Westminster Hall: Cycling & Government Investment

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Sir Oliver Heald (North East Hertfordshire) (Con): Does my hon. Friend agree that good-quality cycle racks, in quantity, are important at railway stations so that people can interact with another form of transport that might take them to London or another city?

Chris Green: Absolutely. It is important that cycling is part of a daily routine, perhaps as part of a journey if not the whole journey. I was thinking earlier about Bolton station, a major station serving many of my constituents, who have to travel all the way through the station to one of the platforms to drop their bike off at the cycle rack. Then on the return trip, instead of just being able to just pick it up at the entrance and off they go, they must make an awkward journey through rush-hour passenger traffic. It is important to have the right facilities at railway stations.

Naturally, interest in cycling naturally peaks with the Olympics and the Tour de France, which generate a great deal of interest in cycling as a sport, butwe need to ensure that people feel that they can cycle as part of their daily routine. Good governance is essential in improving investment in cycling and the execution of that investment in local government and communities. Many hon. Members will be aware of the Government’s cycle to work scheme, which operates as a salary sacrifice employee benefit. Employers buy or lease cycling equipment from suppliers and hire it to their employees. Employees who participate in the scheme can save up to about 40% on the cost of a bicycle and cycling safety equipment. More than 600,000 employees have participated in the scheme to date. I have heard anecdotally that councils have a slightly lower take-up rate than the private sector, which is not only a concern for the health of council workers but is perhaps suggestive of councils’ enthusiasm for cycling.

The cycle to work scheme provides a mechanism to change the perception of cycling and sustainable travel and behaviour towards it. The Cycle to Work Alliance’s recent survey showed that 62% of participants were non-cyclists, novice cyclists or occasional cyclists before joining the scheme. Having joined, 79% of respondents described themselves as enthusiastic cyclists.

John Stevenson (Carlisle) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. In Pendle, a huge number of firms have taken advantage of the Government’s scheme. One is Carradice cycle bags in Nelson, in my constituency. It has seen a huge increase in the number of employees cycling to work thanks to the Government’s initiative, so it is important to continue it in the years to come.

Chris Green: It is fantastic to hear about the impact of the Government’s scheme in the private sector, and about bosses encouraging people to live healthy lives on daily basis, which will make a difference to people. There will be all kinds of other benefits.

In setting out the process and timescales for the first cycling and walking investment strategy, the Government are seeking to ensure that local government and business partners design places and routes for people travelling by bicycle or on foot at a local level across the country. Members will be aware that funding for the strategy, which has not been done before, is to be allocated on the same basis as that for rail, motorways and main A roads, with £300 million dedicated to cycling and walking over the next five years.

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