Get Tories Cycling…………with a full stomach

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Tories eat well, as I discovered at a Bridgewater Hall lunchtime meeting – part of their Party Cconference Transport Hub. This fringe event  was chaired by Philip Pank, transport correspondent for The Times which launched Cities Fit for Cycling  campaign following a serious injury to their reporter Mary Bowers.  Last year deaths of all road users fell but cycling fatalities increased by 10 percent – admittedly from a low base. While welcoming the government’s announcement  in August of £160m for cycling Philip noted the annual roads budget exceeds £1.3 billion. And so to the panel…….

Sarah Wollaston is MP for Totnes, member of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group and a former GP. She highlighted the public health benefits of active travel and warned against scaring parents with the small relative risks of cycling. Dr Sarah wants investment of £10 per head per annum – small in comparison with the billions planned for HS2.

As head of PR for the Freight Traffic Association,  Michael  Webb was Daniel in the lion’s den.  More bikes and  fewer cars on the road smooth the passage of  his freight and FTA staff are encouraged to cycle to work.  Although admitting HGVs are responsible for serious accidents Michael was not keen on Boris’s Safer Lorry £200 Charge. FTA member Cemex Changing Places scheme increases understanding between lorry drives and cyclists. He supports 20 mph limits for promoting more reliable delivery times as well as more cycling – a view shared by all the panellists.

Jonathan Bray, Director, Pteg Support Unit believes it was a mistake to abolish Cycling England but now cycling is moving from the margins to the mainstream of transport thinking. The momentum outside London needs to be maintained for greater revenue and capital spending. More people want to live in smarter car-free cities.

Sustrans policy director Jason Torrance is encouraged that 24 organisations came together to Get Britain Cycling.

Between courses  discussion continued: a Cheshire councillor celebrated decluttered shared space and urged us all to try the magic roundabout at Poynton,  bike manufacturers should de-lycrify the image of cyclists,  transport engineers need better cycling education. Comparisons were made with our continental neighbours: Berlin is delightful, in Paris HGVs are banned between 07 00 and 19 00hrs. Across Europe strict liability laws protect vulnerable road users. Back home Boris and TfL were not universally lauded with criticism of his super highways.

After pudding MP Sarah looked forward to the parliamentary review of sentencing guidelines for road traffic offences (due  early in 2014) while there was just time for me to grab an éclair en route to the dentist.

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