Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
Again, there is the mistaken fear that cycling is unduly dangerous. In point of fact???anyhow, in point of statistical fact???one's chances of being involved in an accident are four times as great in a motor car and ten times as great on a motor cycle as they are on a pedal cycle. Yet although one can still survive on a pedal bicycle, I must admit that the pleasure of cycling, at any rate on the main roads and in towns, grows less with every year that passes.
Constant vigilance and sustained concentration are now necessary. One is continually near-missed by a veritable whirlwind of desperately driven cars???or, at least, that is the way it seems to the cyclist. Indeed, some drivers openly resent the presence of cyclists on the main roads and expect them to get out of their way. If the worst happens and they do not get out of their way, motorists rely very often on the fact that there will probably be a majority of fellow-motorists on the jury.
When we consider the consequences of the decline in cycling, we come to firmer ground. It spells greater demands on public transport, higher living costs and no regular fresh air and exercise for a growing proportion of the population. The decline in club cycling means that there is so much less healthy social life and less healthy exercise for the rising generation, and so much more hanging about with consequent temptation to get into mischief. To my mind, the most serious consequence of the decline in cycling is that it was once the principal means whereby the population kept fit.
At the risk of making myself unpopular, I wish to advocate the far more extensive construction of cycle tracks. Segregation of different types of road user is, surely, the means to both safety and comfort. I know that the cycling clubs have consistently boycotted the tracks, and, for that matter, so has the long-distance, fast cyclist. To be fair to these people, however, the surface of the existing tracks is not really safe for a light-weight bicycle ridden fast. Nevertheless, I understand it to be the opinion of the police, contrary to popular opinion, that the great majority of cyclists always use tracks when they can.
A great deal of special pleading has been deployed against the tracks. For example, most ingenious statistics have been cooked up to show that it is as dangerous to cycle along a track as it is to cycle on the carriageway. It all depends, of course, on the kind of accident one has in mind. However, the true case for cycle tracks rests, I should say, far more on comfort than on safety. I myself always use a cycle track when there is one. The use of a cycle track enables the rider to relax and look at the scenery; indeed, one can even compose one's next oration while riding along.
Provided that the tracks were reasonably wide and well maintained, I do not myself believe that there would be nearly as much opposition to making them compulsory on the trunk roads as is sometimes supposed. In passing, Mr. Speaker, I will point out that that would not require legislation. The existing powers are sufficient for that to be done. Of course, in built-up, urban areas segregation is not possible.
This leads me to my second and even less popular suggestion, I suggest that, in the interests not only of cyclists but, incidentally, of pedestrians as well, the time has really come when serious consideration should be given to enforcing the 30 miles-an-hour speed limit, at least during those times of the day when large numbers of people are going to work or returning home after work. I recognise that a great number of drivers already observe the limits, but the existence of even a few cars which overtake at 50 miles an hour in a crowded street imposes a very great strain on the cyclist.