I’m grateful to the Youtube user who has uploaded this video of David Cameron’s response, in Prime Minister’s Questions today, to Julian Huppert’s question on the Times’ Cities Fit For Cycling campaign, and on the issue of cycle promotion generally.
Tomorrow members of this House will have the chance to debate the importance of cycling, following the Times’ Cities Fit For Cycling campaign. The Minister for Cycling – the member for Lewes – has made some welcome announcements and investment. There is still much more to do. Will the Prime Minister commit the government to support the Times’ campaign, increase investment in cycling, and take much greater steps to promote cycling across the country?
I think the Times’ campaign is an excellent campaign. I strongly support what they’re trying to do. Anyone who’s got on a bicycle – particularly in one of our busier cities – knows that you are taking your life into your hands every time you do so. And so we do need to do more to try and make cycling safer. The government is making it easier for councils to install mirrors at junctions. We’re putting 11 million pounds into training for children, and 15 million pounds for better cycle routes and facilities across the country. I think if we want to encourage the growth in cycling we’ve seen in recent years, we need to get behind campaigns like this.
This is really quite an extraordinary response, not least for the fact that our Prime Minister has openly stated that using a bicycle in Britain – not just in our busiest cities – involves lethal risk.
Cameron then reels off a list of sums of money that are obviously designed to sound impressive, but which are in reality pitifully small, a miniscule fraction of our country’s transport spending. For instance, the two sums he mentions, when combined, amount to less than 1% of the cost of widening only 22 miles of the M25.
Given that these sums are supposed to represent an attempt to deal with the lack of safety – the lethal lack of safety – involved in riding bicycles that Cameron acknowledges, it’s verging on insulting, not least for the fact that this shouldn’t really be about money, at all.
It should be about a commitment - a commitment to change the guidelines that govern the way our roads and streets are designed and built, to make them safer, both subjectively and objectively, for bicycle use. That kind of commitment would be magnitudes more valuable than the 11 million pounds Cameron has presented for sticking-plaster measures like cycle training for children, and the installation of mirrors. I have no problem, of course, with training, especially for children, but I resent it being used, as in this case, as a substitute for concrete action to change the environment. Training children will do nothing to address the dangerous nature of our roads and streets that Cameron himself recognises.
The money Cameron talks about, just like his support for the campaign, is nothing more than a fob-off.
Don’t be fooled.
A City ‘Fit for Cycling’? I don’t think so. Will mirrors and training make this street look any different? I don’t think so.