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David Lammy: Britain must get serious about cycling safety

ON THEIR BIKES: Cyclists brave central London roads (PA)

CYCLING IN London is not an activity David Lammy would let his young children do because he does not “feel secure enough about the safety” provisions currently offered to those pedalling through the capital’s streets.

The Labour MP for Tottenham spoke in Parliament at the beginning of this week about the recently published Get Britain Cycling report and called for a “profound and cultural change” to get more people on the saddle and out of their cars.

His comments follow growing pressure on London mayor Boris Johnson to act on concerns about dangers cyclists face, particularly heavy goods vehicles after a number of recent deaths involving lorries.

“We need long-term commitments and aims, not simply the short-term and headline-grabbing initiatives we have had in the past”, Lammy said.

“The target of a 10 per cent modal share for cycling by 2025 is good, but that will not happen by itself. Shockingly, just six per cent of people in Britain cycle for more than 30 minutes once a week and only two per cent use a bike to get to work.”

Speaking further about his own experience and family, Lammy said he took his “family to Holland this summer on a cycling holiday.”

He added: “I took a five-year-old and a seven-year-old, and we did about 80 km in 10 days. I do not think I could do that in this country.

“I certainly do not think I could do it easily in London, because I simply would not feel secure enough about the safety of a five-year-old and a seven-year-old on their bikes on the cycleways.”

WIDE LOAD: A lorry stalks Boris Johnson during a photo-shoot at an event where cyclists and HGV drivers could switch places (PA)

The Labour politician said other parents shared similar worries.

In regards to London and Britain’s safety record for keeping cyclists out of harm’s way, Lammy added: “The number of cycling casualties in London has increased every year since 2008, which is only partly explained by the cycling participation rates.

“Nationally, 122 cyclists were killed on British roads last year. So road accidents are still proportionately involving cycling, despite the incidence of other road accidents falling.”

This morning the mayor attended an event outside the Houses of Parliament allowing cyclists and HGV drivers to exchange places and consider the views each has of the road.

Johnson has been criticised for not doing enough to safeguard vulnerable road users from HGVs by campaign groups, and there have been several recent protests held by cyclists in the capital.

British Cycling is urging the mayor to consider restricting HGVs from central London.

The group’s policy director Martin Gibbs said: “Long lorries are dangerous for cycling because they increase the driver’s blind spot which is especially dangerous to people on bikes and pedestrians when pulling away at junctions and when turning.”

He compared London’s record to Paris, saying the French capital is better protecting those on bicycles.

He added: “Fatality rates can fluctuate year on year but road traffic incidents involving cyclists in Paris in 2011 were just eight per cent of the total compared to 15 per cent in London.

“In both cities this is well above the number of trips taken by bike (two – three per cent in both cities) and shows that people are far more likely to be involved in an incident while cycling in London than Paris.”

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