MPs urge safety drive for UK's cyclists

Cycle lane in London MPs called for clearer marking of cycle lanes

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MPs have urged measures to make cycling safer, including more bike-only lanes, lower speed limits on roads and greater awareness of risks among drivers.

In a parliamentary debate, they said progress had been made but Britain's roads were not as safe as in Europe.

Lib Dem Julian Huppert said "lots of small changes" could improve safety without costing huge amounts.

Campaigners have called for upgrades to make lorries safer, improved junctions and better cycle training.

Thursday's debate, organised by the backbench business committee, comes amid a campaign launched by The Times highlighting the dangers cyclists face and urging a eight-point manifesto to make conditions safer.

'Fundamentally safe'

Opening the well-attended debate, Mr Huppert - MP for Cambridge - said although cycling was "fundamentally safe" many people did not feel confident enough to do it.

"The more people cycle, the safer it is," he told fellow MPs. "A debate is long overdue and the need for change is pressing.

Start Quote

We do not want to frighten people off cycling. I think that is a very crucial message we need to send”

End Quote Sarah Wollaston Conservative MP

"It's not just about spending large amounts of cash. There are lots of small changes that will improve things for cycling.

"Some of this costs money but not actually a huge amount. To get to European standards, you need about £10 per person per year."

Several MPs called for speed limits to be reduced to 20 mph in urban areas and to 40mph on the majority of rural roads.

Labour's Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli, said she had received "vitriolic e-mails" in the past after calling for most existing speed signs to be reclassified from mph to kmph. But she said this had happened outside many schools and the issue needed to be "readdressed" elsewhere.

"We need to make sure it is safe for cyclists to go wherever they want to, not just on the purpose built routes," she said.

Drivers needed to give cyclists the same amount of room when overtaking as they would other cars, she added.

'Crucial message'

Labour's Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, said conditions for cyclists had been "transformed" in London in recent years but the same progress had not been made in many rural areas where the speed at which many people drove was "intolerable".

Start Quote

The more interest in cycling the better”

End Quote Norman Baker Transport minister

"Getting more people on bikes is the best way of making cycling safer," he said. "We know what works. We do not need to reinvent the wheel".

Labour's Stephen Pound raised the case of his local authority, Ealing Council, which he said had made sure all rubbish collection lorries had triple mirrors fitted to ensure "complete visibility".

His colleague Jeremy Corbyn called for all new bikes sold to be fitted with lights and cyclists provided with high-visibility vests and low-cost helmets.

Conservative Sarah Wollaston, MP for Totnes, said while safety concerns were paramount, the government should celebrate the joys of cycling which made people "glad to be alive".

"We do not want to frighten people off cycling. I think that is a very crucial message we need to send."

'Good for health'

For the government, transport minister Norman Baker said he supported many of the campaign's objectives and was determined to move cycling further up the transport agenda.

"The more interest in cycling the better," he said. "The coalition agreement specifically refers to the promotion of cycling. It's there because we recognise as a coalition government it's good for the economy, it's good for the environment and it's good for health to get more people cycling."

He pointed to a recent move to allow greater use of so-called "Trixi mirrors" - which are fitted to traffic lights to give lorry drivers a better view of cyclists on their left side at road junctions - as evidence of how serious the issue of safety was viewed.

More than 30 cycling projects had received financial support from the government's sustainable transport fund, he added.

Cyclists staged a demonstration ride past outside Parliament on Wednesday on the eve of the debate.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I cycle most days to/from work - the vast majority of the time there is little problems with motorists; main problems are motorists going too close or pulling out of side streets without looking
    Bigger issue is the state of roads (eg. potholes) which is dangerous.
    I am a motorist and a cyclist in Manchester. I travel during day and at night using lights/high-vis jacket to ensure that I am seen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Our whole approach to town and city design needs to be changed to make them safer and cleaner for everyone who lives there. A huge increase in walking and cycling would reduce air pollution, noise pollution, congestion, illness, injuries, deaths, the costs of policing and maintaining roads, the numbers of people arriving late for work. To achieve this we need to steal ideas from the Netherlands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    To make the roads safer we need to get the cyclists off of the footpaths, get thyem on the roads where they belong, slow the traffic down around towns and where possible have marked cycle lanes.
    Ban HGV from towns and from minor roads.
    Make all car and van drivers ride a bike for one week per year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Firstly segregate the Cyclists from other road vehicles and secondly teach cyclists, especially those in big Cities, that road traffic laws apply to them as well. Some cyclists ride more dangerously than car drivers drive! Remind cyclists that pavements are for pedestrians, not a quick route for cyclists to avoid traffic lights etc. I see more bad cyclists than bad drivers I am sorry to say.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Reducing speed limits has nothing to do with safety for cyclists. As a cyclist since the year dot one thing stands out above all the rest and its overtaking. It doesnt matter if your doing 10mph or 60mph if your too close its dangerous. Drivers need to follow the highway code on this and the police need to enforce it.Helmets and all the rest of it are just window dressing.


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