Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge, Feb 2011

JLHCambridge MP Julian Huppert has won Brake and Direct Line’s Parliamentarian of the Month Award for his work to promote cyclist safety.

While cyclist deaths and road casualties in general have been decreasing year on year, cyclist serious and slight injuries have begun to increase in recent years, possibly due to the increased popularity of cycling. In 2009, reported cyclist serious injuries rose by 6% to 2,606 from 2,450 in 2008[1].

Julian has always been passionate about cycling. As a keen cyclist himself and a long standing member of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, he knows first-hand how dangerous cycling can be when travelling on busy roads. His own passion for cycling, as well as his experience of being MP for Cambridge, which has one of the highest cycling rates in the UK, shaped his determination to help make sure roads safer for the cycling community.

In October 2010, Julian wrote a letter to Norman Baker, the under-secretary of state for transport asking for the Government’s reassurance that the cycle proficiency scheme, Bikeability, will continue to be funded despite the wider cuts to transport funding. Click here for more information.

Through October and November Julian also asked a total of 13 questions in parliament on the topic of cyclist safety, including the continued funding of the Bikeability scheme.(PQ:2019,PQ:20203,PQ:20202,PQ:20196,PQ:20204,PQ:20205PQ:20206,PQ:20188,PQ:20189,PQ:20190,PQ:20191,PQ:20187,PQ:21098)

On 19 January 2011, transport under Secretary Norman Baker announced that the Government will continue to fund Bikeability. This was welcomed by Julian as a sign that the coalition takes cycling safety seriously, but he knew that more still needed to be done. Read the announcement here.

On 21 January 2011, Julian led a debate on cycling in the House of Commons, in which he called for greater action to protect cyclists. Specifically, he called for:

  • Greater use of 20mph speed limits in residential and shopping streets, which make a large difference to the safety of children, cyclists and pedestrians, but only a small difference to car travel times – plus a wider commitment to reducing traffic volume and speed.
  • The introduction of proportionate liability which puts the default onus on the more dangerous vehicle in a collision, as used in some other countries. It would help to protect cars from trucks, bikes from cars and pedestrians from bikes. It would encourage the Crown Prosecution Service to prosecute in cases of disregard for other road users.
  • Local authorities to have the power to use “no entry except cycles" traffic signs, which will allow cyclists access to quieter streets.
  • The adjustment and enforcement of the law on mandatory cycle lanes so that vehicles in mandatory cycle lanes can be prosecuted.
  • The promotion of radical solutions among local authorities  such as greater powers for local authorities over traffic signs and the allowance of no entry-except cycles signs, Contraflow cycling in appropriate one-way streets  and deterrence of low cost compromise solutions such as shared use cycle facilities on pavements which can cause conflict with pedestrians.
  • A cycling and pedestrian awareness element to the driving test which goes beyond the hazard perception element in the theory test.

Julian plans to follow up the debate by writing to Theresa Villiers, Minister of State for Transport, to ask for further clarification and commitments following the debate.

He is continuing to strive for amendments to the law through a short bill or statutory instrument. Through this channel he hopes to achieve better enforcement of the law on mandatory cycle lanes and a cycling and pedestrian awareness element to the driving theory test.

He is optimistic that there will be progress in cyclist safety following the positive ministerial answers given at the debate.

Julian Huppert MP,said: “In Cambridge, we have worked hard to promote cycling as a viable alternative to the car and we have a large number of our residents cycling to school and work. And since the coalition came to power our new government has shown that it is serious about funding and promoting cycling.

But I am certain there are people both in the city and nationally who would like to cycle but feel insecure or intimidated. Taking that on board, there is still a great deal of work to be done to make our roads safer for cyclists. We also of course need to encourage cyclists to behave safely themselves!

I will continue to push the government to make the necessary changes to our legislation which will give cyclists the recognition and protection that they deserve and show that we are truly committed to cycling as a serious form of transport.”

Julie Townsend, campaigns director, said: “Julian has shown dedication to  cyclist safety and thoroughly deserves this recognition. Cyclists are among our most vulnerable road users and, as cycling becomes more popular, making our roads safer for them becomes ever more pressing. Yet we still don’t have widespread basic facilities that cyclists need to stay safe such as dedicated and continuous cycle lanes. It is imperative that the Government takes a leadership role on this and works to improve cyclist safety as a priority.”

[1] Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2009, Department for Transport 2010.

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