Cycling safety debate gains critical mass


CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, has called on Transport Secretary Justine Greening MP to support for an action plan for ‘more and safer cycling’, following a hugely positive debate on cycling in the House of Commons this afternoon. CTC also echoed calls from MPs for the restoration of Cycling England in order to co-ordinate delivery of this plan.




The debate was prompted by The Times’s ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign, launched after Times journalist Mary Bowers was left in a coma following a collision with a lorry. It was attended by 75 MPs, an almost unprecedented number for a Westminster Hall adjournment debate, with demand to speak outstripping the debate in the main Commons chamber.


CTC’s Campaigns & Policy Director Roger Geffen, who briefed MPs ahead of the debate, said: “Following the hugely positive show of cross-party parliamentary support, the Government now has a clear mandate to get on with promoting ‘more as well as safer cycling’. It should seize the moment and draw up a co-ordinated action plan to create safe conditions for cycling, and to encourage more people to enjoy its benefits for our health, our quality of life and our wallets."


Several MPs noted the evidence from CTC’s ‘Safety in Numbers’ campaign that cycling gets safer the more cyclists there are, and called for more joined-up government between different Government departments, e.g. those responsible for transport, health, education, planning, traffic law and enforcement. There were also calls for action to make it easier to combine cycling and rail travel.


Opening the debate, APPCG co-chair Julian Huppert MP outlined the health, environmental and other benefits of cycling, and noted that three quarters of all trips in Britain are less than 5 miles, a distance easily covered in a short bike ride.  He observed that the cost to society of obesity is around £20bn annually, roughly the same as the whole of the Department for Transport’s budget. Describing cycling as “the most under-rated but most valuable” of transport modes, he cited evidence from European best practice that growth in cycle use requires a consistent spend of around £10 per person annually. He commended “the much lamented Cycling England” from its formation in 2005 to its axing in 2009 as having proved excellent value for money. He then asked his party colleague, Transport Minister Norman Baker MP, “Can we have it back please?”


Later in his speech, Huppert called on the Government to give attention to the prosecution and sentencing of driving offences, saying that “So many cyclists feel excluded from justice.” Following on, APPCG co-chair Ian Austin MP noted the trivial sentences handed down to the drivers who killed Solihull Cycling Club member Cath Ward and former British Cycling coach Rob Jefferies, likewise the driver of the lorry which killed Eilidh Cairns, who was fined £200 for having uncorrected defective eyesight but not prosecuted for any other driving offence. CTC’s ‘Stop Smidsy’ campaign calls for tougher and better enforced road traffic law, to put an end to the constant cases of drivers hitting cyclists and dismissing it lightly with the words “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” (or ‘Smidsy’).


MPs from all three main parties queued up to echo Huppert and Austin’s calls for more 20mph speed limits, for better cycling provision, for junctions to be redesigned to improve cyclists’ safety, for action to reduce the risks which lorries pose to cyclists, and for cycle awareness to be incorporated into the driving test– all of these being measures called for in The Times’s manifesto. There was cross-party commendation for The Times’s campaign, and for the commitment shown to it by its editor James Harding, and journalists there such as Kaya Burgess, who played a key role in galvanising the campaign.



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