in case you thought current and recent governments were bad, look at what you get when you go back to the days of futuristic New Towns and Highways In The Sky… Cycling debate, Hansard 10 Dec 1976.
Mr John Horam (Gateshead West)Mr Anthony Steen (Liverpool Wavertree)
The hon. Member has put his finger on the point. We are talking essentially about local authority money, so, while the Department may be anxious to spend its own money, it cannot spend other people's quite so readily. This is a matter, as I indicated in the case of Portsmouth, where one must rely essentially on local autonomy. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman, who is undoubtedly no Stalinist, would not want to impose on people a huge bureaucracy which forced them to do locally that which they would not want to do of their own accord.
We have been actively seeking out authorities which want to do something for cyclists and positively to encourage them, albeit within the restraints that we all face, to take positive measures. One issue which, curiously enough, the hon. Gentleman did not raise, came up in the debate in July 1975. We were urged to take action in places for which the Department is directly responsible, such as the Royal Parks. At that time the cycle route in Richmond Park was introduced. Since then we have created a route in Hyde Park, … and we shall certainly monitor the position to see whether it becomes congested, whether there are too many accidents and so on.
The Government therefore have a positive record to show???a record of advice and active participation in local schemes and of instituting our own schemes.
Let me nevertheless add two cautions. There are snags in doing too much for cyclists. There is a difficulty in creating cycle lanes. Often there is not enough room for them in inner city areas. Their creation there will often add to congestion. They may take only a small amount of room, perhaps a quarter that of a bus lane, but road space is narrowly restricted.
Here again we take a positive attitude. Cyclists can use with-flow bus lanes … although they should keep their eyes open and perhaps even have eyes in the backs of their heads.
The adjustment of traffic lights to help cyclists is another point which has been raised many times in our debates. The problem there is the conflict with the interests of the pedestrian. Any spare time on traffic lights should be given to pedestrians rather than used in favour of cyclists. I think that the hon. Gentleman would agree that the pedestrian is even more vulnerable than the cyclist in today's modern traffic conditions.
Segregated cycle tracks are another much-vaunted solution to the problem. Again, these pose difficulties???for example, in providing crossings over traffic junctions, and so on, without incurring considerable expense.
Finally, perhaps I may say that we do not see cycling and extra provision for the cyclist???although we want it for its own sake???as necessarily a big part of the answer to traffic congestion in towns, which must essentially be dealt with by other means.
Perhaps the Minister will consider my suggestion???I have always felt that it makes a lot of sense???that in the inner part of the inner city areas we should actually close down access to the motor car and provide really efficient public bus services and an efficient taxi service. That has been done in other capitals, I understand, with pedestrian streets, and so on, and it makes living in the centre of big cities so much more pleasant and access so much easier. Mr John Horam (Gateshead West)
I entirely agree. We encourage local authorities to undertake sensible pedestrianisation schemes and sensible schemes to ban lorries and to ban traffic in large volumes. Essentially, although that can be done, it operates best in limited areas and particular parts of the central areas, and not the whole areas.