While thousands of cyclists, including SERA members, cycled past Parliament on Monday night, Maria Eagle, Shadow Transport Secretary, set out a detailed Labour manifesto for cycling at the landmark debate on cycling in the House of Commons.
Labour’s “manifesto for cycling”, as set out by Maria Eagle, the Shadow Transport Secretary:
1. We must end the stop-start approach to supporting cycling. And that means long-term funding of the infrastructure needed for dedicated separate safe cycling routes.
Ministers recently set out annual budgets for rail and road investment up to 2020/21, but failed to do so for cycling infrastructure. That means that while there is a £28 billion commitment to roads, we have only a one-off £114 million from central government for cycling – and that is spread across three years. It’s time for a serious rethink of priorities within the roads budget, with a proportion reallocated to deliver a long-term funding settlement for cycling infrastructure.
The priority for investment to support cycling must be dedicated separated infrastructure to create safe routes. In the past, the focus has too often been on painting a thin section at the side of the road a different colour. Genuinely separated cycle routes are vital to improve safety, but also to build confidence and encourage those not used to cycling to make the switch to two wheels.
It’s also important that a commitment to new infrastructure does not become an excuse not to improve the safety of cyclists on roads where there is no separation. The priority should be redesigning dangerous junctions, where almost two thirds of cyclist deaths and serious injuries from collisions take place. And we need much greater use of traffic light phasing to give cyclists a head start.
2. We need to ensure we do not repeat the mistakes of the past mistakes: so I have proposed a new Cycle Safety Assessment before the green light is given to new transport schemes.
In the same way that departments have to carry out Regulatory Impact Assessments and Equality Impact Assessments, there should be an obligation to ‘cycle-proof’ new policies and projects. And we need new national, enforceable design standards, with measures to ensure compliance.
3. We need to see national targets to cut deaths and serious injuries restored. However, in future, these should sit alongside a new target to increase the levels of cycling.
The number of cyclist deaths is tragically now at a five year high. Targets alone are of course not the only answer, but they help focus minds and efforts and Ministers are wrong to reject them.
However, it is vital that we ensure that targets do not perversely lead to local authorities and others seeing the way to cut deaths and injuries as being to discourage cycling. In fact, cycling becomes safer the more cyclists there are on the road. So we should learn from the success that has been achieved in other European countries where clear goals have been set to increase levels of cycling, alongside the policies necessary to achieve them.
4. I believe we should learn from Wales and look to extend their Active Travel legislation to England – legislation which sets out clear duties on local authorities to support cycling.
Local authorities are absolutely central to devising, prioritising and delivering measures to support cycling and it’s important that additional support from central government is matched by clear obligations. To assist them, we should be providing councils with a best practice toolkit for boosting cycling numbers, based on what we learnt from the Cycling City and Towns programme, as well as evidence from abroad. Councils should be supported to deliver 20mph zones, increasingly becoming an effective default in most residential areas.
5. We have to ensure that children and young people have every opportunity to cycle – and to do so safely.
The Government should not have ended long-term funding certainty for the Bikeability scheme, nor axed the requirement for School Travel Plans. These decisions should be reversed.
6. We need to make it easier for cycling to become part of the journey to work, even where the commute is too far to do by bike alone.
Employers can play an important role in providing access to showers, changing facilities and lockers. However our public transport providers need to step up and do more too. So instead of the Government’s approach, which has been to propose a weakening of franchise obligations, we should instead toughen up the requirement to provide station facilities and on-train space for bikes within rail contracts.
7. We need to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries.
I welcome the recent commitment from Ministers to initiate a review of sentencing guidelines. It is vital that this is a comprehensive review of the justice system and how it protects vulnerable road users, and it should be concluded without delay and in this parliament. We will be willing to work with government to implement any sensible changes that are proposed.
8. We need tough new rules and requirements on HGVs which are involved in around a fifth of all cycling fatalities, despite making up just six per cent of road traffic.
We should look at the case for taking HGVs out of our cities at the busiest times, as has happened elsewhere in Europe including in Paris and Dublin.
As a minimum we should require safety measures on all HGVs, including censors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars – as well as better training and awareness. I have previously suggested to Ministers that the £23 million expected to be raised annually from the new HGV road charging scheme could be used to support the road haulage industry to achieve this. I hope that this idea will be seriously considered, along with all of these clear proposals which, taken together, would I believe be a significant improvement on the Government’s current approach.