Parliament's transport committee to hear – again – from cycling groups. Will MPs listen this time?

CTC and British Cycling pile pressure on MPs to plan for cycling

Ahead of today’s evidence gathering session by the parliamentary transport select committee both British Cycling and CTC have released the copious evidence that more cycling would be beneficial to all. Déjà vu? Yup, it’s largely the same evidence that was presented to (cycling) MPs at the Get Britain Cycling inquiry last year, which the Department for Transport looked at and almost wholly ignored.

However, British Cycling has commissioned new research that shows how spending more on cycling is highly cost-effective. If people young and old made just one in 10 trips by bike, Brits could gain the equivalent of almost one million extra healthy years of life over the next decade, British Cycling said. The organisation has launched a 10 point plan for how Britain can be transformed into a true cycling nation.

New research commissioned by British Cycling from Cambridge University shows that if people replaced just five minutes of the 36 minutes they spend each day in the car with cycling, there would be an almost 5 percent annual reduction in the health burden from inactivity-related illnesses including heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some cancers.

If 10 percent of trips in England and Wales were made by bike, the savings to the NHS of the top inactivity related illnesses would be at least £250 million per year.

British Cycling’s new manifesto – Time to #ChooseCycling – will be launched later today at a reception in Parliament. It sets out what needs to happen to get Britain cycling at even a fraction of the levels seen in the Netherlands and Denmark.

British Cycling’s policy adviser and Olympic gold medallist, Chris Boardman, said:

“Britain is now one of the most successful cycling nations in the world. How can we be getting it so right in terms of elite success but still be failing to truly embed cycling as an everyday part of British culture? This research demonstrates that the impact of more cycling would have positive effects for everyone.

“In the 1970s, the Netherlands made a conscious choice to put people first and make cycling and walking their preferred means of transport. It is no coincidence that they are also one of the healthiest and happiest nations in the world. Local and national government needs to wake up and realise that cycling is the solution to so many of the major problems Britain is now facing.”

Dr James Woodcock, a senior researcher at Cambridge University’s Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), said:

“Cycling is a great way for people to embed physical activity in their everyday lives. If we can get people to stay active throughout their lives then it can make a huge difference to their health. To make cycling a mass activity in Britain, as it is in the Netherlands, is going to require both environments that make cyclists feel safe and a culture that says cycling is a normal way for people to get around – whatever their age. This research, based on scenarios for towns and cities in England and Wales, outside London, shows the potential for population health benefits from cycling.” 

CTC is also calling for funding of at least £10 per person annually. Speaking prior to representing CTC at the transport select committee inquiry, CTC’s Campaigns and Policy Director Roger Geffen said:

"Words are not enough to ‘Get Britain Cycling’. We need leadership, commitment to consistently high cycle-friendly design standards, and consistent funding of at least £10 per head annually to achieve these.

“The risks of cycling are lower than most people imagine – yet they are deterred from cycling in Britain due to fear. You are less likely to be killed in a mile of cycling than a mile of walking. If we are to maximise cycling’s health and other benefits, we must enable people to cycle in conditions that are as inviting as they are in countries like Denmark and the Netherlands. Britain now has 40 years of catching up to do; it is time for action.”

CTC’s evidence also calls for the following:

Targets which encourage more as well as safer cycling.

Lower speed limits. 20mph speed limits should become the norm for urban streets, with highway authorities having the freedom to identify appropriate exceptions. Zones of 40mph or lower limits should be widely introduced for rural lane networks.

Cycle-friendly design standards that allow cyclists of all ages and abilities to use roads and streets safely and comfortably, with particular attention paid to cyclists’ safety and priority at junctions where 75% of cyclists’ collision injuries occur.

Training and awareness campaigns to promote safety awareness among drivers and cyclists alike, with ‘Bikeability’ cycle training available for people of all ages.

Strengthened road traffic law and enforcement, with roads policing being given greater priority. Driving which causes obvious ‘danger’ should never be dismissed as merely ‘careless’ driving offences.

Improved lorry safety, through collaboration between the government, EU and industry, to deliver mandatory cycle awareness training, safer lorry designs and equipment and fewer lorries on busy streets.

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