Dr. Julian Huppert, the LibDem MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, has secured another debate on the Get Britain Cycling report. The debate starts at about 11.30 tomorrow morning and is a follow-up to a debate from last year which resulted in some great sound-bites but little in the way of bikes-on-the-ground.
Cycling organisations say the government is failing to deliver David Cameron’s promised "cycling revolution." Sustrans, British Cycling, CTC, Living Streets, the Bicycle Association and the London Cycling Campaign are njointly calling for the urgent publication of a cycling and walking plan. The groups say the plan must contain long-term, consistent funding for cycling and walking (at least £10 per head for cycling and an appropriate increase for walking) and consistent revenue funding alongside capital funding.
Sustrans Head of Policy, Claire Francis, said: “It appears the government has abandoned its commitment to deliver this country a walking and cycling plan that will ease congestion, boost the economy and improve our health and lifestyle.
“A year after it was promised, we are still waiting for any indication of political will or dedicated investment that will help deliver the cycling revolution the Prime Minister called for.
“In order to transform our local journeys and encourage more people to walk and cycle, we urgently need a plan with a vision for the future, strong targets and a commitment to long-term, consistent funding to deliver it.”
Last year the parliamentary debate on cycling resulted in 100 MPs voting in favour of the motion welcoming the Get Britain Cycling report, issued after a parliamentary inquiry run by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, the secretariat of which is part-funded by the bicycle industry.
Maria Eagle, the then shadow transport secretary, roasted her opposite number. She lambasted the Coalition Government’s lacklustre support for cycling, including abolishing Cycling England soon after it came to power.
"It is time to end the stop-start approach that is getting in the way of progress and agree a cross-party, long-term commitment to cycling," she said in the debate, held in September 2013.
Norman Baker, then a transport minister, claimed the government was the most pro-cycling administration ever.
Opening the debate, Dr. Huppert, had said:
"If more people were to cycle and walk, we would all benefit. We would be healthier, saving huge amounts of money – billions of pounds – for the NHS. There would be less congestion on the roads, making travel times faster and more reliable for those who are in cars. There would be less pressure on city centre parking, helping people to get to the shops and keep the economy going. The economy would grow. Cycling already contributes
about £3 billion to the UK economy. We all win by promoting cycling and walking."
Investing in cycling doesn’t just benefit cyclists, said Dr Huppert, a scientist before he became an MP:
"Many of the improvements that would benefit cyclists, such as improvements to road quality, segregated cycle tracks and junction changes, would also benefit pedestrians and other road users. No conflict is necessary in improving the infrastructure."
He added: "Infrastructure is key, but we can do other things, too. For example, 20 mph zones, which this Government support, are clearly beneficial, not only for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, but for the perceptions of safety for people who want to cycle or take their children cycling. Some rural lanes could be appropriate for a 40 mph speed limit."
He also highlighted the often shockingly low sentences handed down to operators of heavy, fast machines who kill and injure cyclists:
"Road traffic laws are broken too often and they should be enforced for all road users. When a serious driving offence takes place, especially if it results in death or injury, it must be treated seriously by police, prosecutors and judges. Far too often the sentences proposed are, frankly, trivial."
In a plea reiterated by many in the chamber over the course of the four hour debate, Huppert said:
"Governments for decades have not sufficiently supported cycling. There has been massive investment in road infrastructure, but little for cycling; cyclists have often had small-scale provision, if any. Individual Ministers have tried, but they have not always received the support they need."
Car culture always wins out, complained Huppert:
"Many Ministers face a culture that points the other way, that focuses on car drivers only, to the detriment of others and without realising that fewer cyclists will result in more cars on the roads."