Commons Transport Select Committee chair speaks on cycle safety

Louise Ellman MP is a senior parliamentarian and chair of the Commons Transport Select Committee, who has experience dealing in national transport policy. Cycling Weekly recently spoke to Ellman as she leads the committee inquiry into cycling safety.

How well is the vision of Britain as a cycling nation understood in Parliament?

LE: I think there is growing acceptance that cycling is important as an integral part of transport. The bike is used by many people of different age groups for different purposes, and it’s important environmentally and for health.

All of this is being much more widely reported and understood. But this is only because of the lobbying and the campaigning by cyclists’ groups and the way that the campaign is operating in Parliament itself.

How committed do you think we as a nation are to developing cycle and pedestrian-friendly cities?

LE: I think, overall, we are still a long way from understanding that concept, even though individually there are some good examples.

Some of the committee’s questions at its December hearing were heavily criticised [for being ill-informed and loaded with prejudice]…

LE: I think what happened at that first meeting was an unfortunate misunderstanding. The role of select committee members is to ask questions and challenge, and that was what they were doing.

There is a lot of support for, and understanding of, cycling on the committee. After the first hearing, Chris Boardman returned and gave evidence.

              “Chris Boardman is a great role model and advocate for cycling”

What were your impressions from what he had to say?

LE: I was very pleased that he came and answered lots of questions from different members. He is a great role model and a great advocate for cycling.

He really came across with a positive message, which is the way to do it. I also saw him at the launch of British Cycling’s Time to Choose Cycling manifesto, where I thought he was inspirational.

How, if at all, might cycling feature as an issue in the 2015 general election?

LE: A lot depends on how vocal cyclists are in promoting what they want. Campaigning needs to get all of the parties fully aware of the needs of cyclists as citizens.

Campaigners have to continue in putting the case, and putting forward practical solutions to the problems faced, to ensure a response by the parties when they come to the election.

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