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Ministers conclude 'Get Britain Cycling' inquiry

Roger Geffen's picture
The parliamentary 'Get Britain Cycling' inquiry ended today with evidence from Ministers, first from Wales and then from the UK Government. We now await the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group's report, which is expected to call for clear leadership from the top of Government.
Norman Baker MP opening a cycle track in his constituency
Norman Baker MP opening a cycle track in his constituency

As the final witnesses at the inquiry, cycling minister Norman Baker and road safety minister Stephen Hammond emphasised the funding they have made available for cycling over the past year, for sustainable transport, cycle-friendly junction improvements, cycle-rail integration and improved cycle route connections.

However, CTC President Jon Snow cited the lack of quality cycle provision in the major recent redevelopment of Kings Cross as a classic example where fine rhetoric about cycling fails to translate into action on the ground.

The MPs from the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group were highly critical of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for the "derisory sentences" which so often result from decisions to prosecute drivers who have clearly caused danger with only a 'careless' driving offence. They were also seriously concerned to learn that ACPO advises police forces not to enforce 20mph speed limits.

See CTC's full account of today's session.

While CTC greatly appreciates the progress made in the past year by the cycling minister and his officials, this inquiry has shown up how much more the Government as a whole needs to do to Get Britain Cycling. We urge David Cameron to lend his authority to an Action Plan to substantially boost cycle use and cyclists' safety, ensuring that other key ministers are all on board.  Above all he needs to persuade his Chancellor to back cycling with the funding it needs, and deserves, for the huge economic benefits it could provide.

Roger Geffen
CTC Campaigns Director

Questioning of witnesses has been led throughout the inquiry by APPCG co-chairs Julian Huppert and Ian Austin, backed up by a number of MPs and Peers. The inquiry has been funded through a grant from News International, parent company of The Times, whose Cities fit for cycling campaign has done so much to bring cycling into mainstream political debate.

Highlights of the inquiry included Chris Boardman eloquently stating the case for better quality facilities, suggesting that Britain should be aiming for cycling to be 15% of trips – as was the case in 1948. Professor John Parkin told MPs that in order to achieve real change, funding of around £15 per head, per year, was needed to build the infrastructure necessary to support a shift to cycling.

With transport funding cuts looming, the imminent shift of health budgets into local authorities looks the main source of cash to support healthy behaviours like cycling – yet funding cycling measures from health budgets could prove controversial. At an earlier session, APPCG Treasurer Sarah Wollaston MP (who is a GP by profession) pressed public health minister Anna Soubry MP on the benefits of cycling, and sought assurances that any health funding that local authorities put toward cycling is supported by central Government.

CTC had given evidence in three of the earlier sessions, often alongside representatives of British Cycling, Sustrans, and other cycling organisations, which have worked closely together to support the inquiry.

Next steps - take action!

A report of the inquiry is now being written by Professor Phil Goodwin of UCL, and is due to be launched in Parliament on 24th April. This is expected to call for support for an action plan to substantially boost cycle use and cyclists' safety, with cross-departmental and cross-organisational backing, and the long-term resource commitments needed to take Britain from a country with very low cycle use towards continental best practice.

The APPCG will then seek a further parliamentary debate on cycling, to strengthen the pressure on ministers for a really positive Government response - this is expected before the summer.

In the meantime, CTC is calling on members and supporters to remind your MP to sign up to the "Get Britain Cycling" parliamentary Early Day Motion - EDM 679.  It takes just a couple of minutes to do this automatically. Thousands of CTC members have already done this - but the more signatures the better.  Out of over 1,100 EDMs in the current session of parliament, EDM 679 has the 6th-highest number of signatures. Let's ensure it keeps climbing!

(N.B. If your MP has already signed, the webpage will instead suggest a "thank you" email acknowledging their support. Please do send this, as it is important for MPs to know that their endorsement of cycling is recognised and appreciated).

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