Get Britain Cycling parliamentary debate – what does it mean for Newcastle

On Monday 2 September 2013 one hundred MPs attended the House of Commons (and it was their first day back after summer recess too!) to debate the state of cycling in Britain and what should be done to get Britain cycling. The motion asked “that this House welcomes the recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s report ‘Get Britain Cycling’; endorses the target of 10% of all journeys being by bike by 2025, and 25% by 2050; and calls on the Government to show strong political leadership, including an annual Cycling Action Plan and sustained funding for cycling” and after a four hour debate was unanimously accepted.

Nationally the debate was greeted overwhelmingly positively by campaigning and cycling organisations, and some may say it was the most pro-bike debate, a rallying call, they had ever seen in Parliament yet.

But what does this mean locally, for Newcastle?

Many MPs did not only attend, and showed their support that way, many also spoke. For Newcastle, Catherine McKinnell MP (North) and MP Chi Onwurah MP (Central) both attended, leaving Nick Brown MP (East) absent. Catherine had contacted us before to say she had to leave the House early, she nonetheless managed to speak and we thank her. But it must have been Chi who made a real reverberating impression in the House by speaking – at length – with passion and knowledge, watch and read here. Chi’s main points are:

  • pressing for action not just ‘warm words’
  • people will cycle ‘if they can feel safe doing so’
  • lack of national leadership by ministers
  • laments scrapping of Cycling England as technical body
  • puts in question the invisible national Cycle Stakeholder Forum
  • importance of funding certainty and meaningful amounts
  • requests national standards for cycle infrastructure design and educating more people with design skills
  • review of sentencing guidelines for careless and reckless drivers
  • We think that Chi’s speech highlights the right aspects and areas that must now be addressed in order to get Britain on the bike. And her sharp words really did pave the way for the pulverising speech that her party colleague Maria Eagle MP Shadow Secretary of Transport had to offer to the ministers about 1.5 hours later in the ‘final sprint’ to get Britain cycling.

    We are extremely inspired and want to see more of this kind of pedal-positive debate – locally too. It’s not the wrong time to point out that we are still waiting for action in Newcastle, where, equally to the national situation, warm words have not translated into concrete changes to make our roads safe to cycle.

    Debate details in Parliament website here
    Video on BBC democracylive here