Norman Baker: something to get people out of their cars and on their bikes

bicycle route signYesterday the Coalition Government announced a dramatic boost to cycling funding, reaffirming our commitment to promote safer cycling and to get more people to switch from four wheels to two.

As the Lib Dem Transport Minister, I have worked hard to champion cycling within government and to increase investment in its infrastructure. I am delighted that we have now announced the biggest ever single cash injection for cycling funding in England. We are spending nearly £150 million to make cycling easier and safer.

Our party has long recognised the overwhelmingly positive benefits of cycling, which helps tackle road congestion and reduces air pollution. Not only is it a fast, cheap and green mode of transport, but it also promotes a healthier lifestyle. To realise these benefits and build on the Olympic cycling legacy, we need to make cyclists feel safer on our roads. As well as new funding, we have also announced wider measures to make sure that the needs of cyclists are considered right at the start of road infrastructure schemes.

The £150 million funding is available up to 2015 and will make it both easier and safer for people to travel by bicycle. This will support hundreds of miles of new cycle routes and help local authorities to upgrade existing cycle lanes. We were impressed that many of the bids included innovative proposals for segregated cycle lanes and bridges as well as cycling centres and bicycle storage facilities. £77 million will be divided between Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich. The New Forest, the Peak District, the South Downs and Dartmoor are all set to benefit from £17 million available for national parks.

This means that spending on cycling in these eight cities outside London will now be worth more than £10 per head on average. This is even higher than was recommended in the recent report of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, chaired by the excellent Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, Julian Huppert.

This announcement builds on our earlier successes in the Department, such as the creation of the £600 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which is promoting green transport schemes.

Most importantly of all, it will allow more people to ride out with confidence on our nation’s busiest urban roads.

* Norman Baker is the MP for Lewes, a Minister of State at the Home Office and formerly Minister in the Department of Transport

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  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Aug '13 - 10:51am

    Appreciate all this effort. Cycling as part of everyday life has been really difficult in the UK and we have been light years behind our European friends for decades.

    However, I cannot help but be disappointed that once again the big cities and dreaming spires reap the benefits of extra cash. Too often under this Government, small towns and cities not on the well-worn tourist path are overlooked.

    Okay, cities like Liverpool miss out (why, might I ask?) but I am struggling to grasp how cities so obviously already geared to bikes at the moment (Oxford and Cambridge), extract Government money, while other places get nothing.

    There is mention of making bids, so it seems like a vicious circle. Richer, more powerful cities make better pitches than poorer less well-connected areas. It was ever thus it appears.

    We like cycling in the styx, you know. Can’t you help us out?

  • Whilst I also appreciate this effort and share the concerns Helen has expressed, I do hope that this boost to cycling funding includes sufficient to run cycling proficiency courses across the WHOLE country until at least 2015.

    In my area, due to the decision to not award contracts/fund cycling proficiency until a few weeks before the end of term, no cycling proficiency courses are running this summer in my area. It particularly annoyed me as the late decision making prevented the schools I’m involved with from making their own alternative arrangements.

  • Graham Martin-Royle 14th Aug '13 - 11:50pm

    How about making it easier to walk by getting the police to enforce the parking laws and getting vehicles off of pavements? No monetary outlay required, just the will to take on the motoring lobby.

  • David White 15th Aug '13 - 1:32pm

    Hull has a high proportion of cyclists and also some of the most dangerous roads for cycling. We need many more lanes for bicycles which are fully segregated from motor traffic. However, none of the governments largesse to cyclists is being directed here. I wonder why. Could it be because this city has a Labour-controlled unitary council and three NewLab MPs (Johnson, Johnson & Turner)? Perhaps The Daily Mail should investigate!

  • David White 15th Aug '13 - 1:36pm

    PS: I agree, wholeheartedly, with Graham Martin-Boyle’s comment. The motoring lobby should be given a good slapping – but will an OldCon secretary for transport do that? No, of course not.

  • David White 15th Aug '13 - 1:38pm

    PPS: Sorry, I know it should be Martin-Royle: but my cataracts are playing-up!

  • I cycle where ever I feel at least semi-safe – where car drivers are likely not to rush to drive me off the road. But I need to get to the semi-safe area first! As I live on a rat-run between faster roads, many car drivers are happy with speeds which are nearer 50 mph in a local residential road system with a 30 mph limit. If I ride my bicycle near the kerb near my home, which is also at a road bend, I risk cars squeezing past me and sometimes pushing me off the road, hooting to let them past etc. Especially local buses which have routes in this small street. So I have resorted to being stupid and riding in the centre of the road as car drivers cannot drive over me in this residential street. Well not yet anyway.

    What we need is a comprehensive measure of who has right of way – publicised so cyclists are not relegated to a few dangerous inches on the side of local roads where we live. Cycle-ways are fine for main roads but what about where we live on side streets?

    Everyone knows what I’m writing about – irresponsible car, van, lorry drivers. I have great respect for bus drivers but their time-tables have to allow for cyclists. I write with conviction about buses as my eldest son almost died from being hit by a bus while he was cycling in Wood Green, London. (Thank you to the air ambulance which lifted him to hospital in a coma). My son was later fined for riding his bike in a busy area – because the witnesses said he was riding on a bus route, not a bus lane, because the implication is buses have right of way.

    I would be happy to pay a road tax for cycling – as that would put to rest the idea that we cyclists don’t subscribe to roads and maintenance so are relegated as scroungers because the “drivers” pay taxes.

  • *I would be happy to pay a road tax for cycling *

    Road tax doesn’t exist, only car tax.

    And many cars do not pay car tax, low emission and old vehicles are exempt.

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