We need policy to stop cycle deaths, says C4 presenter

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The Independent Online

The Government has shown "no leadership" on cycle safety despite an alarming rise in cyclist deaths over the past year, it has been claimed.

Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow told MPs yesterday that roads were a "crazy jungle of a situation" for cyclists, and called for more investment in infrastructure to tackle the problem.

"Cycling is good for the economy, cycling is good for the environment, cycling is good for individual health – all of which save the exchequer money – and yet the exchequer refuses to spend money," he said.

Addressing MPs at a House of Commons Transport Committee on cycle safety, Mr Snow said "paint on the road" was not the same as infrastructure. "The fact is there has been no leadership from the state at all on cycling," he said.

The hearing comes amid a rise in accidents involving cyclists on Britain's roads. The number of bike users killed or seriously injured last year rose by seven per cent, while overall road casualties fell over the same period.

Mr Snow was joined at the hearing by James Harding, editor of The Times newspaper, who called for the appointment of a cycling tsar to represent cyclists in government.

Mr Harding told MPs how staff at his newspaper had been "emotionally affected" by an accident which had left one of its reporters, Mary Bowers, in a coma. She has still not regained consciousness.

Speaking in defence of the Government's commitment to cycle safety, the Cycling Minister Norman Baker told the committee that £8m had been given to sustainable transport charity Sustrans for infrastructure. Giving evidence alongside Road Safety Minister Mike Penning, he said a further £7m had been given to the cycle-rail working group for cycling provision at railway stations.

Mr Penning, meanwhile, said that rule changes to allow cyclists to turn left at red traffic lights are unlikely to be introduced.

Mr Snow had earlier described how cyclists sometimes have to break the law to stay safe, but Mr Penning told MPs that altering the regulations for cyclists could lead to other road users trying to turn left at lights as well.

Asked about the implementation of targets to reduce fatalities on Britain's roads, Mr Penning said: "The Government is not a fan of targets."