We should be encouraging cycling – not putting in place more regulation
The Transport Secretary’s foray into the politics of cycling has certainly generated much debate and again demonstrated the strength of feeling from those pro and against cycling about how to best ensure the safety of all road users.
From a policy perspective I have been assured by the Department of Transport, as the Transport Secretary has reiterated to the press, that he has no plans to introduce number plates for bicycles or compulsory insurance.
As co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking it would be fair to say my WhatsApp instantly lit up at the suggestions aired in the media last week that more cycling regulation was coming.
Number plates will not be getting onto our bikes any time soon
Out here in rural North Devon it is very hard to understand why on earth anyone would even need a conversation about such matters. Given our rurality, hills and the distance between locations, for many journeys active travel of any kind is simply not an option. I had a very entertaining interview with BBC Radio Devon, with a presenter who had tried very hard to get up to the speed limit – let alone exceed it!
However, as we see when the House is sitting, cycling has seen massive growth in the capital and urban centres around the country as a cost-effective commute, delivering health benefits simultaneously and in my mind should therefore be widely encouraged and supported. Indeed, this week has seen the announcement that GPs will be prescribing active travel for its health benefits. However, as with everything in life there is always a minority who are unable to follow the rules.
The APPG are in 100 per cent agreement that we should all follow the rules of the road, whatever mode of transport we employ. Cyclists should not run red lights putting themselves and other road users at risk. And those with bikes – and legs – that can clear those 20mph speed limits should use high tech gadgets to ensure they drop below the speed limit. However, someone needs to explain to the tourists now back on Westminster Bridge what the new cycling lane is for, and how fast even 20mph is if a cyclist crashes into them inadvertently whilst they are trying to get a photo in front of Big Ben – this is not an infrequent occurrence either!
I personally believe insurance is a matter of individual choice as cyclists, but as we need it in so many more walks of life, to literally be on the safe side. I suspect we will see a growth in this in the years to come as more of us do move to a cheaper and greener alternative journey choice.
Creating dedicated areas for different road users is no doubt the best way to ensure the safety of the maximum number of road users. However, not every road is going to be able to accommodate this safely and road space in many town and city centres is at a premium.
If we are to decarbonise our transport, cycling and walking are clearly part of the solution, not the problem. Rural Devon clearly has many different hazards to central London, and I continue to liaise with the NFU and Devon and Cornwall Police around the specifics of cycling safety in a part of the country that welcomes such an influx of cycling tourists alongside our vital agricultural sector.
The upside of the confusion created by the comments from the Transport Secretary is we appear to have some certainty now that number plates will not be getting onto our bikes any time soon!
Selaine Saxby is the Conservative MP for North Devon and co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walkin.
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