MPs and peers take to two wheels
The bike ride itself took place in glorious weather, with MPs, peers and others riding from the Dutch embassy in Kensington to Parliament. After the ride, there were speeches from a cross-party panel of MPs on how best to encourage more and safer cycling.
Dr Sarah Wollaston MP (Con), Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (APPCG), opened the discussion. She called for cycling to be discussed on the main stage of her party's conference this autumn, and for the APPCG Get Britain Cycling report recommendations to be reflected in her party's manifesto. She was particularly keen to see long-term funding for Bikeability cycle training, for people of all ages.
Sarah was followed by Mary Creagh MP, Labour's shadow transport secretary. Mary is herself a regular utility cyclist, having taken it up "out of necessity" as a student - "no lycra, no helmets", she insisted - adding that "I want everyone to have the same joy and freedom that cycling has given me." She talked about how she had continued cycling while pregnant, noticing that this prompted drivers to give her a wider berth than usual.
No lycra, no helmets - I want everyone to have the same joy and freedom that cycling has given me."
Mary Creagh MP
She promised that a future Labour Government would "cycle-proof" all roads, designing cycling in from the outset. She advocated action to promote safe driving and called for the widespread use of 20mph limits, describing them as "an amazing idea which is transformational for public space".
Mary Creagh also highlighted the need for a particular effort to encourage more women to cycle. "Let's drive cycling from the margin to the mainstream", she said, arguing that leadership was key to achieving this.
The third speaker was Julian Huppert MP, the LibDem MP for Cambridge and co-chair of APPCG. He stressed the need for long-term funding of at least £10 per person for cycling, adding that calls for "an end to stop-start funding for cycling must leave us in start mode"! He agreed with his APPCG co-chair Ian Austen MP (who was chairing the meeting) on the importance of mobilising the cycling vote, highlighting the excellent work the Cambridge Cycling Campaign does on this.
Questions from the floor covered the importance of Bikeability cycle training, disability cycling, electric cycles (noting that these too can be a mobility aid), consistently high design standards, and the need to maintain the Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
"It's not just about segregation, we also need 20mph limits and a change of priority for road space. That's what's needed to persuade more women, more children, more people with disabilities, to take up cycling".
To wrap up, Chris Boardman, former Olympic champion and British Cycling's policy advisor, took the floor. He called for a range of solutions to encourage more people to cycle: "It's not just about segregation, we also need 20mph limits and a change of priority for road space. That's what's needed to persuade more women, more children, more people with disabilities, to take up cycling". He too called for political leadership to make this happen.
CTC, British Cycling, Sustrans and others are now discussing how to ensure the cycling message is heard loud and clear at the main party conferences. We have all been very consistent for a long time in what we've been calling for. It's now time for Britain's most senior politicians to heed the message and act on it!