100 MPs reach a consensus on cycling

MPs debated cycling for 4 hours
Around 100 MPs from all political parties attended a packed backbench business debate on cycling for 4 hours on Monday evening, with dozens of MPs taking part.

The debate ended with an unopposed vote in favour of the motion "That this House supports the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group's report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses the target of 10 per cent of all journeys being made by bike by 2025, and 25 per cent by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycling Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling."

Unfortunately the vote is not binding on the Government! However ministers have now promised a cross-departmental Cycling Delivery Plan (as called for by the APPCG report), to be drawn up by the Department for Transport later this year.

It has been almost 18 months since the last time there was a substantive Parliamentary debate on cycling in the House of Commons.

Then, in response to the Times's Cities fit for cycling campaign, over 70 MPs crammed into the Westminster Hall debating chamber.

This time it was even more - around 100 MPs attended a Commons debate (see Hansard transcript), even though it was their first day back after Parliament’s summer break. Over 2,000 CTC members had emailed their MPs ahead of the debate, urging them to be there – thanks to everyone who did so.

As they spoke, 5,000 cyclists circled Parliament demanding space for cycling in a London Cycling Campaign organised protest.

It's 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.

Maria Eagle MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport

Are we getting Britain cycling?

MPs of all parties backed the recommendations of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG) report. In addition to its proposed targets to boost cycle use from 2% of trips at present to 10% (roughly German levels) by 2025 and 25% (near Dutch levels) by 2050, the 'Get Britain Cycling' report also called for sustained funding for cycling of at least £10 per person annually, rising to £20 as cycle use increases.

The most impressive speech came from Labour's frontbench spokesperson, Shadow Secretary of State Maria Eagle, who met CTC and British Cycling last week. She set out an 8 point plan for cycling, including a requirement for councils to 'cycle-proof' highway and traffic schemes to high and enforceable design standards, and a review of the road justice system. She also proposed a cross-party consensus to secure longer-term funding for cycling, and advocated legislation like the Active Travel (Wales) Bill, which will place a duty on local authorities to map routes for cycling and walking.

Closing the debate, Julian Huppert MP, Lib-Dem co-chair of the APPCG echoed this cross-party consensus, calling for "all of our parties, for this government and all future governments, to get Britain cycling."

Tonight's well attended debate has shown that MPs of all parties support CTC and our partners in calling for the government to enact ALL the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry. The Prime Minister says he wants a 'cycling revolution' - CTC members want to see these words backed up with action, which means sustained cycle funding and giving priority to cycling whenever facilities are being built or maintained.

Gordon Seabright
CTC Chief Executive

Many MPs made the case for segregated cycle facilities, but even those who had just taken up cycling again after a long absence - such as Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale - noticed that the quality of cycle paths left much to be desired.

Read CTC's Roger Geffen's live blog from the debate.

What has the Government done?

The debate came less than a month after David Cameron launched plans to start a “Cycling revolution” in Britain. He announced £77m of Government funding to boost cycle use in 8 ‘Cycling cities”, plus a further £17m for 4 National Parks. Together with £54m contributed by the relevant local authorities, he described the total package of £148m over 2 years as Britain’s "biggest ever single injection of cash for cycling". The Government also argued that the total funding for the 8 cities (including the £45m of local government contributions) amounts to £10 per head for these cities.

CTC and other cycling groups welcomed the Prime Minister’s support for cycling and his effective endorsement of the figure of £10 per head of annual spending on cycling. CTC has long regarded this as the minimum needed to start catching up with continental levels of cycle use.

However CTC also pointed out that his actual spending commitment covers just 1/10 of Britain’s population for 2 years, and that substantially increased funding is now needed for several years, if local authorities and others are to develop the organisational capacity, the funding programmes and the cycle networks needed to substantially boost cycle use over the longer term.

The Prime Minister also backed calls to 'cycle-proof' all road and traffic schemes. He has tasked the Highways Agency with designing cycling into all future schemes on England’s major road network, and urged local authorities to do likewise for local roads.

CTC welcomes his support for the concept of ‘cycle-proofing’. However we believe that new standards, improved professional training and ultimately an enforcement mechanism are now needed to ensure that councils deliver consistently high-standards of cycle-friendly design in all road, traffic, junction and even highway maintenance schemes, as well as new developments. Merely encouraging them to do so will not be sufficient.

More recently, a Government response to the APPCG's 'Get Britain Cycling' report demonstrates some welcome progress, but CTC believes that far more now needs to be done - and far more funding secured - if we are to genuinely 'Get Britain Cycling'.

We therefore look forward to engaging on the forthcoming Cycling Action Plan. We will keep up the pressure to ensure it includes the long-term funding, the cross-departmental collaboration, the high-quality cycle-friendly design and infrastructure standards, the safety improvements and the positive promotion of cycling that the APPCG, CTC and other cycling groups have long been calling for.