Andrew Smith MP

On your side in Oxford East

Need for real vision for cycling

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It's good that the coalition has announced extra money for cycling, even though I hear it's actually less than they previously cut from the budget for cycling support.

I am pleased that Oxford will get a small share of the money, enabling improvements for cycling safety to be implemented at the Plain in St Clements. I have a vested interest in that I am a cyclist myself, but I think it will be greatly to the benefit of health and the environment -- as well as cutting congestion -- if we can make it more attractive and safer for more people to travel by bike.

One-off schemes, and funding initiatives here and there, however welcome, are not enough to bring about the scale of change we need to make cycling throughout the country -- including in rural areas -- as safe and viable a transport option as it needs to be.

What is needed is to put into practice an ambitious and comprehensive vision of improved provision for cycling and cyclists. We only have to look across the North Sea to the Netherlands to see what can be done. Now of course the Netherlands has the advantage of being on the whole a lot flatter than England, but the interesting thing is that what has driven the much higher proportion of journeys undertaken by bike there is the standard and scale or the cycling infrastructure put in place years ago in the wake of national revulsion at the numbers of cyclists killed on Dutch roads.

I am convinced that if we had more safe cycle routes -- and ones which don't end just at the point where the road engineers find it hard to make room for bikes -- and more secure cycle parking, we would see many more people take to cycling. We also need a culture where cyclists build a better reputation for abiding by the rules when it comes to traffic lights and pavements, and where motorists give more space and consideration to cyclists. On this, progress has been made in recent years, but you still see too many scary instances of cars and lorries brushing too close to cyclists. The deaths and injuries to cyclists are a national disgrace.

Wouldn't it be great if we could have more safer cycle routes to school, so that more children could get to school safely by bike, emulating Cherwell School in Oxford, which has one of the highest rates of pupils cycling to school in the country.

I shall be speaking up on these issues when the Commons holds a special debate on cycling next month. I would welcome thoughts from cyclists and others as to the important points you would like put across. Please do email me at Andrew.Smith.MP@gmail.com or write to me at Unit A Bishops Mews, Transport Way, Oxford OX4 6HD.

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