MP bids to get truckers on bikes
It would "not be a bad idea" to get truck drivers on bikes to show them how vulnerable cyclists can be on the road, Transport Minister Robert Goodwill has told MPs.
It was important not only that lorry drivers understood the problems for cyclists on the roads but cyclists should understand truckers' difficulties, he told the House of Commons Transport Committee tonight.
He was giving evidence after a tragic November on London roads, with six cyclists dying in a two-week period during the month.
Mr Goodwill told MPs that in the course of educating heavy goods vehicle operators on the needs of cyclists, "it would not be a bad idea to get truck drivers on cycles".
But he went on: "But judging by the physique of some truckers it might not be easy to do it."
Earlier this week, the committee had taken evidence from London Mayor Boris Johnson's cycling commissioner, journalist Andrew Gilligan.
This session led to strong criticism later from former Olympic cycling champion Chris Boardman who said the MPs should be "embarrassed" by their performance.
The committee's chairman Louise Ellman has since invited Boardman, British Cycling's policy adviser, to give evidence at another session on cycling safety.
Today, Mr Goodwill said he was "slightly critical" of those who criticised the transport committee. He added that there was a lot of public concern about cycling safety and that he hoped the committee could "at the same time as allaying fears about the safety of cycling, also ensure we do more to promote cycling and get more people on two wheels".
Asked if local authorities were being stretched to be able to afford cycling initiatives, Mr Goodwill said the current Government was spending twice as much on cycling as the previous administration.
He added that there were opportunities for "quick wins" on cycling schemes and that some of the best schemes were not necessarily the ones that cost much money.
Mr Goodwill cycled through a part of London last week to see for himself what conditions were like. He told the committee that he had seen good practices during his ride as well as some "nightmare" ones.
He invited members of the committee to cycle through London as well.
He went on: "We are improving cycle safety. It may be because there are more experienced cyclists around."
Mr Goodwill said that as far as cycling safety was concerned he believed there was "safety in numbers". He went on: "If you have a lot of cyclists on the streets then drivers look out for them and expect to see them.
"The more cyclists there are on the streets the more chance there is of drivers looking out for them all the time."
Mr Goodwill said all road users had to comply with the rules of the roads although he understood the desire of some motorists to get away quickly when traffic lights changed at busy junctions.
He said that consideration was being given to introducing an "early-start green bicycle signal" at some lights. He went on: "We are looking at how that can be delivered."
Mr Goodwill was asked if police were now targeting cyclists. He replied: "I have noticed that there has been a bit more police presence at junctions.
"I understand that a number of cyclists have been advised (by police) of their responsibilities under the law."
Mr Goodwill said the "vast majority" of road haulage companies had a "very responsible attitude to safety" but there were problems in London with "some smaller operators".
Asked about the possible setting up of a national "cycling champion", Mr Goodwill said he was a little wary about the whole business of appointing "tsars and champions".
He said that if the transport committee recommended such an appointment, it would be "very hard to say no" but it was important that the role of such a champion should be clearly defined before an appointment was made.
Outlining the amount of cycling training now available in schools, Mr Goodwill said adults could also learn about cycling safety.
He added: "Many people do not understand how to cycle in traffic. They are the ones most at risk."