Press Release

Cycling UK's reaction to the Queen’s Speech

Big Ben
The Queen's Speech today lays out the Government's plans for legislation over the next two years
Following the official opening of this extended Parliament of two years with the Queen’s Speech in House of Lords today (Wednesday 21 June), Cycling UK has given its overall reaction to the proposed Bills and measures which will have a direct impact on cycling.

Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, Cycling UK Policy Director Roger Geffen MBE said:

“Today’s Queen’s Speech provides plenty of opportunities to link cycling with wider Government initiatives, whether on housing, electric and autonomous vehicles, environmental subsidies, improving mental health services or the next phase of the High Speed Rail scheme. Cycling UK will look to make the most of these opportunities. We also need to check that pedestrians’ and cyclists’ ability to claim back their legal costs in road crash injury cases are not threatened again by the Government’s latest reforms aimed ostensibly at tackling unjustified whiplash claims.

“However our main concerns are about what the Queen’s Speech omitted, rather than what’s in it.

“We still need a Clean Air Act, to maintain or strengthen existing air quality standards as we prepare for Brexit, and to support local authorities with the charging mechanisms they need to deter the use of the dirtiest vehicles, and to help them invest in healthy transport alternatives. 

“We also need the much promised legislation to strengthen road traffic offences and penalties. Cycling UK wants to see an end to ‘dangerous’ driving being dismissed in law as mere ‘carelessness’, to make greater use of driving bans, to stop convicted drivers evading bans by routinely claiming that this will cause “exceptional hardship”, and to strengthen the penalties for serious car-dooring offences.

“Given the absence of these measures from the Queen’s Speech, Cycling UK will look to build up Parliamentary support for these measures in other ways.”

He commented further on specific elements of future policy accordingly:

On the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill:

“There is a glaring omission in the Government’s measures to promote electric vehicles, as currently electric bikes are not included. E-bikes could hugely boost cycle use, particularly for older and frailer people and for those wanting to make longer or hillier cycling journeys, and can therefore help reduce congestion and air pollution.

“Similarly Cycling UK is keen to ensure that action on autonomous vehicles takes account of cycle safety. The introduction of autonomous vehicles could be hugely beneficial or hugely damaging, depending on how it is done.  We need to know that autonomous vehicles can safely interact with cyclists, and that the Government will seize the opportunities for autonomous cars to reduce overall car use, rather than increasing it.”

On the Civil Liability Bill:

“The Government has stated that this will be a Bill ‘to tackle rampant compensation culture and reduce the cost of whiplash claims’, which is clearly designed to sound appealing to the public. Unfortunately, the last time the Government promised to do this their proposals went far beyond whiplash claims, with planned increases to the small claims limit masked by the ‘whiplash’ soundbite. That increase would have prevented people with fractures and other non-whiplash injuries from recovering their costs when injured on the road, in the workplace or elsewhere. 

“If the Government thinks that whiplash claims are the problem, they need to target that problem rather than restricting access to justice across the board. Cycling UK successfully campaigned and lobbied against increases to the small claims limit when the Government tried to push this through with whiplash reform last year. This time, we hope they have listened, and will stick to dealing with whiplash claims and not seek to penalise other personal injury victims such as cyclists and pedestrians, who deserve to recover their costs and be fully compensated for broken bones when others are at fault.”

In 2016, the Government announced changes supposedly to tackle fraudulent or exaggerated whiplash claims. Unfortunately, under the banner of whiplash reform, they also suggested increasing the small claims limit from £1000 to £5000. Cycling UK opposed this because it would have prevented cyclists and pedestrians with compensation claims under £5000, for injuries such as broken wrists and collarbones, from recovering their legal costs. This would have discouraged innocent victims from pursuing genuine claims and leaving others under- compensated. Over 6000 people emailed the Government in support of Cycling UK’s Road Crime is Real Crime campaign, and it appeared the matter was dropped.

The Civil Liability Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech appears to be focused on whiplash reform, but Cycling UK will contact the Ministry of Justice for confirmation that the increase to the small claims limit that was originally proposed last year, has now been abandoned.

On Mental Health Reform

“Cycling’s role in helping people to cope with a wide range of mental health problems has been well-documented and proven. Cycling UK will therefore look to explore the potential for cycling being used as part of the wider care package as Government is set to update the Mental Health Act 1983.”

Physical activity has a beneficial effect on mental health and psychological well-being and helps treat clinical depression, anxiety and stress. According to Cycling UK’s Rides of Way report (2017), cycling, particularly off-road is ‘very important’ for two thirds of cyclists' mental health and wellbeing.

On the Government’s plans to increase housing:

“Cycling UK welcomes the Government’s commitment to ‘ensure the housing market works for all parts of our community’. However, this involves not only building homes in the ‘right places’, but ensuring homes are connected to the ‘right places’ and accessible by all means of transport. 

“Building new housing developments offers fantastic opportunities to create Space for Cycling with minimal cost and disruption. We hope that the Government will take the opportunity and give local authorities and contractors the necessary framework to ensure all new housing developments are not just homes but healthy neighbourhoods as well.”

Cycling UK’s Space for Cycling campaign calls on local authorities to create full networks of cycle-friendly infrastructure, connecting places that people need to get to for everyday journeys. Residential areas are of course a crucial part of any network. To find out more about Space for Cycling, please see our Guide for Local Decision Makers: https://www.cyclinguk.org/sites/default/files/space_for_cycling_guide_fo...

On the Agriculture Bill:

“Cycling UK and its partners will make the case for farmers and landowners to be incentivised to improve and increase opportunities for off-road cycling access, using whatever subsidies are made available to replace the Common Agricultural Policy.”

The Agriculture Bill delivers on a Government manifesto pledge to protect farmers’ subsidies for the next five years, providing some reassurance that their income will not drastically reduce as we leave the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).  However, CAP subsidies are a mixed blessing: some are used to incentivise farmers and landowners to maintain and enhance environmental benefits including the countryside, whereas others end up being nothing more than subsidies for wealthy individuals and companies, providing no environmental or public benefit whatsoever.  

Cycling UK and its allies will seek to maximise the opportunities to enhance outdoor access from whatever funding is put in place to replace CAP.

On the High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill (High Speed Phase 2A Bill):

“Cycling UK will aim to ensure that cycle access and lorry safety are taken into account in the Bill for the next phase of High Speed 2, just as we did successfully with the first phase.”

Notes to Editors: 
  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org 

SamJones
 
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