Ministers, police and Jon Snow appear before the APPCG

CTC's President Jon Snow will be giving evidence in the final evidence session

Ministers, police and Jon Snow appear before the APPCG

The final session of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group's inquiry 'Get Britain Cycling' heard from the ministers responsible for promoting and improving road safety, as well as representatives from Europe, Wales, Scotland and law enforcement agencies.

After 5 weeks of evidence sessions, and witnesses from over 20 different organisations, the APPCG turned its attention to leadership.

Jon Snow, CTC's President - who gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee in 2012 - appeared alongside Andrew Gilligan, the recently appointed cycling commissioner for London, and Isabel Dedring, the Deputy Mayor of London.

Capital issues

Andrew Gilligan and Isabel Dedring explained the plans for London, particularly the huge increase in funding. By 2016, they plan to spend £145m per year on cycling - equivalent to £18 per head - in line with funding for cycling in Copenhagen.

If we achieved a 14% modal share in cycling, we'd see a 30% reduction in NOx pollution, saving 1000s of lives.

Andrew Gilligan
Mayor of London's Cycling Commissioner

Asked why there was no provision for cycling built into major schemes like the huge Kings Cross redevelopment, Dedring suggested that the procedures were there, but weren't fully embedded in organisations such as Transport for London.

However, both Gilligan and Dedring stressed that cycling was taken extremely seriously at high levels in Transport for London, as well as forming a key part in the Mayor's personal ambitions. 

Which campaigns help the most?

Jon Snow paid tribute to the Times's campaign as the reason why the inquiry existed in the first place, and downplayed the role of campaign groups.

He also revealed that Transport for London had been trying to provide dedicated traffic signals for cycling, but the Department for Transport had rebuffed their efforts. These would be simple things which would improve things for cycling, but Government considers them too small scale. Andrew Gilligan's message to Government was simple: "why do we need to go to central Governent to allow us to use an eye level signal head."

Roadspace reallocation

Julian Huppert MP asked whether the Mayor had the courage to reduce space for motor traffic. Dedring felt that traffic engineering practice had changed, the existing road network can be used more efficiently, freeing up capacity in some cases to provide better facilities. But she gave no commitment that large scale roadspace reallocation to cycling was likely. 

Jon Snow claimed motor traffic restraint was a political winner - as proved in Cambridge and Oxford - and whichever Mayor took the step to ban the private car from central London would find themselves politically rewarded.

Police and prosecution

Nick Hunt from the Crown Prosecution Service understood that campaign groups were unhappy with the situation and acknowledged the decline in prosecutions for causing death by dangerous driving. Mark Milsom, representing the Association for Chief Police Officers (ACPO), agreed that more cases of careless driving should be considered as dangerous, and the court should decide whether it is careless or dangerous, not prosecutors.

Julian Huppert MP demanded to know whether the £35 fine given to the driver who killed Tom Ridgway was appropriate. Mark Milsom suggested that weak sentencing was not just a cycling issue.

Ian Austin MP asked whether it was right that low level offences be dealt with remedial driving courses. Mark Milsom suggested that re-educating was beneficial and drivers often learned a great deal during these courses - working with communities, as he put it, was better than punishment.

Under pressure from Julian Huppert MP, Mark Milsom admitted that ACPO did not enforce 20 mph speed limits. "We advise people, but we don't enforce". He compared speeding to parking outside a school - an extraordinary comparison, given the different risks between the two activities.

What can the rest of Europe teach us?

Roelof Wittink from the Dutch Cycling Embassy and Kevin Mayne, the former Chief Executive at CTC, now at the European Cyclists' Federation, gave a European perspective on leadership.

The history of the Netherlands showed that political commitment - and accompanying interventions - over the last 40 years explained the high levels of cycling. Segregate as much as possible and create a system that is forgiving to those who make mistakes, he suggested.

Kevin Mayne revealed that whereas the Netherlands was by far and away the top of the heap in Europe when it comes to cycling, Britain was uniquely bad - almost bottom of the pile. Culturally, the UK is extremely insular and bad at learning lessons from other countries in Europe. Germany has been the most successful: it's increased cycling from 8% to 13% in the last 10 years. 

Concerns of cycling activists in Britain are similar to those elsewhere in Europe - indeed - UK cycling organisations are well-regarded in Europe, said Mayne. Department for Transport's attitude to traffic management is key, he said, Britain is virtually the only country which continues to provide priority to motor traffic over cyclists and pedestrians. 

And Wales?

Carl Sargeant, Welsh Assembly Member for Alyn and Deeside and Minister for Social Justice & Local Government in the Welsh Assembly Government. Sargeant has just introduced the Active Travel Wales Bill, which will place a duty on local authorities to plan and implement improvements to their walking and cycling networks.

Two ministers from the Department of Transport also gave evidence - Norman Baker MP and Stephen Hammond MP. While the former is responsible for local transport issues, including cycling, Mr Hammond looks after road safety and issues such as vehicle standards and driver testing.

Norman Baker suggested that since coming to power the Government had achieved more than the previous one, including allocating more funding for cycling. The Local Sustainable Transport Fund has provided £600m of funding and nearly all of the 96 projects funded include some sort of cycling element. 

Ian Austin asked what steps the DfT was taking to reduce the risks posed by HGVs. Hammond responded that besides the Think! campaign (not specifically addressing HGVs) they are talking to those who provide driver training and want to ensure that the haulage industry is using the most up to date technology in the cabs. However, there are still gaps - including training cyclists to be aware of where blind spots on cabs may be.

This was the last of the 6 oral evidence sessions. The final report will be published on the 24th April.


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