An All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) inquiry into cycling safety was formally launched in Westminster on Monday.
Entitled “Get Britain Cycling”, the inquiry is calling for written evidence and then will have a series of six oral evidence sessions before a final report is produced in April 2013.
It will examine the barriers which are preventing more people from cycling in the UK and will look at a range of topics including ministerial leadership, cycle friendly planning and design, the Olympic legacy, safety, traffic law and enforcement and behaviour change.
The written evidence must be submitted by 5 December and the oral evidence sessions will start in the new year.
MPs Julian Huppert and Ian Austin are amongst those who have helped raise the profile of cycling in parliament, both being at the centre of the last parliamentary debate on the subject in early 2012.
The inquiry is backed by the UK Cycling Alliance, an umbrella group of many of the country’s cycling bodies.
Coinciding with the launch of Get Britain Cycling, The Times newspaper took the opportunity yesterday and today to devote several pages to itsCities Fit for Cycling campaign. It also asked cyclists to take its survey, so responses could be passed onto the Parliamentary inquiry.
It assessed how much had been achieved by government under each heading of its eight point plan. Only the need to identify and make safer the country’s 500 most dangerous junctions scraped to half marks in The Times review (the government has set aside £30 million for junction improvements). On most other points The Times awarded the government two out of ten.
The paper also pledged £10,000 to fund a report for the parliamentary inquiry, to be compiled by Professor Phil Goodwin of the University of the East of England. Goodwin is a proponent of Peak Car theory.
In 2008, the volume of motor traffic across the country fell for the first time since the 1973 oil crisis. Traffic declined again in 2009 and 2010, but rose very slightly last year. Some believe this fall off is a blip due to recession whilst those like Goodwin think it may be a long term trend heralding a new era of bike popularity.
Darnton: Planning ahead is key
BikeRadar spoke to Phillip Darnton, the former chair of the now-abolished Cycling England and current executive director of the Bicycle Association, key player in Bikeability training and someone with a good overview of the government’s attitude to cycling over the years.
“The idea of the inquiry is terrific as a body of opinion will be put together leading to a clear statement, next spring, of what is required to get Britain cycling again,” he said. “It should help keep momentum up to persuade government that cycling is worth consistent, long-term strategic investment.
“The current government would probably say it has been quite generous with its funding of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund which they have put around £500 million into, quite a lot of which will have gone to local cycling projects. They would also point out they have put £7 million into the Cycle Rail Working Group.”
Darnton pointed to what he felt were the weaknessesin the past that he hoped the inquiry would address: “The drawback is that despite there being quite a bit of money around it has been applied ad hoc and you can never be quite sure where the next parcel of money is coming from, meaning it is difficult to plan ahead.
“That sense of lack of continuity and consistency distinguishes cycling in the UK from countries we say we want to emulate in Europe. If the inquiry can get a sense of a long term plan of action that would be terrific. We need to look beyond funding for just this parliament. Political leadership is terribly important in getting this sense of purpose and strategy.”