To murmurs of assent at the LibDem Autumn Conference, transport miniser Norman Baker said "cycling isn’t just good for the environment it’s good for the economy." However, Baker is part of a Coalition Government and while he is very much in favour of cycling, his Conservative colleagues in the Department for Transport are not. Ministers – presumed to be the Conservative ministers – rejected the idea for an Office for Active Travel with a £1bn budget. ‘Getting people out of cars’ is not something that can be sold to the public, believe ministers.
It’s against this background – and the near certainty that the LibDems will be punished at the polls in next year’s General Election – that one should view the overwhelming majority won for a cycling motion at the LibDem Autumn conference. Dr Julian Huppert, the MP for Cambridge (and likely to be one of the few LibDem MPs to survive the expected electoral slaughter in 2014), managed to convince conference to back his cycling motion, which included a pledge for the party to examine the feasibility of proportionate liability, the not-controversial-almost-everywhere-else measure that makes it easier for road crash victims to claim on insurance.
The cycling motion will form part of the LibDem’s next manifesto.
"The Government should encourage people to cycle for the benefits it brings to health and wellbeing, the environment, the economy and the alleviation of congestion," said Dr Huppert’s motion, and it also smuggled in:
"Unsustainable transport policies pursued over many decades are costing the economies of our towns and cities tens of billions of pounds through congestion, road casualties, poor air quality and the impact of inactivity on mental and physical health."
The motion calls on the Government to raise the number of journeys made by bike to 10 percent in 2025, rising to 25percent by 2050 and suggests this can be achieved by creating a cycling budget of at least £10 per person per year, increasing to £20.
This will partly pay for the "creation of high-quality, segregated cycle routes where appropriate."
The LibDems also want a Government strategy to "increase Bikeability cycle training courses for people of all ages and backgrounds" and the "provision of training and facilities in schools and places of work."
A cross-departmental ‘Cycling Action Plan’ must be drawn up in conjunction with relevant stakeholders and partners, say the LibDems. The motion also calls for a "commitment to improving the safety of cyclists on the roads through: an increase of priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow drivers to see cyclists on their near-side. The adoption of vehicle safety measures such as sensors, alarms, safety bars and extra mirrors on lorries. The inclusion of a cyclist safety section in the national driving test and cyclist awareness training for drivers of large vehicles."
Justice for victims of "accidents" on the roads will be achieved by a "consultation" on the introduction of "proportionate liability rules so that the default assumption after collisions is that the larger vehicle is at fault."
There should be a "review of existing road traffic laws and their enforcement to ensure that dangerous and careless driving is dealt with the seriousness it merits." As a sop to the "all cyclists run red lights" brigade, the motion added that cyclists must be made to "obey the rules of the road."
The motion also calls for implementation of Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004 to permit local authorities to enforce moving traffic offences, including the illegal use of cycle lanes.