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Transport Select Committee hearing: There's not a war on London's roads, but it's a battlefield

Follow up hearing discusses recent cyclist deaths in capital, but commentator says MPs 'ill-informed and out of touch'...

Poor quality infrastructure and bad driving are the main threats to cyclist safety in London, London Cycling Campaign chief executive Ashok Sinha has told the House of Commons Transport Committee.

MPs heard evidence from a number of parties on cycling safety in a follow up session in the House of Commons yesterday, after a spate of cyclist deaths.

Mr Sinha told the two-hour sitting of the committee: "There are places and times in London when you are not protected as well as you should be (as a cyclist) and you are at risk.

"I would say to cyclists, 'Yes, keep cycling in London, but there are dangers in places and particular circumstances'."

He told the committee that there was not a ‘war’ between cyclists and motorists, adding “A lot of people are very concerned. I hope people are not put off cycling.”

Metropolitan Police Commander Dave Martin also spoke, and agreed with Mr Sinha’s comments.

He said: “I would not describe it as a war. But there have been things that have caused great concern.

"People are going through red lights - both cyclists and motorists. And motorists are still using mobile phones at the wheel."

He told the committee that the police crackdown on road safety behaviour was not unfairly targeted at cyclists.

But Katja Leyendecker, the Newcastle Cycling Campaign chairman, said that if there was no war, there was "certainly a battlefield out there".

Val Shawcross, Chair of the London Assembly Transport Committee noted that it was mainly ‘fit young men’ cycling in the capital, despite infrastructure improvements like the cycle superhighways, which she said had been a “long learning process”.

Meanwhile David Davies, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Counsel for Transport Safety, said cycling was as safe as walking, and that pedestrian deaths did not get the same publicity.

He said: "In London and across the UK as a whole there are considerably more pedestrians, considerably more motorcyclists and vehicle occupants as well who die, so the number of cyclists deaths, although it has had huge attention, is quite a small minority.

"It is very welcome that cycling is getting this safety attention but in some ways it is a shame every time a pedestrian is run over in London it doesn't merit similar attention."

Asked how safe it is to cycle in the capital, he added: "If you measure it in terms of casualties per mile travelled, then walking and cycling[are] broadly comparable which perhaps suggests walking is not as safe as some people think it might be."

Some commentators were disheartened at the quality of the inquiry, with the Guardian’s Peter Walker writing that the Tory MP Martin Vickers, “asked – and he was being entirely serious – if the panel felt cyclists should "contribute" financially to the upkeep of roads.

“Yes, that's right. The "road tax" question, the litmus test for someone who not only doesn't understand the very basics about cycling policy but hasn't the barest minimum of intellectual curiosity about it. Silly enough in a pub conversation.

"For an MP, let alone an MP on the transport select committee, let alone an MP on the transport select committee discussing cycling, it's unforgivable.”

In a tweet, he described the committee as “Ill-informed, silly and out of touch.”

Robert Goodwill MP, the cycling minister will also give evidence on cycling safety at 5.50pm tomorrow.

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