Strong support from my MP on cycle safety

This time next week they’ll be a debate held in parliament on cycle safety. In the run up to the debate I thought it would be a good idea to get in touch with my MP for Westminster Karen Buck. I wanted to show that this was an important issue for me and also highlight the improvements as a cyclist I’d like to see. I also wanted to put across the point that I hope the debate won’t be hijacked by discussions of helmets as a primary way of keeping cyclists safe.

Using Write to Them I sent off an email. Within 24 hours I had a response. I’ve summarised the main points below:

  • It cannot be right that people have to fear their friends and relatives getting on a bike, particularly in our cities.
  • Despite the importance of cycling proficiency and awareness, we must never give the impression that the responsibility to prevent collisions simply rests with cyclists.
  • The Times is right to highlight the importance of measures such as improving road junctions, creating alternative cycle routes and improving safety equipment on HGVs.
  • On the cuts the current government made: These cuts included axing of funding for speed cameras, cutting the funding for the highly effective THINK! road safety campaign. It was also a huge mistake to abolish Cycling England, and to discontinue the Cycling City and Towns pilots which were demonstrating just what could be achieved with targeted support for cycling. These should have been rolled out to the rest of the country rather than discontinued by the present government.
  • Labour is now looking seriously at each of the ideas that have been proposed in The Times ‘Cycling for Cities’ cycling safety campaign, including new rules on HGVs, improvements to dangerous junctions, the wider use of 20mph speed limits and how much of our spending on roads is designated to ensure they are safe for cyclists to use.
  • Labour proposals: First, a proportion of existing government funding for roads should be sent aside to be spent on building new cycle ways, improving junction design and installing traffic light phasing to give cyclists a head start.
  • Second, the government’s trial of longer HGVs should be axed and income from the proposed HGV road charging scheme used to support the road haulage industry in upgrading safety measures and training.
  • Third, the national targets to reduce deaths and serious injuries on Britain’s roads, axed by the government, should be reinstated.

It’s good to see that Karen Buck is showing support for important measures such as improving junction design and introducing traffic light phasing.

If you’ve been in touch with your MP via Write To Them or through other means then I’d be really interested in hearing what sort of response you’ve received.

Also: A quick heads up that they’ll be a ride organised by iBikeLondon and friends to Parliament at 6.15pm on Wendesday the 22nd of February.

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26 Responses to Strong support from my MP on cycle safety

  1. WobblyCyclist 16/02/2012 at 11:11 am #

    I got this from Lynne Featherstone. It was also prompt, but i do feel it’s rather a laundry list. I feel a bit bamboozled by her figures – is the Coalition really spending more on cycling than the last government did, despite the abolition of Cycling England? Is she including all the ‘sustainable transport’ projects even if they only have a small cycling component?

    I’m not sure from her response that she supports Dutch-style infrastructure for example, or would want to see a dramatic change to the way we use our road space. Maybe I’m being too critical?

    *****

    Good Afternoon,

    Thank you for writing to me about The Times’ Cities Fit for Cycling campaign. Cycling is an extremely efficient form of transport which is good for your health and the environment, and evidence shows that those who do cycle have a greater life expectancy than those who do not. We do need to ensure that those who do cycle feel safer, and that safety concerns do not prevent others taking up cycling and, in Government, we are doing just that.

    The Lib Dems are particularly committed to encouraging cycling and reducing the number of cycling-related accidents. The Coalition Agreement states that the Government “will support sustainable travel initiatives, including the promotion of cycling”. This has already been put into practice and you will be pleased to know that my Lib Dem colleague and Transport Minister, Norman Baker MP, announced a new £560 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which has already been a resounding success. Every eligible local authority in the country has already applied to the fund.

    In July 2011, Norman Baker announced the first tranche of successful bids who will between them received £150million. 38 out of the 39 successful bids included cycling aspects, which is great news for promoting cycling and improving cycling infrastructure.

    In addition, Norman Baker has announced just this week an extra £15 million of investment in cycling and walking infrastructure. This money will fund safe cycle routes and cycle-rail interchanges – exactly the kind of schemes which The Times is promoting.

    But the Lib Dems believe that more can, and should, be done to increase the uptake of cycling. Our Lib Dem Minister is, therefore, continuing to support the Bikeability programme, which ensures that our young people are given the right training to cycle on the roads and has guaranteed funding for four years. This means that, in future, people will be properly equipped to travel in city centres. And the Coalition Government is also already consulting on the widespread roll-out of 20mph speed limits in city centres, which is one of the key aims of The Times’ ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign.

    Norman has also consulted and implemented changes to road signage in order to allow local authorities to tackle problem areas. Trixi mirrors at key junctions are also being tested in London, and these mirrors allow Heavy Goods Vehicles to see into their blind spot, and can greatly reduce the risk of injury to cyclists.

    In addition, Lib Dems are always pushing for the Government to consider new policies. Julian Huppert MP, Co-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliament Party Committee on Transport, has tabled an Early Day Motion (2689) supporting The Times’ campaign and secured a 3-hour debate focusing on this issue to bring it further to the Government’s attention. Unfortunately, as a Government Minister, I am unable to sign EDMs, but please be assured that I agree with the ethos of this campaign.

    ​In short, we have already spent more on cycling than the last Government did and you can rest assured that with the Lib Dems in Government we will continue to use our influence to ensure that cyclists get a fair hearing, not just allowing the loud motorist campaigns to drown them out.
    I am aware that many of my constituent’s have concerns about the safety of specific areas in the constituency for cyclists. In this case, I would advise you to contact the Council to express your concerns and asking them to investigate. Alternatively, please do reply to this email with your specific concerns (including road names and details of the dangers), and I will happily contact the Council on your behalf.
    Thank you again for contacting me on this important matter, and please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance in any other matter as your parliamentary representative.

    Kind Regards,

    MP

    Lynne Featherstone
    Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Hornsey and Wood Green

  2. Nicolas Fanget (@nfanget) 16/02/2012 at 11:28 am #

    I wrote to my MP, I got a receipt confirmation but no reply yet (she’s a minister so probably has a busy schedule). I’ll update when I get a reply, but here is the letter, feel free to use for inspiration/copy:

    Dear Sarah Teather,

    I trust by now you must have heard of The Times’ “Cities fit for cycling” campaign. I hope you will support this campaign, if you have not already done so.

    The benefits of cycling are numerous, improving health, reducing congestion and pollution, increasing footfall for local shops, providing children with independent transport, etc. However, it has to be safe to cycle for people to take up cycling in any meaningful numbers. This is particularly a problem in Brent, where the latest Transport Plan showed only relatively wealthy white men were cycling, in low numbers, at the exclusion of everybody else. This is despite Brent being relatively compact, with many local jobs and schools and close to central London. Many more trips could be made by bike here, if only it was safe.

    The current layout of cycle lanes is, at best, woefully inadequate, when it is not absent altogether. Supporting the Times’ campaign, as well as the London Cycling Campaign “Go Dutch” campaign, would help putting pressure of the authorities responsible to put in appropriate infrastructure. Brent, with its network of parks, schools, libraries, and connections to the West End, could be an amazing place to cycle in. Please help us make this happen.

    I also note there will be a debate on cycle safety in Parliament on 23 February, I do hope you will be able to attend and put forward the advantages of proper cycling infrastructure not only in Brent and London, but the rest of the country as well.

    • Henz 16/02/2012 at 5:34 pm #

      I’ve also written to Sarah Teather on this issue, twice (once about the general issues and a second time to urge her to attend today’s EDM debate), I have received the standard response, twice.

      I am sure many more people from Brent also emailed her.

      Sadly, I rather expect to get an email similar to Lynne Featherstone’s to WobblyCyclist.

      As Minister of State for Children and Families in the “greenest Government ever” I would hope active travel to schools is right up her street.

      • Henz 16/02/2012 at 5:37 pm #

        * Oops. Make that next week’s EDM debate

  3. Emma 16/02/2012 at 11:55 am #

    I received this response from my MP, Diane Abbot, within a week of me writing to her via Write to Them. I think its pretty good.

    Dear Emma
    Thank you for writing to me about cyclists safety. As you probably know, activists have been campaigning on these issues for a long time. But I am glad to note that a major newspaper has taken this campaign up.
    I do not cycle myself. Largely because aggressive London motorists make me nervous! But I know there are a great many cyclists in Hackney and I do support those who do. Cyclists are not just improving their own health and zipping around speedily, they are also making a better environment for us all.
    So it is worrying how many people that I know, who do cycle, have had some sort of incident in the last 18 months. Sadly at the end of my road in Dalston is a “ghost” bike a memorial to a cyclist who was crushed, turning on to Kingsland Road, by a careless lorry driver. I pass it every day and every day I am reminded of the issue.
    So I am happy to say that I do support the aims of the campaign
    best wishes,
    Diane Abbott MP
    Shadow Public health Minister

  4. Freewheeler 16/02/2012 at 12:07 pm #

    I wrote to my MP, Glenda Jackson, two weeks ago to ask her to support the ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign. So far I have received no response (other than an automatic confirmation of receipt email). Clearly not a priority.

  5. John Rawlins 16/02/2012 at 12:18 pm #

    A simple amendment to the Highway Code would make a great difference for cyclists. The amendment should state that on urban roads the cyclist can choose to cycle in the middle of the appropriate lane.

    Several local councils in Spain (including Valencia) have recently introduced this amendment and I can tell you from experience that it has helped change driver and cyclist attitudes.

    Of course, cyclists already have this right – but many road-users (including cyclists) are unaware of this fact.

  6. Freddie 16/02/2012 at 1:34 pm #

    I got

    Dear Mr McConnon

    Thank you for your email. I fully support the Cities Fit for Cycling campaign and will sign the EDM next week. I also hope to be present for the debate in Westminster Hall next Thursday.

    Regards

    Heidi

    Heidi Alexander MP
    Member of Parliament for Lewisham East
    House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
    Tel: 020 7219 7099 or 020 8852 3995
    http://www.heidialexander.org.uk

  7. Hannah 16/02/2012 at 2:48 pm #

    I haven’t yet heard from my MP Sadiq Khan; wrote to him last Tuesday (9 days ago). I see on Twitter though that he is supporting the campaign, which is good news :)

  8. veryrarelystable 16/02/2012 at 5:47 pm #

    I wrote to my MP Rushanara Ali (Labour) on 2nd February, and so far zilch. I’m thinking of writing to her again about attending the forthcoming debate at Westminster; I hope I get a better response this time!

    • veryrarelystable 16/02/2012 at 6:06 pm #

      I should have added to my post that Rushanara Ali is MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, where 3 cyclists have been killed recently.

  9. Tom Heller 16/02/2012 at 9:29 pm #

    I got:

    Dear Thomas Heller,

    Thanks for getting in touch and I agree that cycling needs to be prioritised and made safer. Deaths and serious injuries among cyclists have risen by 11 per cent since 2004. In 2007, over 16,000 cyclists were injured and 136 cyclists were killed.
    According to the London Mayor’s Cycle Safety Action Plan, the reason most often given by non-cyclists to explain why they do not intend to take up cycling is a fear of the consequences of traffic.

    Additionally, I am hoping the Mayor will limit the number of HGVs in London by encouraging, and in time requiring them to decamp outside of town and transfer to smaller electric vehicles. I would go further, and impose stricter limits on the times in the day when the can be used, and the routes they can take.

    I have reservations about a default 20mph limit, but I support this campaign and have signed the relevant EDM

    Very best wishes,

    Zac Goldsmith

    • Tom Heller 16/02/2012 at 9:34 pm #

      I should also add that, prior to writing to Zac Goldsmith, I’d seen that he’d retweeted messages from @RichmondCycling and @KingstonCycling, encouraging people to write to their MPs.

  10. Anna 16/02/2012 at 11:14 pm #

    I wrote to my MP today, haven’t heard anything back yet, but worryingly, not even an automated email came back… I wrote a blogpost about it and #cyclesafe related stuff on the pineapplebike blog http://bit.ly/xjQhEN

  11. Kevin 17/02/2012 at 7:01 am #

    This is the weak response from diane abbott

    Dear Kevin
    Thank you for writing to me about the cyclists safety. As you probably know, activists have been campaigning on these issues for a long time. But I am glad to see a major newspaper has taken this campaign up.
    I do not cycle myself. Largely because aggressive London motorists make me nervous! But I do support those who do. And it is worrying how many people that I know, who do cycle, have had some sort of incident in the last 18 months. Sadly at the end of my road in Dalston is a “ghost” bike a memorial to a cyclist who was crushed, turning on to Kingsland Road,  by a careless lorry driver.  I pass it every day and every day I am reminded of the issue.
    So I am happy to say that I do support the aims of the campaign. It would be lovely to make London a little Holland.

    best wishes,
    Diane Abbott MP
    Shadow Public health Minister

  12. Damian 17/02/2012 at 10:29 am #

    I live (a very long way) outside London, but I read this blog and I also sent a message to my MP Liam Fox through the site mentioned:

    “Dear Dr Fox,

    “I wish to take this opportunity to remind you that there is a parliamentary debate on the measures called for by The Times’s campaign (“Cities safe for cycling”) on February 23rd.

    “I cycle from my home in Pill to work in central Bristol, at least four days out of five.

    “Not owning a full suspension mountain bike, I do not use the “Pill Path” off-road cycle path but go along the main road.

    “I have to use two footpaths (not designated as shared use, I admit, ‘though I have never seen a pedestrian on either) before I can join the shared use path which passes alongside the A369.

    “The A369 is a heavily congested road during rush hour, making it less than safe for cyclists. Cars speeding to get to work pass far closer than is recommended in the Highway Code.

    “Bristol was designated a “Cycling City”, but the heavy traffic, the aggressive and unthinking behaviour of many motorists and the proximity to the heavy goods vehicles passing through the city still discourage many people from cycling there (in my opinion).

    “As regards the Times’s proposal for a “blanket” 20 mph speed limit in residential areas: the vilage of Pill isn’t a through road – you would only go down through Pill if you lived there or were visiting – and yet cars regularly pass through there at high speed, well in excess of the current speed limit of 30 mph. I feel that it is completely reasonable
    to put a 20 mph limit in place, to try and make my village safer for my own children and for everyone else.

    “In conclusion, I would greatly appreciate it if you could attend the debate, and would hope that you would choose to speak in favour of the proposals.

    “Many thanks for your attention to this matter.

    “Yours sincerely,”

    *****************************************

    I got a reply back from Dr Fox (well, from his office) within about a half hour as follows:

    *****************************************

    “Dear Mr […]

    “Thank you for contacting me about The Times campaign on cycling in cities.

    “I commend The Times for highlighting this important issue and I know Ministers will consider the points raised as part of their ongoing work to improve safety for cyclists.

    “The Coalition Agreement contained a key commitment on cycling, stating that the Government will support sustainable travel initiatives, including the promotion of cycling and walking. As part of this, the Department for Transport announced funding of £560 million for a Local Sustainable Transport Fund to finance a range of travel measures which could include cycling infrastructure projects. Ministers announced the first tranche of funding in July last year and 38 of the successful 39 projects in the first wave included a cycling element.

    “The Government takes the safety of cyclists extremely seriously and I understand that Ministers are taking a number of steps to ensure that Britain remains a world leader in road safety. Ministers have committed to continuing to improve the driving test and driver training and have pledged £11 million for Bikeability training to help a new generation of cyclists gain the skills and knowledge they need to cycle safely.

    “In addition, the Government is leading discussions at European level on further improving standards for heavy goods vehicles to help reduce accidents caused by poor visibility. Ministers also want to see more innovative measures being put in place to improve cycle safety and, after a successful trial in London, councils across the country can now apply to use Trixi mirrors to make cyclists more visible to drivers at traffic lights. Ministers are providing local councils with the tools they need to improve safety on their roads, for instance cycle lanes and 20 mph zones. The implementation of these will, however, depend on local decisions and need to reflect local priorities.

    “It would be helpful to have your surname for my database to avoid confusion.

    “Yours sincerely

    “LIAM FOX

    “Parliamentary Office of the Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP”

    ************************************

    Hmm – I don’t know about you all, but I’m pretty sure that is a stock text (or what used to be called “boilerplate” text).

    D.

  13. Lauren 17/02/2012 at 11:21 am #

    I work for an MP and can I just explain that it is not unusual to have to wait 1-2 weeks to get a response from an MPs office. In my office we get hundreds of emails a day. We aim to back to everyone in 2 weeks but sometimes even that is difficult. Constituent emails also have to be prioritised – so people facing eviction or bailiffs get put ahead of policy correspondence which is essentially what this campaign is, because those are emergency issues. It doesn’t mean that your MP doesn’t care about cycle safety if they don’t get back straight away, it just means they may have to do other things before they respond to you.

  14. Lauren 17/02/2012 at 11:24 am #

    And yes you will get a standard answer from an MP if you send them a stock campaign email yourself. If you’re all sending the same text, raising the same concerns, then I don’t know on what basis you would be sent an individually-tailored reply..

    • Damian 17/02/2012 at 2:16 pm #

      @Lauren – we may all be raising broadly the same concerns, but (to put your mind at rest) there really isn’t some stock text that we are all being told to send.

      Each person sending an email or letter to their MP on the Times issue, is writing their own email in their own words.

      Personally, I’d rather wait a while and have a vaguely personal reply that implies they read my particular email, than get a reply back in ten minutes that looks as if they went “Times – check” “Bicycle – check” – “OK, send boilerplate No. 2″.

      I’m not trying to have a go at MPs or their staff, but that is how it sometimes looks to us civilians outside of Parliamentary offices.

    • veryrarelystable 18/02/2012 at 10:13 am #

      Lauren, I don’t know if your comment was directed at me (letter sent to my MP, for Bethnal Green and Bow on 2nd Fb, still no reply today 18th Feb) but my letter was very individually tailored. Here’s a copy of the text:

      Dear Rushanara Ali,

      I am writing to you as my constituency MP to ask you to to do everything in your power to improve conditions and safety for cyclists on London’s roads.

      Prompted to write to you by the Times newspaper campaign starting today, I would ask in general that you bring pressure to bear on TFL and mayor Boris Johnson to change their attitude to managing London’s roads, one which currently promotes “traffic flow”, by which they mean flow of polluting motor traffic, at the expense of cycling, and indeed, pedestrian safety.

      I’m sure you will be very much aware of the two recent cyclist deaths at the Bow roundabout; however the issue at stake here is much wider than simply one roundabout. I cycle eveyday to work across London crossing several boroughs (Tower Hamlets, the City, Islington, Camden and Westminster), and I am a fairly confident 45 year old man. However, everyday I see incidents which I can only describe as scary, incidents which could be avoided or mitigated if appropriate infrastructure were put in place. Instead, we have token blue lanes, which have turned out to be either useless or worse for cycle safety; it is clear that fewer and fewer young people are able to summon the courage to get on a bike, and seeing teenagers ride to school is now understandably a rarity.

      I feel it would be superfluous to go rehearse here the multiple benefits of cycling – you’re probably already well aware of these.
      Promoting cycling would be a “win” for everyone, and it is a travesty to see so little being done in this arena. Mayor Boris Johnson has managed to convince the non-cycling public that he is pro-cyclist, by promoting the Barclays hire scheme and the blue lanes. But ask real, everyday cyclists whether he has made or will make any difference in promoting cycling amongst London’s population, and you will hear an overwhelmingly negative response, partly as he consistent fails to consult cyclists themselves on the real difference he could be making.

      I very much hope you will take an interest in this issue in general, and support the Times’ campaign in particular.

      Yours sincerely,

      In part to follow up on this letter, and to encourage her to participate in the recently announced Commons debate, I sent a further letter 2 days ago (16th Feb). Here’s the text:

      Dear Rushanara Ali,

      You may remember that I wrote to you on 2nd February about safety for cyclists on London’s roads, and I feel sure I will receive a response from you in due course.

      I am writing this time to draw your attention to the Early Day Motion on cycle safety submitted by the Member for Cambridge, Julian Huppert, (EDM 2689) scheduled for a 3 hour debate in the House on 23rd February.
      So far the motion has been supported by 33 MPs across all parties including your own Labour Party (14 of the 33 are Labour MPs, but your name does not feature on this list yet).

      I would urge you to attend this debate and lend your support to this motion.

      Yours sincerely,

      I appreiacte this letter is too recent to have received a reply, however her lack of reponse to the 1st letter seems very unenthusiastic. When you consider that 3 cyclists have died in her constituency recently (2 of them making it to national mainstream news) this doesn’t seem very impressive.

  15. Henz 17/02/2012 at 12:45 pm #

    It appears that many Government MPs have either paraphrased, or outright copied (eg. Liam Fox), David Cameron’s letter (although the text may be the Conservative Party line, rather than DC or the Government’s in particular).
    http://hub.velocentric.com/the-full-response-from-david-cameron-regardin#!/ (via Cyclists in the City)

  16. TootingPete 17/02/2012 at 3:48 pm #

    I emailed my local MP, Sadiq Khan (Labour), a couple of days ago. He hasn’t replied, but his regular email newsletter sent this morning includes a piece that shows he’s getting a fair bit of correspondence about this:

    ======
    Cycling safety

    I’ve been contacted by dozens of constituents regarding cyclist safety over the last few weeks, particularly with reference to The Times’ ‘cities fit for cycling’ campaign, and the Westminster Hall debate on cyclist safety on 23rd February. First, I’d like to confirm that I will be attending the debate on the 23rd, though as a frontbencher, I’m not able to speak. My colleague Maria Eagle MP, the Shadow Transport Secretary, as announced plans for a Cycling Summit in Westminster next month, where we’ll be able to talk to cycling organisations, road designers and hauliers about how best to improve road safety for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. She’s also announced that a Labour government would commit to investing in new cycle ways, improved junction design and changes to traffic phasing to give cyclists a head start on cars. Of course, the government and Mayor of London are in a position to make these changes now – so we must continue to keep up the pressure on them. You can read more about my views on this on my website here. http://www.sadiqkhan.co.uk/index.php/component/content/article/1386-cycle

    ================

    CS7 passes through the constituency.

  17. FatherCrowe 20/02/2012 at 1:01 pm #

    Would be good to have a template of a letter on here for people to send, much easier for people to write in and get to show their concerns. Of people don;t have to use it.

    Cheers,

  18. WestminsterCyclist 21/02/2012 at 1:52 pm #

    I would recommend writing your own email and including your own (possibly local) experiences. I have worked for MPs and been on the receiving end of many campaigns on many issues – often totally identical postcards, emails, etc. Of course if lots of people write the same thing, they’re going to get the same response, but a tailored email via writetothem is a better bet.

    Obviously there is no excuse where MPs don’t reply at all, but if you hear nothing after a couple of weeks, follow it up with a phone call. As in any office, admin mishaps occur. Sometime ago, I noticed a handful of unanswered constituents’ emails in my spam folder that shouldn’t have been there, for example.

    • veryrarelystable 21/02/2012 at 7:29 pm #

      It doesn’t seem to work with Rushanara Ali MP (see above). Very personalised letter, written nearly 3 weeks ago, followed up, and still no reply.

  19. WestminsterCyclist 22/02/2012 at 10:08 am #

    Oh well, send his office a link to this thread!

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