing their evening meal to take part. I welcome the Minister who is to reply, and commend in particular the work of his colleague Robert Goodwill, who holds the cycling brief at the department and sets a fine example by travelling on two wheels whenever he can.

On 11 July 1975, more than 40 years ago, I initiated a debate on cycling in the other place. The Minister who replied was Denis Howell—the Sports Minister—indicating that the then Government regarded cycling primarily as a form of recreation. I presented him with a cyclists’ charter: a bicycle unit in his department; cycle lanes through the Royal Parks; proficiency courses for children; a requirement that in all new developments provision should be made to encourage the cyclist by separating his journey from that of the motorist; the identification of cycle-priority routes; mileage allowances for cyclists; and better provision for bicycles on trains by British Rail, with more covered parking spaces at stations. My suggestions were either summarily dismissed —such as the cycle allowance, the bicycle unit in the department and the directives to British Rail—or described by the Minister as “interesting”. This was before “Yes Minister” but, as a former civil servant myself, I knew that by “interesting” he meant absurd.

The very first point he made was that cycling was dangerous, and I am afraid that coloured his whole response. As it was dangerous, he thought we should be careful before encouraging it. But that argument should be stood on its head. Cycling of itself is a benign and safe activity. On health, environmental, energy conservation and congestion grounds, it should be encouraged by making it safer by, among other things, reducing the interface with danger, primarily traffic. Safety is of course important, as the title of this debate implies, but the Minister reminded the all-party group last week that cycling in London is in fact no more dangerous than walking in London and, crucially, cycling becomes safer as the numbers increase and the terms of trade begin to change.

In the intervening decades since that debate, enormous progress has been made by Administrations of all colours, thanks to the Cyclists’ Touring Club, the all-party group, Sustrans and many others. Despite the tight-fitting lycra suit of public expenditure constraint, during the past five years the Government have invested more in cycling than any previous Government. As my noble friend said yesterday, investment has risen from £2 per head to about £6.

The Infrastructure Act requires the Government to produce a cycling and walking investment strategy, with money allocated on the same basis—though not, sadly, in the same quantity—as for rail, main road and motorways. The Minister told us yesterday it would be published in the summer. Can he be more precise, and will that be the draft or the final document?

We have a long way to go, and I want to play my modest part in the upper House, where the press has promoted me from the bicycling baronet to the pedalling Peer, to press for further action until we have reached the situation in Holland, which I regard as the cyclist’s Utopia. In the Netherlands, 27% of journeys are by bicycle, compared with 2% here. I am conscious that we need to overcome a disadvantage for which the Almighty is responsible—namely, on the third day, when He said, “Let the dry land appear”, it appeared flat in Holland but hilly in Britain. However, the introduction of multi-geared bicycles and, indeed, the growing popularity of electric bicycles can help to neutralise this handicap.

I visited Holland with other noble Lords in April 2009 and it made a deep impression. For the Dutch, cycling is like walking, but on wheels. In other words, it is done in ordinary clothes, without sweat, by the same people who walk. Here, by contrast, cycling is predominantly male, white, youngish, fast and often in cycling gear. It will take time for this cultural shift to take place, until more people use their feet for journeys up to say half a mile; the bicycle for longer journeys, of up to, say, three or four miles; and then public transport or a car for longer journeys. Nearly everyone in this country can ride a bicycle and there are bicycles in most households. After school, college or university, however, two wheels are abandoned, and resumed only if the Tube drivers or tanker drivers go on strike. I commend the CTC bike revival project to get disused bikes in garages back on the road—the two-wheel version of “bring out your dead”—and I hope it can be expanded.

As I said, this cultural change will take time; it will be decades before we catch up with the Dutch. However, noble Lords can and do help to promote this change. As more people see Peers, Ministers, judges, generals, Permanent Secretaries—even, dare I say, bishops—cycling to work, it helps promote this form of transport. Noble Lords will be pleased to know that regular cyclists live an extra two years.

How can the Government promote this change? When I first took an interest in cycling, segregation of cyclists was seen by many cyclists as a threat to their entitlement to use the road as equals, making them second-class citizens. Having been to Holland, however, I see separate provision as a key part of the change we need. I welcome the superhighways now being built by the Mayor of London and similar initiatives in other towns and cities. Where separate provision is not practical, we need measures to reduce the interface with other traffic and make it safer.

I have a modest shopping list for the Minister, hoping for a warmer response than the one I got from Denis Howell. We need more high-quality, protected cycle lanes on roads with large traffic volumes or high speeds—lanes that are physically separate from cars and pedestrians. We need more segregated routes through parks, and alongside canals and railway lines. We need cycle paths and designated routes that reflect popular journeys. We need to give real thought to how these dedicated routes and paths interface with main roads at junctions. We need to integrate cycling better with public transport, and encourage more employers to make it easier for employees who live nearby to cycle to work.

We should build on the Safe Routes to School initiative, pioneered by Sustrans. In the Netherlands, 45% of primary school children and 75% of secondary school children cycle to school. Here, the figures are 1% and 2%. I welcome the £50 million allocated to Bikeability in December for training in schools, and hope the Minister will liaise with colleagues in DfE and local government to promote safer journeys to school. I recognise that parents are rightly cautious about letting their children cycle to school unless they are satisfied that it is safe for them to do so.

The Government can give clear guidance on the designing of new roads. At the moment there is a confusing plethora of design guidance notes which are contradictory and lead to poor outcomes. Excellent standards have been developed by Transport for London and the Government should follow that example. Planning policy can ensure that all new developments are cycle-friendly.

We need to introduce a new generation of lorries, from whose cabs drivers can see all around them, as with new buses. The Government can give a lead here by specifying the use of these safer lorries by Highways England, the HS2 rail project and other publicly funded infrastructure investment. The City of London is already leading the way in this respect.

One of the messages that Robert Goodwill left with the APPG was that many decisions on cycling have been devolved to local authorities. I have no quarrel with that, but it underlines the need for local, as well as national, champions. There needs to be at least one active councillor on each local authority who is a standard-bearer for the cyclist and who can ensure, among other things, that the pothole fund helps the cyclist as well as the motorist.

I am conscious that, in earlier exchanges on this subject, the cycling fraternity has met some headwind from some noble Lords who have had unfortunate experiences with cyclists. A minority of cyclists give us all a bad name by flouting the Highway Code and the law. I am no friend of theirs. I am relaxed if the lights turn red because I like to stop and get my breath back. But the antagonism between cyclists and motorists can be overdone. Many cyclists are also motorists: 80% have driving licences and 18% of AA members cycle. All motorists, if not cyclists themselves, have family or friends who are. Like the farmer and the cowman in “Oklahoma!”, the cyclist and the motorist should be friends, having a common interest in making safe and sensible use of the road space where they share it.

Much more needs to be done and other noble Lords will make the case, but I end by quoting what the Prime Minister, who has called for a cycling revolution, said in the Government’s vision document for the cycling and walking investment strategy. The vision was,

“to create an environment which encourages walking and cycling, where cycling and walking is the norm for short journeys or as part of a longer journey. Our ambition is for streets and public places which support walking and cycling”.

That admirable vision needs to be backed by the necessary investment to make this form of transport safer and more popular. It needs to be dynamised by more ambitious targets than the modest ones currently adopted by government, and it needs to be achieved by a genuine partnership with the many people who want to see two wheels realise their true potential in a 21st century transport system.

My Lords, the House is incredibly lucky to have the noble Lord, Lord Young, free to talk about one of his favourite subjects. As he said, he has been banging on about cycling for 40 years. It was more difficult when he held different posts in the other place, but his speech demonstrated what a passionate supporter of cycling he is. He is one of the founders of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, of which I remain secretary. We heard some very good ideas from him, covering all kinds of needs for cycling. I add one that he missed: I believe that when it rains in Denmark the sequencing of the traffic lights is changed so that cyclists do not get so wet. That is rather a nice idea.

The noble Lord mentioned devolution, which comes up all the time because it is a good idea. It is good that expenditure, design and enthusiasm for cycling is devolved. On the other hand, we have to watch that that is not then an excuse for some local authorities to do nothing. There are still cyclists there. The Government need to make sure that their intentions, whatever they are, get carried out.

Devolution—we could almost call it “ducking responsibility”—has been an issue ever since the noble Lord, Lord Young, first spoke on cycling in 1975. It carried on in 1993 in a debate in this House, when the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, who sadly is not here this evening, made similar statements about the need for local authorities to recognise cyclists’ needs. He hoped that it,

“would lead to more widespread action to improve facilities … which … would encourage more people to cycle”.—[Official Report, 21/4/1993; col. 1677.]

In his response, the then Minister said that most people cycled on local roads—I feel that he was trying to say, “It doesn’t matter very much because that’s for the local authority”—and that expenditure priorities should remain a matter for local decisions. We have heard that before.

As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said, things are improving. In 2013, the all-party group published a document called Get Britain Cycling following an inquiry. Probably almost uniquely, when it was debated in the Commons Chamber it received an unopposed vote of support, which I thought indicated that the Members of Parliament thought that this was a good idea that needed supporting. It said that investment in cycling should be £10 per person per year. In response to a question yesterday, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, said that it is currently around £6. Of course, that is a great increase on what we have seen before, but it does not link in with what the Cyclists’ Touring Club says. Its figure is more like £1.39 per person outside London. We know that London has some wonderful investment going in and that is really good, but when the Minister replies will he give some explanation of what the £6 covers and where it comes from? Many Ministers have given this figure, which is a really good one. It is not £10, but £6 is better than £1, or £2, or £3. Where does it come from, who will spend it, and on what? Is it ring-fenced to local authorities? Could they spend it on roads or footpaths? I conclude by comparing it to a headline today relating to a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs which says that each family in this country is paying £150 per year in taxes for railways. Divide that by the number of children in a family and it is an awful lot more than £6. Maybe at some stage the Minister can tell us what the equivalent figure is for roads. I look forward to his answers.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Young, for raising this question, because this House does not seem to like cyclists. Some noble Lords hate cyclists and seem to object to their very existence. Every time the subject is raised at Question Time, some Peer will almost explode at their experience of the terrible behaviour of some cyclist that they have witnessed. Others complain about special separated cycle lanes blocking the road at the expense of space for cars, and generally about the inconvenience they cause to those invariably well-behaved, law-abiding, environment-enhancing motorists.

I remember at one Question Time, when the Question was on safety after another young woman had been crushed to death by a heavy lorry, the majority of follow-up questions were complaints about cyclists talking on their mobiles. Of course there are cyclists who are rude and who break traffic laws. Their behaviour is to be deplored. But do car drivers never behave rudely, break traffic laws and talk on their mobiles? At least cyclists do not kill people.

My wife and I gave up our car in 1974. We could do so because we live in central London. It was a liberation: no worry about finding a parking place or about drinking if you go out to dinner—as long as you do not get drunk so you are not safe on a bike. There was no more sitting exasperated in traffic jams, or arriving late or even missing meetings because you could not find a taxi. By bike you can get where you want to be on time and you do not suffer the annoyance of discovering someone has dented or scratched your car.

Cycling, even in London, enhances life’s pleasures. You can look around you as you travel about wonderful London. Fellow cyclists, even policemen, talk to you at traffic lights. Beautiful days make it a pleasure to be out in the open. On rainy days you are snug in your rain gear while cars are snarled up in traffic jams and public transport is unpleasantly overcrowded. It helps to keep you fit, and, not least, we improve the environment: we reduce congestion and air pollution. So, for very good reasons, our family motto is, “Two wheels good, four wheels bad”.

Safety? My wife and I have each had one relatively minor accident in more than 40 years. A comparison on an actuarial basis done some 10 years ago showed that for every life-year lost through accidents, 20 are gained through improved health. Since then, the ratio will have improved because the more, the merrier, as the noble Lord said: the more people cycle, the more the proportion killed or injured falls. Increasing the number of cyclists is probably the best thing we can do to improve safety. So, nationally, let us disregard the perverse view common in this House and follow the example set by the Danes and the Dutch: we have a lot to learn from them.

My Lords, I am grateful to my fellow pedalling Peer and old friend the noble Lord, Lord Young. I think the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, will provide the headwind that we have missed so far in this debate.

First, I declare my interest as a frequent cyclist, as well as a motorcyclist on a 125 and an infrequent motorist, so I speak from that rounded perspective in full support of the cause of two wheels. I have been involved with the parliamentary cycling group for many years, although I am no longer in the front line; it should be congratulated on what has been achieved in the last Parliament and to date, in conjunction with the Times in particular and the many cyclist lobbying groups.

We should not forget the generosity and example of the Dutch, whose embassy every year sponsors, with hospitality, an annual bicycle ride from their embassy to Parliament during Bike Week. As has been said, we were told yesterday at Question Time that we are awaiting the Government’s summer report on the distribution of the £300 million during this Parliament. I understand that more than £120 million has already been promised for particular worthy causes, which does not leave much for the rest of the period to 2020, especially when much is likely to be London-centric.

I realise it is easy to ask for more money, and that can be justified, but, as we know, there is no simple, silver bullet to deal with the worthy but diffuse demands of cycling. While I regard leisure or recreational cycling as valuable, I believe that the majority of our efforts should be on city or commuter cycling, but I realise that, surprisingly, rural cycling is significantly more dangerous than urban. I mention some caution on that without, I hope, being negative.

I support dedicated cycleways, but we all know of some minor routes that have simply not been thought through or linked up as part of a wider picture, and sometimes the larger schemes are too intrusive on other users. We have witnessed locally, in Westminster, the roadworks necessary to effect the cross-London route along the Victoria Embankment and past Parliament. There, to provide segregated cycle paths, some considerable inconvenience may, in future, be caused to motorists where a heavily-used, two-lane route is effectively being changed into a one-lane channel for cars from which, in parts, no escape is possible, because the cycle area has been physically separated. As has been said, what if any vehicle breaks down, acting as a block for those behind?

I understand if motorists’ frustration builds up when the neighbouring cycle lanes appear to be very underused. This is particularly so at off-peak times, when they can be particularly sparse. Around and near Parliament Square, it appears that two lanes are now being filtered into one, to allow so-called proper bicycle approaches to junctions. I am reminded of the dedicated bus and taxi lane some years ago alongside the M4 approach to the Chiswick flyover in London. Queueing motorists, in their frustration, could not believe the oft-asserted rationale for such a sparsely used lane and in the end, after some time, that pressure gave way to common sense and the lane was abandoned.

In the case of cycles, it may be hoped that simply by provision, use will expand. I just hope that the level of frustration at such pinch points in these new schemes does not reach crisis point and serve to aggravate the sometimes fractious relations between motorists and cyclists. I believe that it is not always a case of, “Two wheels good, four wheels bad”.

On a related matter, also being a motorist, I understand the arguments but have never been convinced about the widespread use of 20 mph zones: why not 15 mph or 25 mph? Also, the 30 mph limit has never been universally or properly enforced. I realise that the justification is for pedestrians as well as cyclists, but I hope that cycling does not get the blame.

Finally in this short debate, there are no universal answers to very diffuse issues, but I hope there will be more central co-ordination as to how cycling should be supported, perhaps guided by the Government with financial support. For me, the best hope in the longer term is a change of attitude to one of more genuine respect for cyclists, as seen in Denmark and Holland.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham for securing this debate. His example, originally as the bicycling baronet and now as the cycling Peer, is much to be admired. I am sure he must have influenced the leader of the Opposition in the other place, and perhaps the current Health Secretary, whom one frequently sees on the television astride a bicycle.

I want, first, to talk about safety. Eight cyclists were killed in vehicle collisions in London last year. That is eight tragedies for the families and friends of those cyclists and eight casualties too many. We have had nationally, on average, more than 100 deaths per annum in the last decade, and that is far too many. I am concerned as a parent of a child who travels five miles by bicycle to work each day on crowded roads. I know that my wife and I literally pray for a safe completion of each journey. I think all cycle deaths are tragedies for families.

I want to mention three issues very briefly. The first concerns the equipment that cyclists should ensure that they have: a helmet, proper lights and luggage storage. This is not observed by many cyclists. It is not part of the law and anyone who has travelled by car in traffic in London, and who can see cyclists without those elementary precautions to protect themselves, must be concerned. In particular, the experiment launched by the current Mayor of London, the so-called Boris bikes, has presented a problem. There is no warning to visitors, many visitors who use those bikes are not wearing helmets and at night the bicycles do not always have proper lighting. There should be a warning before those cycles are rented and it should be a condition of operation of sites that helmets are provided.

The second issue concerns drivers. It should be a condition of the award of a driving licence that the potential driver is aware of good practice in relation to cyclists on the roads. As for heavy goods vehicles, the design regulations for cabs, in particular, which were agreed by the European Parliament in 2015, are not due to come into operation until 2022, I understand—perhaps the Minister could confirm this. That is too long. We need urgent action to prescribe nearside mirrors or electronic warning.

The third issue concerns street design on new roads. I agree very much with my noble friend Lord Young: I understand that the Dutch experience allows traffic lights to provide a unique opportunity for cyclists and pedestrians to cross the road together. That is a very sensible initiative, which I very much hope the department will consider.

Finally, the Conservative manifesto of 2015 talked about doubling cycling in this country and pledged £200 million for safer journeys. I hope the Minister will comment on progress on these two promises.

My Lords, I, too, add my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, for promoting this debate. I agree with everything that has been said but I must declare my own interest in cycling. I have used a bicycle in London for many years, mainly to get from my flat in Camden to my place of work. Originally it was Lincoln’s Inn, then the Royal Courts of Justice, and for the last few years it has been the Palace of Westminster. So I come and go on my bicycle, and every now and again, something happens and I fall off. It is always a lesson, because it is nearly always my fault—I have not seen a hole in the road, or something of that sort.

The question is on what action the Government should take to promote cycling as a safe means of transport. I do not think that this is a matter for the Government. Cycling will never be absolutely safe; not many things in life are. The rider can take many more steps than the Government can to ensure his or her safety. He can, as has been said, make sure that his bicycle is in good condition and that if it is dark he has functioning front and rear lights. When I bicycle in London I always wear a highly-coloured fluorescent overshirt thing—I do not know what the right name for it is. It is an appalling-looking garment but at least it makes me visible.

Two other things that strike me as important are that the cyclist should have good eyesight and good hearing. Your eyes protect you against dangers in front of you and your ears protect you, to a large extent, against dangers coming up behind you that you can hear. Many cyclists in London, particularly the young, wear earphones so that they can listen to music while they cycle. I am sure that that is fun for them and makes their journey more enjoyable, but it is highly dangerous. If you cannot hear what is coming up behind you, you are not making use of one of your important senses. But there it is; I suspect that they know this. One can always see what is coming towards one and can take appropriate steps and ought to be able to hear what is coming up behind—motorbikes in particular make a huge noise and often come very close.

This debate asks the Government to take action to promote safe cycling. I do not know that it is their job. I think that it is the job of cyclists to look after their own safety and to take the steps that are necessary for that purpose. They should ensure, as has already been said, that their bicycle is in good condition. They would be well advised to wear clothes that cover their arms and legs with material that will protect them against grazing when, as may always happen, they fall on to the tarmacadam. If these precautions are taken, the risk from riding a bicycle in London will reduce to an acceptable point.

There will always be some risk: there is some risk in practically anything that one does that is fun. But I have found bicycling in London, from Camden to the Inns of Court, the Royal Courts of Justice and the Palace of Westminster, highly enjoyable and a very convenient method of travel. There is some risk, and there always will be—but it has to be measured and for my part, I enjoy the experience and I would not want to stop it.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a bicyclist. I cycled to my local village school when I was a boy and I have been cycling in London for many years. I remember cycling around Hyde Park Corner before there were traffic lights—that was a hazardous business at the best of times. I am also a motorist, so I fulfil the criteria that my noble friend who introduced this good debate mentioned of somebody who might be able to take a slightly wider perspective.

We undoubtedly have a lot to learn from the Dutch and the Danes and I agree with much of what has been suggested. But I follow the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, in saying that this is not solely a matter for the Government, or for local government. It is also a matter for cycling groups and cyclists themselves. It would be a massive step forward if some of the cycle groups acknowledged that they have a problem which they have to face up to. My noble friend Lord Freeman mentioned some of the basic elements.

I used to travel a lot on the Underground but since my accident I go more often by car as a passenger. I am horrified by the bicycle chase down Victoria Embankment at rush hour. Mixed up in some very sensible bicyclists are a whole lot of mad ones texting, wearing earphones, listening to music, not concentrating and not riding in the bicycle lane but swerving across the middle lane. They are a real hazardous menace. The Government’s policy must suit all road users, not just one type. If bicyclists and bicycle groups would acknowledge that they have a problem to sort out, a lot of us would be much happier.

In mentioning that policy must be made for all road users, it is interesting to note that in Kensington Gardens one of the paths that bicyclists use has been dug up and had cobbles put in the middle. I presume that this is a bicycle-traffic calming measure. I say “presume” because there was nobody in the Royal Parks office this afternoon when I rang and the duty manager refused to talk to me—but I will follow that up separately.

Having spent the recent past in a wheelchair, I can say that cobbles are a nightmare. Kensington Gardens is one of my favourite walks. When I walk here with my wife, as I often do, we go down that path. If she is pushing me in a wheelchair, it will be a nightmare; it will be hard to push and it will be pretty darn uncomfortable for me. If they are cycle-calming measures, they have not been properly thought through—and nor have the interests of everyone else who uses that path been taken into account.

I want to hear from the Minister. As so much has been said by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, and my noble friend Lord Freeman, I will terminate my remarks. I just plead once again for the cycle groups to be more realistic and not just say it is always somebody else’s fault.

My Lords, I thought that I would be the only one to say that it is also the responsibility of cyclists to look after themselves. They should also take care of other road users, who should take care of them, too.

I am very lucky to have a driver. Often when driving in London, having come from Maidenhead, where I live, we have one or two shocks from cyclists doing things that are totally unacceptable. I know that everybody says it is the few, but while this may be so, it is the few motorists, the few cyclists and the few pedestrians who cause problems for everybody else. It is very common to see cyclists who do not give hand signals. That is not unusual at all. I have had cyclists overtake my car when we are trying to turn right, we have signalled and there is nothing coming from the other side, so it is to be expected that we would want to turn right. Okay, we are careful. We do not knock them down. But it is important that they follow the same rules. They often do not stop for red lights. They need to follow the same rules as we do.

I wrote to the mayor about it and he talked about some kind of training programme. I do not know whether it would be voluntary or compulsory. I think that it should be compulsory for all cyclists in a big city such as London, because everybody needs to know what they should and should not be doing, and what makes things dangerous for them and for other road users.

My Lords, I take my inspiration this evening from my former colleague Julian Huppert, who was largely responsible for the Get Britain Cycling report.

The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, referred to Holland. Last year I went to northern Italy. There is some true inspiration to be found there. I was at Lake Garda and the image of a man cycling up an Alp—a gradient of eye-watering proportions—while talking to his mate on his mobile phone will stay with me for a long time. But what was more impressive was the city of Parma. It has a medieval heart but it is a heavy industrial city with lots of big lorries, and it is a city in which cycling, motoring and walking are fully integrated. People of all ages coexist at junctions—on Italian roads. I commend it. I do not know why the people of Parma have cracked this and we cannot, but they have.

I will talk briefly about funding. There is a real problem at the moment with the Local Sustainable Transport Fund coming to an end and the access fund coming into being from 2016. The Minister and I had an exchange about the amount of money yesterday but the key problem is that the staff employed by local authorities to teach cycle safety to children, but also at weekends to adults, are likely to be lost because of the uncertainty of funding from March this year. As a woman who after 30 years of inactivity got back on a bike, it was going along to my local authority training scheme that gave me the confidence to get back on a bike and to cycle in London.

It is not that there are not sources of funding. There are lots of different pots of money. There is the Highways England cycling fund, Bikeability, the cycle city ambition grants, the access fund and the Local Growth Fund. What there is not is any clarity about how they all fit together and how local authorities can best access them. I wonder whether the Minister can give some clarity on that.

Secondly, will the Minister accept that for those local authorities, particularly outside London, that really do want to make progress on this, getting access to top design and to information about what works is very important, particularly these days when local authority budgets are stretched? Although there are good examples—TfL and the Welsh Assembly have come up with really good designs—getting national guidelines that would bring down the cost of implementing good design and good practice around the country is quite difficult for local authorities. I wonder whether across the many government departments that have responsibility for this there might be some joined-up thinking.

I agree with the many noble Lords who have said that it is only when people feel safe that they will cycle. In some cases that means bringing in dedicated cycle lanes. In some cases that is not possible and it is about ensuring that cyclists, HGV drivers and car drivers all understand how best to preserve the safety of everybody on the roads.

Following the Olympics, we really do have a legacy for cycling in this country. We have the ability to make a small investment that will reap great rewards, not least for the National Health Service in terms of the health gain that will come from it. All we need from this Government is a bit of joined-up funding and leadership to enable those local authorities that want to work on this to do so, and to take inspiration so that we can continue to beat the Italians at the Olympics.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, on securing this debate.

The number of pedal cycle deaths a year currently stands at 113 and has remained between 104 and 118 since 2008. The most recent annual figure for the number of pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured stands at 3,514, which was an 8% rise on the previous year. Those figures on fatalities and serious injuries also need to be looked at in the context that the most recent annual figures show that, while 36% of cyclists cycled mainly on the roads, 28% cycled mainly on pavements, cycle paths or lanes; 22% mainly off the roads, such as in parks; and 13% on a variety of surfaces. Thus a considerable percentage of cyclists are cycling mainly in an environment that one would not normally associate with posing a considerable potential risk of either fatalities or serious injuries to cyclists.

The Government have said that they will reduce the number of cyclist fatalities each year—by how many? What is the target reduction in the number of such fatalities against which the Government, and we, can judge the success or otherwise of their policies on safer cycling? How much do the Government intend to invest each year specifically on cycling safety improvements as opposed to general road safety improvements benefiting all road users?

The Government have said that they are committed to creating,

“an environment which encourages cycling and where cycling, along with walking, is the norm for short journeys or as part of a longer journey”.

The Government intend to bring forward a cycling and walking investment strategy in England, with publication scheduled for the summer, following public consultation. Can the Minister say to what extent this investment strategy will address improving safety for cyclists and thus promoting cycling as a safe means of transport?

The value of improving safety is considerable, not just in financial terms but, perhaps rather more importantly, in human terms. When I was on the police service parliamentary scheme, I spent a day with the traffic police. Part of the day was spent at the scene of a cycling fatality in central London, where an adult male cyclist had ended up under the wheels of a lorry. Identification was found on the cyclist, including a photograph of, I believe, two young children. As one of the officers said to me, it was going to be a heart-breaking moment for his family when they were told what had happened, but also a very difficult moment for the officer who had to go to the home address and break the news.

A Department for Transport paper, Infrastructure and Cyclist Safety, stated that,

“Of all interventions to increase cycle safety, the greatest benefits come from reducing motor vehicle speeds”.

The paper identified the potential benefits of segregated networks for cyclists but also noted evidence that,

“cyclists may be exposed to heightened risk where cycle networks intersect the general highway network”.

Do the Government have a view on what measures give best value for money in terms of improving cycling safety, and will the cycling investment strategy to be published in the summer address this question?

I am sure that we all welcome the increase in the number of cyclists and the number of journeys being made on a pedal cycle. But as the title of the debate implies, one of the biggest boosts to cycle usage will be to take measures to increase the public’s perception of cycling as a safe means of transport.

My Lords, I join all other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Young—a former Secretary of State for Transport—for securing this debate and bringing forward a very important issue, which is a key priority for this Government. As he and other noble Lords acknowledged, this is something that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has often talked about. I join my noble friend Lord Young in acknowledging the words and indeed the actions of my colleague at the Department for Transport, my honourable friend Robert Goodwill. Robert is one of those people who not only cycles but puts other Ministers to shame by taking the stairs to the fifth floor at the DfT. We all live in awe of him and I suppose, like others, would seek to emulate him.

During this debate, we have also been on a journey across Europe. I am reminded of many of my early travels to the subcontinent. If you go across the likes of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, I still do not know how cars manage to avoid hitting each other, but within that traffic were many cyclists who had a great knack of avoiding such collisions. I raise that point not just for a lighter moment but to reflect that cycling is a mode of travel important to people’s livelihoods and to the economy.

This Government want to make this country a walking and cycling nation—a place where people routinely make short journeys or stages of longer journeys by walking or cycling. We have a vision of streets that support safe cycling and walking. We are seeing this in some of our cities, with an increasing number of people who choose to incorporate these activities into their lifestyle. As several noble Lords pointed out, they already do so elsewhere, in the Netherlands and Denmark to name but two countries, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, pointed out, in Italy as well.

To help us realise this vision, we have introduced, as noble Lords have acknowledged, a statutory obligation to produce and update a cycling and walking investment strategy. As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, noted, after consultation this will be introduced in the summer. I can confirm that it will be not a draft but a final version of the Government’s strategy in this respect. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, that, without prejudging the full contents of what is as yet an unpublished document, safety will be a key feature of this strategy.

I shall outline some of the initiatives that the Government have taken forward. Britain’s roads, as we all acknowledge, are amongst the safest in Europe, but the Government, and indeed others, are not complacent and we can and will do more. Despite this, there is a perception, as we have heard from various noble Lords, that cycling is less safe than it actually is. Looking at 2014, there was one cyclist death for every 34 billion miles travelled. This is fairly comparable with walking, which sees one person killed for every 39 billion miles.

Notwithstanding these statistics—and we can talk about statistics—I totally subscribe to the point that one cyclist death is one too many. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, asked for an ambition and a target. I cannot give him a percentage figure, because I think that would be the wrong approach—we want to see the eradication of all cycling deaths. Working in partnership with different parties, including local government in London and in other cities, we want to eradicate cycle deaths altogether. That is an ambition that the Government or indeed anybody need to set themselves. I emphasis to noble Lords that the death of any person on the road, whether a cyclist or not, is one death too many.

The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, talked about “Two wheels good, four wheels bad”. When he was talking in those terms, I was reminded, as a father of three children, that when it comes to bicycles my family use four wheels, three wheels and two wheels: two wheels for my daughter, who is 10, four wheels for my son who is three and a half—two plus two with the training wheels makes four; I am reasonably good at maths—and three wheels for a tricycle. That represents the generations that embrace cycling. Perhaps there is a lesson that I can learn from my own children. I count myself as one of those who is probably embracing cycling in the teaching of it by ensuring that my children learn to cycle.

The noble Baroness, Lady Barker, pointed out the importance of education and training. I was a beneficiary of the cycling proficiency tests offered in schools. I am delighted that the Government continue to support it and have recognised it through additional funding of the £50 million for the Bikeability scheme.

As we all recognise, cycling is a form of transport that has positive benefits for the health of the cyclist, for the environment and for the economy. The cycling economy is worth £2.5 billion per annum and 23,000 people are directly employed in bicycle sales. Every year 3 million bicycles are sold in the United Kingdom.

I assure your Lordships, in particular my noble friend Lord Young, that the Government are fully committed to creating and promoting a safe environment for all road users, including cyclists. As I have set out, achieving this vision is by no means straightforward. I acknowledge and align myself to the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, and the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, as well as my noble friend Lord Caithness, that this is not just about the Government but that the Government have a key role. The strategy is part of that and involves manufacturers of technology, the police and, as noble Lords have pointed out, cyclists themselves. Lighting on bikes is important. Visibility jackets also help.

The Government are continuing to provide investment to promote the take-up of cycling. In 2010, for every person in this country £2 was spent supporting cycling; spending on cycling is currently £6 per person. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked me specifically for a breakdown of the figures vis-à-vis the £1.39 that he cited. I shall write to him on that. This is a mixture of commitments from central government but also contributions reflecting the priority that local authorities are giving to this issue. There was mention that this may be London-centric, but when we look across the country we see that cycling ambition cities include Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Oxford.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement committed us to investing over £300 million in cycling and walking programmes over the life of this Parliament. This includes £114 million for delivering the Cycle City Ambition programme in full and the £50 million to which I have already alluded for the Bikeability programme. I take on board and will take back the suggestion from the noble Baroness, Lady Barker, as to further clarity. The moneys are often there and it is about finding the best route of sourcing those moneys.

Talking of funding, other sources of long-term funding include £580 million for a new access fund for sustainable transport that the noble Baroness mentioned. That includes £80 million of revenue funding and £500 million of capital funding through the Local Growth Fund. This means everyone who wishes to can invest up to £10 per head in cycling, as these cycling ambition cities are showing. We also know that local enterprise partnerships are already doing a lot to deliver better facilities for cycling and walking, investing over £500 million of the £4 billion allocated to transport so far.

In the mean time, my department continues to oversee the delivery of existing programmes. I have talked about the cycling ambition cities. We are also investing over £200 million to deliver cycling networks including, as noble Lords have suggested, the Dutch model—Dutch-style segregated cycle lanes—in Cambridge and new strategic routes in Greater Manchester. Elsewhere, Highways England’s cycling strategy, launched in January 2016, outlines its plans to provide a safer, integrated and more accessible strategic road network for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. This includes investing £100 million in 200 cycling schemes between now and 2021.

I have mentioned the role of local authorities, and we have heard today about different initiatives that can be taken. They have the flexibility to introduce 20 miles per hour limits. Since 2011, all English local authorities have been able to provide Trixi mirrors at road junctions to make cyclists more visible to drivers and to install “No entry except cycles” signing to facilitate contraflow cycling.

The department has also been working on revising the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, which will introduce a number of improvements to help local authorities provide for cycling. We have also seen these on our travels. My department has worked with TfL and other local authorities to use some of them ahead of new regulations coming into force—I refer to cycle boxes. Local authorities have also been given guidance to help them to design good schemes within current legislation through Local Transport Note 2/08, which includes best practice highlighted by noble Lords.

There are many schemes under way. I mentioned Bikeability training and education. As we have heard from this debate, this is evolving. Our strategy will underline the importance that this Government attach to cycling. We shall work across the board and, as the strategy comes to fruition, we want to share good practices and ideas—I invite noble Lords to do so—to ensure that we do create that kind of environment that we all desire.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the TfL Safer Lorry Scheme. Again, we need to learn lessons from such initiatives that can be shared as we go down the route of devolution. I believe devolved authorities can share and learn, and such practices should be shared across the board.

Finally, I turn to a point that has been raised in previous debates and was raised today by the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, and my noble friend Lord Caithness. Although the majority of cyclists are law-abiding, we recognise there is a proportion who do not obey the laws, for example by cycling without lights or in a dangerous manner or by disobeying traffic signals. This type of behaviour represents a danger to pedestrians and other road users but also to the cyclists themselves. The enforcement of traffic laws is an important part of protecting the safety of all road users.

This has been a very informed, passionate and valuable debate. In my contribution, I hope I have illustrated that the Government see promoting cycling as a safe means of transport as an important issue. With the actions the Government have taken in the past and those through which we continue to build on that, please be assured that the Government are committed to focusing our efforts to promote cycling as a healthy, safe and enjoyable activity for people of all ages.