Call to protect rural cyclists

MPs have called on the government to help protect rural cyclists by improving road safety.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Liberal Democrat MP Tim Farron (South Lakes) highlighted the need for better protections and training for cyclists.

Recent deaths on the A590 and the A591 in Cumbria suggested ministers should do to ensure that rural cycling accidents were prevented, he said.

The Lib Dem president pressed transport minister Norman Baker, on the exact figures due to be spent on cycle safety in the next financial year.

Mr Farron said "It's shocking that for the last six years; around 30 people have been caught up in cycling accident in South Lakes alone.

He added: "These figures are far too high and we need to do more to ensure that getting on your bike doesn't mean risking your life."

Mr Farron said he was glad the government is giving our local authorities the freedom to spend money on transport how they wished.

But he continued: "I would seriously urge them to make cycling safety a priority. Simple measures can make the difference between life and death."

Tory MP Sarah Wollaston (Totnes) said 11 people had been killed or seriously injured cycling in her constituency between 2005 and 2010.

"I suggest that driving and overtaking at 60 mph on a rural lane and hitting a cyclist is not an accident – that is a crash," she said.

"It minimises, and makes it worse for the victims' families if we call them accidents. Let us abandon the language of denial and neglect."

The government should follow the lead of the Netherlands, which was reducing the speed limit to the equivalent of 40mph on rural road networks.

"It is disappointing to hear that perhaps that is not something the Department [of Transport] will press forward with."

Ms Wollaston said the government should also introduce a safe passing distance of at least one metre between motor vehicles and cyclists.

"That should made very clear, be part of the driving test and in the Highway Code," she said.

Transport minister Norman Baker said the government was encouraging councils to take forward plans to improve cycle infrastructure in their areas.

On the number of deaths, any death is too many and is a tragedy for the families involved," said Mr Baker.

"However, we can take some comfort from the fact that the average between 1984-88 was 186 deaths a year.

"That figure is now down to 111, which is about a 40% decrease. It is 111 too many, but it is going in the right direction in terms of the long-term trend."

A transcript of the full debate can be read here.


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