HC Deb 18 December 2001 vol 377 cc135-6
5. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

If he will make a statement on the level of accidents involving cyclists without lights on their bikes over the past five years. [21561]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Mr. David Jamieson)

We do not record the number of accidents involving cyclists without lights. However, it is an offence to use a pedal cycle on the road without lights between sunset and sunrise, or in conditions of reduced visibility.

Andrew Mackinlay

I hope that, from now on, we will keep statistics on the injuries and deaths that occur where the lack of lights was a contributory factor to the accident. Does the Minister understand that, although riding without lights is an offence, it is not enforced by the police or other agencies? Will he consider taking an early legislative opportunity to create a civil offence, whereby a bike can be impounded and only returned to the owner on payment of a fixed-penalty fine to abate what must be the very considerable number of deaths caused by a lack of lights, as well as the trauma and anxiety caused to the diligent motorists who cannot see the offending cyclists? [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Does the hon. Member for Maidenhead (Mrs. May) have a complaint?

Mrs. May


Mr. Jamieson

I share the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Thurrock (Andrew Mackinlay), which he raises with his usual vigour. People who ride bicycles in the dark without lights put themselves and others, particularly pedestrians, at risk. He may be interested to know that, last year, there were 21,000 accidents involving cycles, although the trend is generally downwards. A fifth of those accidents occurred in the dark and 34 involved fatalities. I am sure that my hon. Friend's suggestion will be born in mind if a legislative opportunity arises. Information is not currently collected on whether cyclists involved in accidents have lights, but a review team is currently considering this issue, and I shall ensure that the important matter that he raises is drawn to the team's attention.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)

May I tell the Minister of a very sad case in my constituency, where a young man died this summer while delivering papers, when he was knocked over while cycling? Clearly, we send our condolences to his parents this Christmas, as they will feel the effects deeply. Will the Minister pay tribute to one of our local bobbies, PC Twentyman, who, since then, has tried to ensure that all young people have access to crash helmets while riding their bikes on their paper rounds? In the context of the review that the Minister has just announced, are the Government considering whether people should be required to wear helmets while riding bicycles on the public highway?

Mr. Jamieson

First, I ask the hon. Lady to convey my condolences to her constituents—I know how terrible such events are. She will be aware that schools run many programmes to give such advice to children, and I hope that such events will spur the local schools to refresh that advice. I hope also that the newsagents and others who employ children—particularly, those who work in the early mornings and in the evenings in the dark—will also be mindful as to whether those children wear helmets, carry reflective bags or have the appropriate lights on their bicycles. We have certainly considered making helmets compulsory—the issue has been mentioned to us a number of times—but people, particularly parents, need to be mindful of the dangers to children and of the fact that helmets can assist considerably in lessening that risk. I am sure that the hon. Lady's suggestion will be borne in mind if a legislative opportunity arises.