We need more secure and accessible cycle parking on the parliamentary estate
Commitment to increasing the number of people cycling and walking, is an ambition that is shared on a cross-party basis.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking in recent years has delivered a wide range of reports, events and bike rides – all well-attended by MPs and peers from across the political divide.
The government itself has ambitious targets, including for half of all journeys in towns and cities to be walked or cycled by 2030. These targets are laid out in detail in the Department for Transport’s Gear Change plan, with the financial commitment to delivering them outlined in the second Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy.
A lack of secure parking is a key barrier to the uptake of cycling
Furthermore, Active Travel England now exists as the government’s executive agency responsible for making walking, wheeling and cycling the preferred choice for everyone to get around in England. It will be accountable for ensuring that the £3.2bn of government investment on active travel is delivered to new high national standards.
This show of confidence in active travel is a recognition of the many benefits that it can deliver, not only in the quest to meet our increasingly urgent decarbonisation targets and tackle the climate emergency, but also through the wider benefits to public health, air quality, and our high streets.
So that’s our message to the public as parliamentarians – but are we practising what we preach? Is the parliamentary estate filled with secure, accessible and sufficient cycle parking (suitable for a full range of bikes), ready for the hordes of MPs, peers and staff arriving on their bikes each morning?
The answer, sadly, is no – and that’s in part because the parking required simply does not exist. It’s not due to lack of demand – a cursory walk through the estate shows the limited spaces that we do have filled with bikes, often parked outside allocated spaces and left in haphazard positions.
At a recent meeting with the parliamentary estates team and various parties interested in this matter, one of our colleagues even detailed an incident in which an attempted theft took place of her bike – with the lock badly damaged.
We know that a lack of secure parking is a key barrier to the uptake of cycling. You need to be able to park your bike close to your office, safe in the knowledge that it will still be there (and ideally dry as well) when you get back. At the moment, that provision is simply not there – and it shows.
This is particularly noticeable when you compare our situation to other parliamentary buildings - Germany and Denmark being good examples. If the culture begins to change at a parliamentary level, it could have a much wider impact, not least in making our political system seem more accessible.
Imagine if people became used to politicians sweeping through the gates of Parliament on a bicycle rather than hidden away in vehicles. Security will always understandably be an important consideration, but if the prime minister of the Netherlands can travel by bike, then surely others can.
There is no doubt that making any changes on the parliamentary estate are currently a challenge, owing to the age of the buildings and the ongoing level of regeneration required. Cycle parking has often come as an afterthought when specific buildings or courtyards are having work done on them, with swathes of cycle parking often simply being removed without being replaced.
That is just not good enough, and along with our colleagues on the APPG Cycling & Walking, we will be pushing in the coming weeks and months to improve the situation so that more people on the estate can feel safe parking their bikes here – and can actually find somewhere to park.
Flick Drummond, Conservative MP for Meon Valley. Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP for Leeds North East.
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