WEAVING through central London at peak traffic time is enough to give anyone a healthy appreciation of the need to improve safety for cyclists.
Small wonder if The Times’ Cities Fit for Cycling campaign debate in Westminster Hall galvanised MPs when so many of us – myself included – choose to travel on two wheels to work. All right, not every day! But from time to time...
The crescendo of support was boosted by over 2,000 constituents who wrote to their MPs in the wake of the staggering toll of fatalities - and perhaps also sheer frustration at being urged to cycle for environmental and health benefits, but without the proper safeguards that some of our European neighbours seem to take for granted.
Launched in 1999, the Cycle to Work scheme has reportedly motivated over 400,000 hardy souls to take up the challenge of pedal power, and the infrastructure has some catching up to do.
The Times campaign has in some sense crystallised the case for a national cycle safety strategy. But it’s important to look at what actions are already in hand if we are to avoid the impression of much talk and no action.
The Government already provides funding for cycling initiatives through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (Sustrans) worth £560m in this Parliament.
Some £11m has been earmarked for Bikeability training for school children which Transport Minister Norman Baker has referred to as ‘cycling proficiency for the 21st century’. And the good news is that this funding will continue until at least March 2015.
Some £15m will be split between Sustrans – the charity set up to help us ‘make smarter travel choices’ - and the Cycle Rail Working Group. Sustrans will spend the funds on further calmed routes for cyclists and pedestrians; the CRWG will use the money to improve integration between cycle and rail at stations across the country – a regular plea in MPs’ postbags.
Ministers also want to see more innovative measures being put in place to improve cycle safety. So it’s good to know that following a successful trial in London, councils across the country can apply to use Trixi mirrors to make cyclists more visible to drivers at traffic lights – but no longer have to negotiate the bureaucratic tangle of obtaining the Transport Secretary’s permission first.
Congratulations to Jake Hill of Christ’s Hospital whose enthusiasm for cycling goes a little further than most people’s – over 2,000 miles, as I understand from this paper’s coverage of his truly Olympian effort planned in aid of charity.
MP for Horsham