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MPs: Cut speed limits to get millions more cyclists on the road

The Independent: Cut speed limits to get millions more cyclists on the road, urge MPs

NIGEL MORRIS WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2013

The speed limit in towns should be cut to 20mph and more dangerous drivers jailed in an effort to persuade millions more people to take up cycling, MPs of all parties say in a report today.

They are also calling for a ban on heavy lorries using city centre streets at the busiest times, along with more bike parking at stations and the construction of cycling lanes with their own traffic lights.

Politicians are urged to take immediate action – including a vast increase in spending on cycling – with the aim of achieving a 10-fold increase in bicycle journeys.

The manifesto will be presented today by the Parliamentary Cycling Group. Its chairmen, the Labour MP Ian Austin and the Liberal Democrat Julian Huppert, said interest in cycling soared last year thanks to British victories in the Tour de France and the London Olympics.

But they warn: "We are in danger of squandering the Olympic legacy and failing to create a healthier, more active UK."

Fewer than 2 per cent of journeys in Britain are currently made by bicycle, compared with 27 per cent in the Netherlands, 19 per cent in Denmark and 10 per cent in Germany. The MPs say Britain should achieve the figure of 10 per cent by 2025, rising to a quarter of journeys in 2050, through a series of moves to make cycling safer and more attractive.

With more than 120 cyclists killed last year in "tragic and avoidable" accidents, they call for 20mph speed limits to be set in most urban roads and back limits of 40mph in many rural lanes. Earlier this year Brighton become one of the first British cities to introduce a 20mph limit.

The MPs also call on police and courts to take a much tougher approach to speeding and reckless motorists, accusing judges of frequently handing down "trivial sentences" even over collisions resulting in the death of cyclists. They suggest extra training for the drivers of heavy vehicles and for safety features to be fitted on trucks to better enable them to spot cyclists.

Spending on cycling projects should be raised from less than £2 per person in England to £10 per head, equivalent to £500m a year, and rising to £20 per person as the number using bikes increases, they say. The cash should be used to create more cycle lanes, improve road surfaces, redesign junctions to make them more bike-friendly and install traffic lights for cyclists.

They add: "Bike security is also an important factor in people's decision to cycle and we call for more secure bike parking at both ends of a journey, including at railway stations."

The committee urges the appointment of a national cycling champion to lead efforts to increase bike use and for all children to be taught cycling skills at school.

Chris Boardman, the cycling Olympic gold medallist, said: "The benefits of getting more people to cycle in terms of health and improving the places in which we live are clear. We need to be ambitious and set ourselves quantifiable targets to increase the number of people on bikes."

Casualties of the road: Cycling deaths

Paula Jurek

The 20-year-old student was killed in April 2011 in Camden Town, north London, after being knocked over by a lorry. A friend, Paul Dean, said she was a "kind and open" person who loved travelling and different cultures.

Gary Mason

The former British boxing champion died in a cycling crash in south London in January 2011. Mason, 48, was on his bicycle in Sandy Lane South, Wallington, when he was involved in a collision with a van. The retired fighter was pronounced dead at the scene.

David Poblet

The promising actor died just days after auditioning for Rada. Mr Poblet, 20, was killed in a crash with a skip lorry in Bermondsey, south-east London, in March 2011. He had appeared in two short films and was on the books of two modelling agencies.

Eilidh Cairns

A 30-year-old television producer, Ms Cairns was killed by a lorry while cycling in Notting Hill, west London, in 2009. Her sister has campaigned for HGVs to be fitted with sensors. A "ghost bike" was placed at the site of her death.

Daniel Harris

During last summer's Olympic Games, notable not least for Britain's cycling successes, the 28-year-old was killed after a crash with an Olympics media shuttle bus just outside the London 2012 complex. He was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, outside the main press centre.