Shadow Transport Secretary Michael Dugher says Labour will create a real cycling revolution should it win next year’s general election by committing to long-term investment supported by measures such as stricter safety rules for lorries and ensuring “justice is done” in cases where cyclists are the victims.
The Barnsley East MP, who replaced Mary Creagh in the shadow cabinet role earlier this month, attacked the coalition government’s record on cycling in a statement reported by Local Transport Today.
He criticised the government for its decision, following the 2010 general election, to scrap Cycling England and the Cycling Towns and Cities initiative, as well as noting that little had come of Prime Minister David Cameron’s promised “cycling revolution” apart from last month’s Cycling Delivery Plan.
Published last month, the plan was described as “derisory” by national cyclists’ charity CTC, and was also criticised by British Cycling and the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group for setting unambitious targets and failing to commit to annual minimum spend of £10 a head on cycling.
He called for “real action now to ensure that the country benefits from safer roads, increased levels of cycling and effective road sharing for all types of road traffic” and said, “where this Government has refused to act, a future Labour government will deliver for cyclists.”
Mr Dugher was speaking ahead of yesterday’s announcement by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg of an additional £214 million in funding for cycling for the three years 2015/15 to 2017/18.
But £114 million of that money however will be split between just eight cities in England – those that were successful in securing Cycle City Ambition funding last year – with the remaining £100 million going to the planned successor body to the Highways Agency.
Sustrans and CTC, among others, welcomed the extra cash, but repeated their call for investment of £10 per head per year across the country.
Mr Dugher promised that a Labour government would ensure “better cycling education, stronger road safety enforcement and enhanced road engineering for the benefit of cyclists,” and outlined how it achieve that.
He said the party would “outline a proper long-term plan with clarity over funding sources,” and would act quickly to produce a cross-departmental strategy to promote active travel.
Provision for cyclists would be designed into major transport projects to “put pedestrians and cyclists at the centre of our roads policy,” and a future Labour government would also look to draw on the Active Travel Act now in force in Wales.
Under a proposed HGV safety charter, all lorries would be fitted with features such as rear-facing cameras, side guards and audible warning systems, while the party would also reintroduce road safety targets to cut the number of deaths and serious injuries.
Reflecting calls from groups such as Road Peace, British Cycling and CTC to overhaul the legal system’s approach following road traffic incidents where a bike rider is the victim, he said, “We need to ensure that justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries.”
Adding that Labour would also commit to continue funding Bikeability training, Mr Dugher said the party would “implement real changes.”
He added: “We’ve seen over the last four and a half years that it’s easy for politicians to talk about their support for cycling and promise a “cycling revolution”. But people can see through the hype.
“What is needed is real action and a long-term strategic effort to promote cycling from both national and local government. And this is what we will set out to deliver in 2015.”
Whether Labour will play a part in the next government is open to question. In the wake of September’s referendum on Scottish independence, the party has taken a battering in opinion polls north of the border, with the SNP enjoying a surge of support.
Current projections are that Labour, widely seen as needing a strong performance in Scotland if it is to have any chance of a Westminster majority, may lose all but a handful of its seats there to the SNP.
That could leave Labour as the largest single party following the general election but without an overall majority, and with the Liberal Democrats forecast to lose most of their seats, the SNP could well become the third largest party in terms of seats.
Earlier this month, the SNP’s new leader, Nicola Sturgeon, said she would not rule out the prospect of her party seeking a coalition with Labour in the event of a hung parliament come May next year.
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