Transport Questions: 5th March

Transport Questions: 5th March

Cycling and Walking

Stephen Timms (East Ham) (Lab): What steps he is taking to increase levels of cycling and walking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): The Government are committed to increasing walking and cycling. We have more than doubled the funding compared with the previous Administration. We added a section to the Infrastructure Act 2015 that places a commitment on Government to produce a cycling and walking investment strategy. In addition, our funding for bike and rail has put us on track to triple the number of cycle places at rail stations.

Stephen Timms: I am delighted that an excellent campaign forced Ministers to concede the cycling and walking strategy in the Infrastructure Act. When are we now going to get a strategy with proper resources and targets? When will Ministers implement the powers in part 6 of the Traffic Management Act 2004, so that councils outside London are finally able to enforce those powers against driving in cycle lanes?

Mr Goodwill: I am very proud of this Government’s record. Indeed, when we discussed this with officials on the Infrastructure Act they said, “But Minister, it doesn’t need to be in there. You are doing this already.” I said, “Put it in anyway to underline that fact.” I am very proud that, while we inherited £2 a head spending on cycling, we have increased that to £6 a head and in our cycling ambition cities we are already delivering £10 a head. However, I know that driving in cycle lanes is an issue of great concern to cyclists, whose safety is paramount.

Mr Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): I suspect the Minister will be too busy in May to attend the Isle of Wight walking festival, but if he would like to see initiatives that really work to increase the level of cycling, and indeed tourism, may I invite him to attend the Isle of Wight cycling festival in September?

Mr Goodwill: I must make a terrible admission: I have never visited the Isle of Wight, but I now have two very good reasons for doing so.

Maria Miller (Basingstoke) (Con): Thanks to this Government, more than £35 million is being invested in roads in Basingstoke to reduce congestion. Will the Minister explain what he will be doing to ensure that that important investment will also benefit cyclists?

Mr Goodwill: We have made it absolutely clear that all our new road schemes must be cycle-proofed to ensure that we do not have a situation where a new roundabout or bypass prevents cyclists from making their journeys too.

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): Confidence in road safety is key to increasing rates of cycling and walking, but after decades of progress, last year saw three consecutive increases in road deaths. Answers to parliamentary questions have revealed a dramatic reduction in the number of prosecutions for dangerous drink-driving and mobile offences at the wheel. With the number of traffic officers down by 23% since 2010 and apparently two years without any at all in Devon and Cornwall, whether these things are the fault of Transport Ministers, Home Office Ministers or even the Prime Minister himself, is it not the reality that the Government have failed to protect front-line policing and keep our roads safe? Is it not right for the next Labour Government to reintroduce proper targets to cut the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads?

Mr Goodwill: We do have targets for the Highways Agency network, which we have control over. Other roads are the responsibility of highways agencies. When I stood at the Opposition Dispatch Box five years ago and put it to the Labour Government that we should introduce drug-driving legislation, they said it was impossible. I am proud to say that on Monday this week we gave the police the tools they need to prosecute those who put other road users in danger by drug-driving, and we now have the legislation on the statute book to do that—something that Labour said was impossible.

Mr Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): I note that the Minister has not been to the Isle of Wight, but has he been to Ribble Valley, where we have some of the best cycling areas and walking routes through some of the greatest beauty that one will find in England? Does he believe, like me, that if we can encourage more youngsters, in particular, to cycle and to walk, that could help with the problem of obesity, and that perhaps we could get Government, schools and local authorities working together to encourage people to have step monitors to give them some focus so that they can become healthier human beings?

Mr Goodwill: I have indeed been to Ribble Valley, which is a very beautiful part of the country despite not being in Yorkshire. It is very important that we get young people on their bikes. That is why I am delighted that we have delivered 1.6 million Bikeability places, mainly to young people, and we expect a further 280,000 places between April 2015 and March 2016.

Topical Questions

Duncan Hames (Chippenham) (LD): Tactile indicator cones play a valuable role in making pedestrian crossings safer for all people, and especially those who are blind and partially sighted. Unfortunately in Wiltshire they cannot be sure of finding these cones at pedestrian crossings when they need them. Will the Government incentivise all local authorities to retrofit these tactile indicator cones to pedestrian crossings and open up our streets to everyone?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill): Tactile cones are probably one of the best kept secrets of our transport system. If one feels underneath the box on a pelican or puffin crossing, there is a small cone which, if held, rotates when the lights turn to green. It is very helpful for people with vision problems. They were developed by the university of Nottingham and there are 10,000 out there, and I encourage local authorities to retrofit as many as possible.

T6.Sir Hugh Bayley (York Central) (Lab): In October last year the Prime Minister visited York and expressed publicly concern about congestion on the outer ring road, and in January a petition from business leaders in York asking for the dualling of the ring road was delivered to Downing street. What action has the Department taken since the petition arrived?

Mr Goodwill: I had a meeting with the chief executive of North Yorkshire county council, who works closely with City of York council, on addressing the problems on the northern ring road, and I hope that any scheme that is brought forward can also mesh in with the Hopgrove roundabout project which has already been announced. If City of York council wants to help the motorist it should think back to what it did on Lendal bridge and the atrocious way it persecuted motorists using that route.

Further information is available on the parliamentary website.

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