Roads: Road Safety

Question

3 pm

Asked by Lord Colwyn

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to improve road safety in the United Kingdom.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, we are taking forward the measures set out in the Strategic Framework for Road Safety. Parliament has approved a new drug-driving offence and we will consult on the relevant limits shortly. We intend to publish a Green Paper on young drivers later this year. Additionally, subject to parliamentary approval, we will introduce fixed penalties for careless driving such as poor lane discipline and tailgating.

Lord Colwyn: I thank my noble friend for that informative Answer to a wide-ranging Question. He talked about a new drug-driving offence. Does he have any information on the approval and availability of the new testing devices? May I tempt my noble friend to comment on safety for cyclists? I declare an interest as a regular cyclist and a member of the All-Party Cycling Group. I have been knocked off my bike by a white van and have had a near-death experience with a falling 12-foot plank when cycling under scaffolding at Millbank House. In view of the fact that cycle journeys are increasing, what more can be done to improve safety and what progress has been made with the introduction of cycle superhighways?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am pleased to say that, at last, the Home Office has approved the drug testing equipment which will enable the police to move on to requiring a blood sample to be given. This is in accordance with recommendations from the North report. The Government are extremely concerned about cycle safety. We are pleased to see the increase in the amount of cycling taking place. However, the difficulty is that we are seeing an increase in the number of casualties and we do not fully understand why that should be. There is an increase because of the rise in the number of cyclists and the amount of cycling, but the increase in casualties is still too much and we are working hard on it.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, in the announcement that the Government made last week regarding the infrastructure, I could find nothing to help with the safety of cyclists. Did I miss anything or was there something in that announcement?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I do not think the noble Lord misses much at all. We have recently launched a Think Cyclist safety campaign and have made £35 million available to tackle dangerous junctions for cyclists across the country. The £35 million is part of the additional £107 million of investment in cycling that the Government have announced since February last year.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, in 2004 this House passed the Traffic Management Act, Part 6 of which was designed to enable local authorities to take action against matters such as cycling on the pavement, jumping traffic lights and all manner of moving traffic offences. That part has not been implemented by the Minister’s department. It languished under the party opposite and continues to languish now.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, as my noble friend Lord Colwyn said, this is quite a wide-ranging Question. I am afraid that I am not aware of that particular difficulty. However, I shall write to my noble friend about it.

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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, in the light of the 10% increase in deaths and the 4% increase in serious injuries in the past year in cycle accidents, will the Government consider a 20 miles per hour limit in certain urban areas? What are the Government doing to work with border agencies on the issue of drivers coming from outside the UK whose mirrors are positioned so that they cannot see cyclists on the road? I refer in particular to the drivers of lorries coming from Europe.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, the department has made it simpler for councils to put in 20 miles per hour zones and limits and to install so-called Trixi mirrors to improve the visibility of cyclists at junctions. One of the problems is that sometimes a lorry driver cannot see a cyclist. I do not think that the problems with cyclists in London involve foreign trucks. There are issues with left-hand drive trucks causing accidents, particularly on motorways, but I have not been told that they cause problems for cyclists.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, taking into account what has just been said about the increase in casualties, will the noble Earl take a view on the fact that, so far as I know, cyclists are the only road users who do not have to undergo any kind of compulsory test? Would it not be in the interests of all road users, but particularly cyclists, if more effort was put into ensuring that those who go on to the roads on bicycles are properly trained?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, there is the Bikeability programme, the full details of which I do not have before me. The difficulty with a compulsory scheme is that it would probably have a negative effect on cycling. As the benefits of cycling are so great and far exceed the risks, we would not want to go down that route.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House how many cyclists have been prosecuted in the past year for going through red lights, for ignoring pedestrian crossings and for exceeding the speed limit?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am afraid I do not know the answer, but I know that it is a matter of great interest to your Lordships. It is for local police forces to decide how they police cycling offences.

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