Philip PankTransport Correspondent
Last updated at 12:01AM, September 21 2012
The Government has pledged to implement any innovative measures on cycle safety that emerge from a cross-party inquiry into cycling that was launched yesterday.
A panel of ten MPs will examine proposals that could achieve the aim of The Times’s Cities Fit for Cycling campaign of encouraging more people to cycle — and to do so more safely.
The group’s report, which will follow hearings in the autumn and new year, is being funded by a £10,000 grant from News International, parent company of The Times.
The MPs will invite expert witnesses to address hearings that are expected to cover a range of issues, including road design, training, road safety, the role of local councils, improving integration with public transport and the need for joined-up government.
Those expected to give evidence include cycling charities, road safety groups, engineers, rail operators, council officials, and civil servants from the departments for transport, health and education, as well as the Treasury. The Prime Minister and transport ministers will be invited to participate.
The final report, which is expected to be entitled “Why don’t more people cycle?”, will be compiled by a leading transport academic. The initiative is being led by the MPs Ian Austin and Julian Huppert, co-chairmen of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. Labour has also said that it would support the recommendations.
Mr Austin said: “The Times campaign has given cycling safety a higher priority than ever before and the stunning success by British cyclists this summer has more people interested in cycling. We want to use this inquiry to get all the political parties signed up to an action plan to create a better environment for cycling, make cycling safer and to get more people on their bikes.”
Mr Huppert said: “This work is crucially important if we are to seriously promote cycling as a safe, viable means of transport and give it the investment it needs and which has been seriously lacking in the past.”
The inquiry comes after the Commons Transport Committee found this summer that the Government lacked an action plan for safer cycling. The committee suggested that ministers use the eight-point manifesto proposed by this newspaper as a road map to better provision. The all-party group aims to make further recommendations that will resonate with Cabinet ministers.
Politicians from all parties, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson, have pledged support for The Times campaign, but there are fears that, unless the Prime Minister shows personal leadership, it will be hard to secure progress across government departments.
Official figures show that casualties among cyclists continue to rise. The number killed or seriously injured rose by 15 per cent last year to 3,192.
Stephen Hammond, the Road Safety Minister, said he hoped that potential cyclists were not being deterred and vowed to heed any solutions proposed by the study that might improve safety. “If there are some new, innovative ideas, we will look very closely at what we can do to ensure they become best practice, or indeed policy, if necessary.”
This newspaper began its campaign after a Times reporter, Mary Bowers, was crushed by a lorry on her ride to work. Almost 11 months after the collision, she is yet to regain full consciousness.