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Robert Goodwill at the Transport Select Committee

5th December 2013

Robert Goodwill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for Transport, with responsibility for cycling, appeared before the Transport Select Committee yesterday, 4th December 2013. This was the second session of the Committee's Inquiry in to cycling safety in three days. (We reported on the first session, on 2nd December 2013, in our Hedge-blog).

Mr Goodwill began with condolences to the families of those cyclists who have recently been killed in London. He said that in his role as the minister responsible for cycling within the Department for Transport, he wants to do more to promote cycling, and the recent publicity [about the deaths] has not helped. 'The perception amongst many people is that cycling is more dangerous than it actually is.'

This is the one point where Hedgehog Cycling disagrees with Mr Goodwill. It's not the publicity about the deaths that makes people think that cycling is dangerous - it is the deaths themselves. So let's not pretend that all this is somehow the fault of newspapers, for reporting the facts, or cycle campaigners, who are trying to stop cyclists getting killed. We shouldn't exaggerate the dangers of cycling, but that is not a reason for ingoring what is happening.

That apart, Mr Goodwill made clear that he does cycle, both in North Yorkshire, and commuting to Parliament in London. He has recently been assessing cycle provision by bicycle in Leeds and London, and he said that on his tour in London, he'd seen some terrible provision for cycling, as well as some good things. He is to be commended for doing his fact-finding by bike, which must be the right way to do it, and for not being afraid to speak plainly about poor cycle provision. 

He was asked by the Committee chair about the National Transport Model, which shows cycling peaking in 2015. He said that the government's announcement of funding, including Cycle City Ambition may have changed this. The DfT is now expecting an increase in cycle journeys of :

  • 5% by 2015
  • 7.5% by 2025, and
  • 10% by 2035

(This seems unambitious to us).

Mr Goodwill was asked a number of questions about HGVs. He had statistics which showed the disproportionate danger they present to cyclists (for example, they are 3% of traffic in London, but account for 37% of cyclists killed or seriously injured. It seems that the government is not planning any regulation at the moment, to make the best equipment compulsory for HGVs.

He was asked about the recent report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on cycling. He said he and his officials would look at it again, and he asked the Committee to filter it, and pick out the most important points. (We would think this is unnecessary and unhelpful. The report is quite succinct, and in any event, some members of the Committee showed a remarkable level of ignorance in the hearing 2nd December, so we doubt that they are suitable people to undertake this task).

Mr Goodwill said that there are some problems with the guidance currently used by highway engineers working for local authorities. Some new features are being or may be introduced. Cambridge and Manchester are trialling new traffic lights which allow an early start for cyclists, to enable them to get ahead of the traffic. Dutch-style roundabouts with priority for cyclists are being considered; and use of 'armadillos' is being encouraged, and guidance for their use may be produced by the DfT.

Watch Robert Goodwill's appearance before the Transport Select Committee.