Up to 100 MPs attended last night’s parliamentary debate on measures to make cycling safer and more attractive and improve funding for the activity. Meanwhile, outside, 5,000 cyclists joined a London Cycling Campaign demonstration calling on politicians to make cycling safer.
A strong cross-party consensus emerged among more than 30 speakers, who agreed with recommendations from the Get Britain Cycling Report and supported a motion calling for “sustained investment in cycling”. Most MPs also endorsed targets to boost UK cycling from the current level of two percent of all journeys to 10 percent by 2025 and 25 percent by 2050.
Cycling lobby groups such as Sustrans and British Cycling were encouraged by the outcome but said funding is still short and that politicians needed to act quickly to capitalise on the consensus. Jason Torrance, Sustrans’ policy director, said: “Without funding very little can happen, so I think now is the time for government to make more funding available for local authorities and councils to mainstream cycling.”
Maria Eagle, Labour’s shadow transport secretary, used the debate to attack the current government’s “stop-start”, headline-grabbing approach to cycle funding. She also launched her party’s eight-point manifesto to improve cycling across the country.
The plan includes action on lorry danger in cities, assessing major transport proposals for bike friendliness before they are approved, increasing bike training for children and improving justice for cyclists seriously injured or killed by motorists.
Eagle said: “[Cycling] needs ministers to cut the spin and instead give cycling infrastructure greater priority within the existing transport investment plans... 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.”
Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport minister, denied her claims and said the coalition is the “most pro-cycling government that the country has ever had”. Last month, prime minister David Cameron pledged almost £150m for cycling in cities and national parks in England.
Liberal Democrat MP Julian Huppert – co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, which produced the Get Britain Cycling report – urged parties to include cycling manifestos as part of their general election campaigns. Huppert said: “My party will debate adopting this as part of our party policy and then in our manifesto. I hope that other parties will do the same.”
A similar debate was held in February 2012, and was attended by almost 80 MPs.