HL Deb 22 May 1984 vol 452 cc202-17

7.7 p.m.

Lord Henley

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The Bill, moved in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Cecil Franks, contains the proposals for legislative change included in the Government's cycling policy statement issued in January 1982. It seeks to simplify the procedures for converting all or part of a footpath to a cycle track and to increase the protection available to users of cycle tracks and of adjacent footpaths or footways. Though short, the Bill is somewhat complex, and it may help noble Lords if I outline briefly its provisions clause by clause. I shall start with Clause 1, which amends the definition of "cycle track".

Mopeds with pedals are pedal cycles. Unless they have been excluded by an individual traffic regulation order they are entitled at the moment to use cycle tracks. When they have done so they have made a significant contribution to the number of accidents on them. It is recommended practice that mopeds should be excluded from cycle tracks and it is appropriate to provide a specific general prohibition. Highway authorities will no longer have to make individual traffic regulation orders to secure their exclusion. Subsection (1) of Clause 1 amends the definition of "cycle track" in Section 329 of the Highways Act so that in future mopeds will not have the right to use cycle tracks. Subsection (2), for clarification, removes the right of mopeds to use existing cycle tracks.

Clause 2 deals with prohibition of the driving or parking of vehicles on cycle tracks. Again, unless there is a specific traffic regulation order or a local by-law it is not at the moment an offence to drive or park a motor vehicle on a cycle track. The presence of motor vehicles on cycle tracks is, at the very least, an inconvenience and, at worst, it is a serious danger to cyclists, and may deter cyclists from using such facilities. Clause 2(1) makes it an offence to drive or park a motor vehicle, wholly or partly, on a cycle track and sets a maximum fine on the third level of the standard scale, which is currently, I believe, £400.

Some defences are provided, such as in subsection (2) if the motor vehicle is being used in an emergency; in subsection (3), if the vehicle is engaged in work on behalf of a highway authority or a statutory undertaker. Again, in subsection (4) there is a defence if the motor vehicle is being driven on a cycle track if that is the only reasonably practicable means of obtaining access to, or egress from, premises.

I now come to Clause 3, which deals with the conversion of footpaths to cycle tracks. At present, cyclists are all too vulnerable on our roads. Each year, far too many are killed or seriously injured. In 1982, for example, 300 cyclists were killed and 5,700 seriously injured. Some 30 per cent, of them were under the age of 15, and the numbers are steadily rising. Clearly, we must do all that we can to reduce the number of cycling accidents. First, we must examine ways of improving cycling conditions on the road itself. We must recognise that this may not always be possible and that local highway authorities may need to consider converting parts of footpaths to cycle tracks as a cycle safety measure of last resort. Local highway authorities already have powers to convert footpaths to cycle tracks, but the procedures are complex and time-consuming. They involve up to five separate stages, possibly with three distinct orders.

A major weakness of the existing procedures is that while objections can be made at many points during the procedures, there is only a limited prospect of an independent assessment of the conversion as a whole. This Bill gives a clear right to object to a footpath conversion and a right to be heard at a public inquiry. The Bill was amended in another place to provide that contested footpath conversion orders should be decided by the Secretary of State for Transport. The Bill as now drafted provides clear safeguards for those who are anxious about the principle and practice of shared use.

Clause 3(1) provides that a local highway authority can make a single order to convert a footpath or part of it to a cycle track, retaining the right of way on foot. If the order is opposed it must be confirmed by the Secretary of State, whereas, if it is unopposed it can be confirmed by the local highway authority. Footpath conversions are seen primarily as a cyclist safety measure and not as a means of providing recreational cycling routes. Again, it was agreed in another place that an additional safeguard should be provided when footpaths cross agricultural land. Subsection (2) prevents a local highway authority from making an order converting a footpath across agricultural land unless they have obtained the prior written consent of all those having a legal interest in that agricultural land.

Subsection (3) provides that the Secretary of State can confirm an order either in the form in which it was made by the local highway authority or subject to such modifications as he thinks appropriate; or it may be confirmed by the local highway authority, but only in the form in which it was made. Again, that is only if it is unopposed. Subsection (4) gives the Secretary of State power to make regulations covering the publication of the notice of the making of the order and of its effect, the making and consideration of objections, and the publication of the notice of confirmation of an order, either by the Secretary of State or by the local highway authority. Subsection (11) provides that regulations made under subsection (4) will be made by statutory instrument subject to the negative resolution procedure. Subsection (5) provides that any regulations made under subsection (4) may include provision for the holding of a local inquiry and to allow the decision whether an order is to be confirmed, with or without modifications, to be made by a person appointed by the Secretary of State—that is, by the inspector at the inquiry.

Subsections (6), (7) and (8) provide for the legal validity of an order to be challenged in the High Court within six weeks of the date of the publication of the notice of the confirmation of the order. They set down the powers of the High Court to suspend the operation of, and on final judgment to quash, an order either in whole or in part. No other legal challenge can be made to the order. These provisions reflect the usual provisions applied to such orders.

Subsection (9) allows a local highway authority to revoke an order confirmed under subsection (1) under equivalent procedures to those for the making and confirmation of the original order. In other words—the whole process in reverse. Subsection (10) gives the local highway authority power to undertake necessary work to give effect to an order, and any work that would constitute development under Part III of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 is deemed to have been given planning permission.

Clause 4 deals with the provision of barriers in cycle tracks. Barriers may be desirable to separate cyclists and pedestrians on adjacent cycle tracks and footpaths or footways, occasionally to reduce the speed of cyclists on cycle tracks, and to exclude motor vehicles. There is currently no power to provide such barriers unless the highway includes a carriageway. It may be possible to separate a cycle track from an adjacent footpath or footway by ways other than a barrier, rail or fence. A hump or a tactile strip may be sufficient to indicate the boundary and to encourage the cyclist to remain on his own side. Such works could also assist blind or partially-sighted pedestrians using the footpath or footway.

Clause 4(1) allows highway authorities to provide and maintain barrier tracks. Subsection (2) allows highway authorities to undertake whatever work they consider necessary in the interests of safety to separate persons using a cycle track from those using an adjacent footway or footpath. Subsection (3) allows highway authorities to alter or remove any barriers or other works. Subsection (4) defines, for the purpose of this clause, a cycle track, a footpath and a footway. A highway authority's activities under this clause are restricted to those ways which are highways maintainable at the public expense by that highway authority.

We now come to compensation. Clause 5(1) gives a right to recover compensation for damage consequent on the undertaking of work under Clause 3(10), which is concerned with the power of the local authority to effect work, to give effect to a conversion order, or, under Clause 4, the erection of barriers. Subsection (2) gives a right to claim compensation for any reduction in the value of an interest in land arising as a consequence of the coming into operation of an order confirmed under Clause 3—but it excludes claims which can be made or anticipated under Clause 5(1). Disputes resulting from this are referred to the Lands Tribunal under subsection (3). There are four remaining clauses. Clause 6 extends the Bill to cover land owned or managed by the Crown, and this is based on similar provisions in the Highways Act 1980. Clauses 7 to 9 contain financial and other supplementary provisions. I should also say that the Bill extends only to England and Wales.

My Lords, I hope that my explanation has helped to clarify the detailed provisions of this Bill. The Bill seeks to strike a balance between improving the safety and convenience of cyclists and ensuring that the interests of others are protected. I commend the Bill to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill he now read a second time.—(Lord Henley.)

7.20 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

My Lords, we on these Benches certainly welcome this Bill. The encouragement of cycling in itself, in an age where fuel and power become more and more expensive, is to be encouraged. Equally, it is to be welcomed for its effect on the health of the nation. However, the health of the nation is very much dependent on the cyclists actually getting to the other end of their journeys and not being mown down on the way. Therefore, any Bill which deals with safety is one which we welcome in principle.

It is the neighbourhood approach that lies behind so much of the philosophy of cycling these days. People want to have manageable distances between their home and their work or between their home and their leisure place, and if they do then the cycle is the obvious vehicle to use.

There is no need for me to go into the technicalities of the Bill. Judging from the debates in another place there is, I think, general agreement on the purposes of the Bill. I thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on his very clear exposition of the make-up of the Bill. Nevertheless, there are just one or two caveats and one or two questions which some of us want to put.

I am an officer of the all-party cycling group in the Palace, but I am also a Vice-President of the Pedestrians Association. Whereas the Pedestrians Association and the cyclists find themselves very much in the same lobby on a great many occasions, there are one or two moments when their priorities clash. There are one or two particular worries which some pedestrians have about this Bill, and not least the visually handicapped. Bells are no longer required on bicycles. I must say that that was an appalling decision. I understand it has been effective for a year or two and comes from a decision of the department. The societies which represent the blind were not consulted on this particular matter.

Bells are distinctive. They let people know that a cyclist is coming. The argument is sometimes produced—I think it was used in Committee in another place—that it is just as effective if someone shouts "Hi" as it is tinkling a bell. But if someone shouts "Hi" you do not have the faintest idea of why he is shouting. If you are blind you have no further intimation of the nature of the menace. An old-fashioned bicycle bell of the kind that we were used to in our youth is an extremely useful warning signal to people that you are approaching. It is warning of a very real hazard. If the Government have any plans to reintroduce the need for bells on bicycles that would be an extremely welcome step and would go some way to solving some of the problems which arise from this Bill.

Where paths are to be shared I think there is very great need to see that the means of dividing the pedestrians from the cyclists—and there must be means for providing them—are such that they can be recognised by both those with sight and by the blind. It is no use drawing a white line down the middle of the road and saying that that will be sufficient guide. It is, of course, a sufficient guide for those who can see, but it is no guide at all for the blind. There is a need for textured or raised divisions which a blind person can feel with his feet or with his stick so that he can tell when he is straying from his part of the track.

It is desirable, if not absolutely necessary, that the portion of the road given to the blind or to pedestrians should be the side nearest to any wall that may be there—what I believe is called the sure side—because, as we all know, many blind people make their way by feeling against a barrier. To put the pedestrians the other side of the path is to put the blind at a disadvantage.

I know that the Ministry is working on this matter and I am not suggesting that the noble Lord, Lord Henley, necessarily can do anything about it in this Bill. I know that the Ministry is trying, but I suggest that in the course of the passage of this Bill we ought to get some very real assurances as to implementation. There is a problem here. We are saying to local authorities, "You can go ahead and set up these shared cycle and pedestrian tracks and you must differentiate between the two, but we will not tell you exactly how you must do it". All right, we on these Benches are all in favour of giving local authorities the choice. However, where local authorities are absolutely strapped for money there is a considerable danger that things will be done as cheaply as possible. It is unfortunate that many of the things that need to be done in this field, particularly for the blind, are those which cost a bit of money. Therefore, I should like some reassurances from the Minister who is to speak on this Bill that the Government intend to see that safety measures are enforced and that the local authorities have to produce the kind of paths and cycleways which will lead to the least possible number of accidents.

We wish the Bill well but we look for improvements. Councils are not to be blamed these days for economies, but safety comes first and it is part of our business if we pass this Bill—and I hope we will—to see that safety is ensured.

7.28 p.m.

Baroness Nicol

My Lords, I should like to extend a very warm welcome to this Bill and I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henley—dare I say it?—in tandem with his honourable friend in another place, on producing the Bill. I should like to explain, quite briefly, why it is a particularly welcome effort as far as I am concerned.

I am a member of an authority for a mediaeval city, with mediaeval street patterns and road services to match. We have a population with about 30,000 bicycles— 1 0,000 or so of them ridden by students. In 1978 the Department of Transport produced a document called Ways of Helping Cyclists in Built Up Areas. This was a ray of hope for us, struggling with our very difficult conditions. At last, we thought, someone "up there" understands the problems. The document outlined the high accident figures for cyclists, the low costs for improvements and the legislative difficulties of making those improvements.

We embarked upon an experimental programme with the help of the Ministry, convinced that our plans would soon be easier because of the, we hoped, impending legislative changes. After all, the Ministry had identified the problems: cycleways should not be shared with mopeds; tracks shared with pedestrians should have physical separation to protect elderly and disabled people; parking of motor vehicles on cycle tracks should be prohibited; contra-flow lanes in one-way streets should be provided where practicable; and barriers should be permitted where necessary. They were all the things which we wanted to do but which were legislatively very difficult.

Three years passed. then in May 1981 from the Department of Transport came, Cycling, A Consultation Paper, asking all the questions that had been answered in the 1978 note. But it was consultation and we welcomed it, and we still hoped for power to do all the things we had been planning for the past two or three years, some of which we had achieved in spite of the legal difficulties.

Eight months later, in January 1982, the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement. It was encouraging in its wish to see better facilities, its commitment to departmental support for local authority schemes and its promise of financial help with experiments. It identified the problems, which were exactly the same ones as those in the 1978 note. It promised new draft regulations on safety standards for bicyles and legislation to prohibit the driving of a motor vehicle on any cycle track. Draft regulations were before this House earlier this year—two years later—but other legislation has had to rely on a Private Member's Bill; and it is now 1984, six years since my story began.

There is no doubt about the benefits of cycling. The noble Lord. Lord Beaumont, has pointed them out. It is cheap, it is healthy if it is made safe, and it is environmentally beneficial. Over the years we have said time and time again that we need to conserve energy, and the bicycle is an obvious way to do that. We also need to cut down congestion on the roads and expenditure on them. The cycle does all those things.

This Bill will serve to remind local authorities of the need for positive action. They should have encouragement and support. There may be some amendments to make at the Committee stage—for example. in Clause 5. There may be a need to put a time limit on the compensation clause. but that is something which we can discuss at a later stage. This Bill should have a speedy passage. We have waited long enough for these provisions. I hope that from now on the Bill will pass through its stages as quickly as possible.

7.32 p.m.

Lord Colwyn

My Lords, I put my name down to speak this evening thinking that cycling members of your Lordships' House might be a little thin on the ground at this time of the evening. However, with such an eminent member of the all-party cycling group with us and contributing—I mean the noble Lord. Lord Beaumont of Whitley, whose remarks were very relevant—I am not sure that I can contribute too much.

As a regular cyclist in London, I warmly welcome this Bill. It will certainly encourage local authorities and make it easier for them to provide cycle tracks, and, as a result. do much to improve the safety of the rapidly increasing number of cyclists in this country. I am sure that there will he support from this House for these proposals and indeed for the recommendations of the cycling policy statement issued by the Secretary of State in January 1982. I have read the Second Reading debate on 30th March in another place, and also the subsequent stages of the Bill; and, with the explanation of my noble friend. Lord Henley, this evening. I am sure that there is little else that can or should be said. I have no wish to delay the Bill in any way.

Several speakers in the debate in the other place spoke of harassment from cyclists breaking the law by riding on pavements or jumping red lights and, as a result, exposing themselves to greater risk. Although there are a minority of cyclists who break the law in this way. or who have defective braking or lighting, I am sure that it is indeed a minority and that the majority behave according to the rules of the road. Offenders must be stopped and dealt with by the law. I should also like to recommend that the habit of cycling while wearing and listening to personal stereo systems should become an offence. I consider that it is highly dangerous to cycle on city roads with total exclusion of all other traffic noises.

During my five years cycling in London I have only rarely seen cyclists vying with pedestrians for space on the pavements and footpaths. One exception must be when the frustration of excessive traffic and blocked roads because of bad and illegal parking necessitates taking a bicycle onto the pavement for short distances. This is quite common in London, and I hope that the provision of more cycle tracks will enable cyclists to find ways round these congested areas.

Apart from the hazards of traffic—both parked vehicles and vehicles in motion—I must also blame the poor condition of many of the roads in the inner London area. Incorrect camber, potholes, drains and damaged surfaces are frequent problems for the cyclist. I mentioned during the debate in this House on 7th February on the Pedal Cycles (Safety) Regulations the long stretches of road which are neglected and unmaintained in that vital area to the cyclist—the four or five feet out from the pavement or footpath.

The GLC has sadly failed to look after many roads in this respect. I hope that this Bill will provide the impetus necessary for the provision of new routes and cycleways. As a painful example of the poor condition of the roads, I have twice fallen off my cycle in the outer circle of Regent's Park, where long stretches of the road just in that vital four or five feet out from the footpath are potholed, damaged, unmaintained and badly cambered. This makes riding in that area of the road extremely hazardous, to the extent that it is actually safer to use a position nearer the centre of the road, no doubt to the despair of the rush-hour motorists, who are unable to see the problem. With that in mind, I should like to ask the Minister why, in view of the proven safety of cycle tracks in most of the other parks in London, there is still no provision for the use of cycles in Regent's Park.

I hope that this Bill will proceed without delay. I am sure that the increasing number of cyclists will eventually have reason to thank the Government for taking this initiative to contribute to their great need for increased safety.

7.37 p.m.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, I must declare an interest, as I always use a bicycle in London because it is by far the quickest and most satisfactory way of getting around. In the countryside I also very often use a bicycle, because, next to the horse, it is about the best way of seeing what is going on on the farm. There are more and more cyclists. I wonder why they must be called "cyclists"? They are bicycles and not cycles. I believe that it is debasing the language to keep calling them "cycles".

In London more and more people are commuting to their work on bicycles. Although the number of bicycles goes up when the fares go up, when the fares come down for one reason or another, funnily enough, the numbers come down. One in every four households in London owns a bicycle. It is estimated that 250,000 people commute by bicycle every day to work in London. We also know that the bicycle is used for recreation. It is quite important to remember that. There is also the big BMX factor—many people have those BMX bicycles which are designed to go across country.

The bicycle is a very quick form of transport. It is cheap, as has been mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol. It is interesting that in Piccadilly, for example, one may see 100 or 200 cars in a line and just one bicycle slowly pass them all, right to the front. There are no hold-ups. Parking is no problem. I think that the increase in bicycles is to be encouraged. If more people took to bicycles there would be fewer cars and less pressure on public transport in the rush-hour.

I am rather sorry for drivers during the rush-hour. One sees them sitting in stationary cars and one just goes past them. Sometimes one sees very important people in very large cars sitting there for many minutes. When they get to their offices they charge hundreds of pounds for every hour's consultation, yet they are quite happy to sit for half an hour in a traffic jam. It seems an awful waste of their very expensive time, in addition to which they get no exercise and when they get home they have to go for a run or some form of exercise—or perhaps they do not take any exercise.

But, with the increasing numbers, you would think there would be more accidents. In fact there are not. The accident rate has been remarkably static. Above and below 300 bicyclists get killed every year and 25,000 injured according to the statistics I have seen. It does not seem to go up a lot, although the number of bicyclists has gone up. So there is obviously an element of risk.

I therefore welcome this Bill. It certainly helps on the safety side. Provision is needed to help bicyclists and to encourage them. To give them more tracks will reduce the danger. I wonder whether perhaps the time will come when the yellow striped belt and cross belt and the helmet will perhaps become compulsory like the seat belts in a car.

In the countryside, there is a different problem altogether. The bicyclists there are mainly recreational or BMX riders, as I mentioned earlier. Of course while the great majority of bicyclists, as in any other field, are law abiding and do no harm to anybody, there are some bicyclists who are badly behaved and abuse their privileges of being able to ride where they do. Therefore the Bill probably needs some tidying up to protect walkers and certain vehicles, where vehicles are going to be prohibited. I can see that there will be vehicles needing to go on cycle tracks where they have done so in the past. It also needs to protect other interests. In addition, there is a big difference, which I do not think is fully appreciated in the Bill, between the footpaths along the roadside and footpaths across country. I wish the Bill well.

Lord Brougham and Vaux

My Lords, not having put my name down, I did consider doing so but many noble Lords have said what I want to say. I just want to reiterate something that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, mentioned about bells on bicycles. I must say I did not know that it was not compulsory. As a cyclist, I would not have a bicycle if I did not have a bell on it. I think it is a very worthwile device for warning people. Even though they may have full sight, they still do not bother to look to see if there is anybody coming along. If my noble friend the Minister can tell us whether there is anything further to be added to what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said on this subject, I shall be most grateful.

7.43 p.m.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I too should like to thank and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Henley, on introducing this Bill into your Lordships' House and the way in which he presented it. I must make it clear that as this is a Private Member's Bill I am expressing a personal view but I make it quite clear that I welcome the Bill. I was very pleased that the noble Lord, in his introductory remarks, stressed the aspect of safety as being one of the first essentials, particularly from the standpoint of young persons. We are obviously concerned with the cyclists in the urban areas who use a cycle for work, shopping and similar journeys; but I was pleased that one or two noble Lords also expressed their concern at enabling cyclists to freely enjoy the cycles as an exercise and a recreation in the countryside.

I cannot claim any first-rate interest at the moment; but, as I think I have mentioned to your Lordships before, for a very large number of years I was a very active cyclist until the middle 'forties and captain of a cycling club. I regularly journeyed from the suburbs up to Westminster; but frankly I should not like to do it now, with conditions that there are at this time, without certain measures being taken. I also mention this because, strange as it may seem, in the late 'thirties I took part in a mass demonstration of thousands of cyclists in Hyde Park who rode in contingents along Western Avenue in protest against cycle paths. What we were protesting about was this. There was talk of development of cycle paths. The first path was opened on the Southend arterial road. There were gaps in the concrete. Weeds were on the tracks. The cycle path was running into garage forecourts. At junctions the track suddenly went into the main road where the traffic was speeding along, which was a grave danger for cyclists. There were pedestrians walking with prams and dogs on the so-called cycle track. As keen cyclists who used to cycle 100 miles on a Sunday, we were not going to stand for that. So thousands of us joined in this protest.

In towns cyclists have the danger from vehicles. In a number of towns, we have some very very good schemes. I noticed the TRRL report on Peterborough in 1981 stressed at that time that 20 per cent. of the journeys to work were by cycle and 25 per cent. of the journeys of schoolchildren to secondary schools were also by cycle. Although some towns such as Peterborough and others have some very good schemes, is it because of the length of those procedures that have to be followed or the lack of push and the lack of recognition of what needs to be done which has stopped many towns from doing this? When I was on the Docklands Corporation Select Committee, I noticed the plans being made in Docklands for quite a number of useful cycle tracks, tunnels, and so on. The Bill is obviously going to be extremely helpful in easing the procedure of converting existing footpaths and footways to cycle tracks. But of course we must recognise that there is a possible area of conflict created in removing the cyclists from traffic dangers and also giving them reasonable cycling conditions—that is rather important—as against protecting the safety and mobility of pedestrians. Both want security.

I am very pleased that reference has been made, strangely, to the fact that the number of reported accidents on cycleways over recent years has been very low indeed. I say "strangely" because one would have thought it may have been different. As other noble Lords have said, segregation is highly preferable but in some areas this may have to be the exception because of the conditions. From my standpoint I would say that cyclists and pedestrians sharing must be the last resort. It must not be the easy way out. Other noble Lords have stressed the different segregation signs one can have for sharing: barriers, white lines, and so on. Pedestrians will feel less safe with sharing and some cyclists will find it irksome.

I looked at a TRRL document, which suggested that the average mean speed for cyclists—and they checked the figures—was (when I converted it from kilometres) 12 miles an hour. That is a very slow speed for cyclists. One has to consider the type of cyclists that might want to use some of the paths. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, made this point. Where there is sharing, one has to look at the position of the blind and also the disabled. One needs the utmost consultation in the area.

From a personal point of view, while I can see the common sense attitude of banning mopeds, I wonder whether the Minister could give us a more definite description of what is a moped. When I think of what I used to call the pop-pop bikes—travelling at less speed than a good cyclist could achieve—at peril with the traffic, then I believe that something also needs to be done with them. If the description is such that it refers to a small type of motor hike, then I can understand them being banned from the cycle paths. In that case we must have more pressure for training schemes, particularly for young people who use these vehicles.

I was pleased that one noble Lord—I think the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont—said that cycle tracks must not he inferior. That is why I recounted the protests that we had in the late 1930s about their condition. The paths must be of adequate width. They must have a smooth service. They must be properly maintained so that glass and other impediments are not left upon them. The cycle paths must be generally acceptable. I take it that there is no indication from the department or the Ministry regarding banning cyclists from using the roads—I have in mind cyclists who prefer to use the roads rather than the cycle paths. Such a ban would be a very bad step. It has been my good fortune on a number of occasions at Easter to travel by car to see friends in Holland. One has seen the development of cycle paths in Holland and how they are accepted by the public. No one who had no right to use the paths would think of doing so. I have seen the way the paths are maintained. That is an example to us and the Ministry has been studying those conditions very carefully. It is bad to draw comparisons with Community colleagues. However, when one compares some of the cycle paths in Belgium, narrow and with stone sets that no decent cyclist would want to ride upon, with those in Holland, I see the contrast and the need for guidance from the department.

I was pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Gisborough, stressed recreation and the position of cyclists outside towns. There is need for more effective action outside the towns. To quote the Netherlands again, when one sees some of their well maintained cycle paths right away from the main roads and taking cuts through wood and all sorts of other areas, so encouraging people to use them, it is a matter that we should be considering.

There must be adequate signing of cycle paths. In towns particularly, we should consider, where appropriate—I am sorry to keep boosting the Netherlands—giving cyclists their own sytem of traffic lights at eye level. This is very important and a system used frequently in Holland. Those using cycle paths, cycle tracks or cycleways should not have to stop every time they come to a side road. This has to be avoided. Where a cycleway is to be constructed or established, there needs to be the utmost publicity in the area. I know that the department, including the Minister of State herself, is keen on this development. It is essential that proper and full guidance should be given to local authorities when the Bill is passed.

7.52 p.m.

Viscount Long

My Lords, this is a very interesting and important debate. If I may remind your Lordships of your youth. each and every one of us started our lives in transport on a bicycle. We were highly dangerous and highly sophisticated, running over our parents' feet and grazing our knees. It was our first start in our transport education.

I welcome on behalf of the Government my noble friend's Private Bill. I believe that it is extremely important, having listened to your Lordships from all sides of the House, that we should now get down to the safety measures and other matters that figure in the life of a cyclist. Equally, it is important that those who are blind should be protected from the cyclist. I am not saying that the cyclist is wrong. However, only a few days ago, while I was walking beside a river, being deaf in one ear, I was nearly run over on the footpath by a cyclist and almost landed in the river. I have my eyes but the use of only one ear. I have the deepest sympathy for those with no sight. It should not be forgotten that the cyclist rides a silent piece of machinery.

I thank my noble friend Lord Henley for his explanation of the Bill. Although it is short, it is a complex Bill. His explanation clearly demonstrated the balance throughout the Bill between the interests and the safety of cyclists and the interests of others. The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, referred to that. The Bill stems from the proposals for legislative change contained in the Government's cycling policy statement and is part of our aim of encouraging more and safer cycling. The Bill is welcomed and supported by the Government.

The restrictions that the Bill places on mopeds and motor vehicles using and, indeed, misusing cycle tracks are long overdue. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, asked me the difference between a cycle and a moped. I remind him of the words in Clause 1: there shall he inserted '(other than pedal cycles which are motor vehicles within the meaning of the Road Traffic Act 1972)'. That is why we are banning these motor cycles or mopeds.

I hope that this will make a significant contribution towards increasing cyclists' use of cycle tracks and their safety on them. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to this. The defences that the Bill provides when motor vehicles are being used in connection with emergencies or by highway authorities and statutory undertakers, or to obtain access to premises, reflect the balance that is present throughout the Bill.

I refer now to what has been discussed by my noble friend Lord Henley on the conversion of footpaths. It is in Clause 3 that the balance is essential. Converting all or part of a footpath to a cycle track raises difficult issues essentially about the possibility of increasing cyclists' safety but at the risk of inconveniencing or endangering pedestrians. I am aware of the concern that has been expressed during this debate about allowing cyclists to use pedestrian facilities. My honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport has clearly indicated her views on shared use. Again, I think the noble Lord, Lord Underhill, asked about shared use.

A comprehensive review of the principle and practice of shared use has been undertaken, including the issue of a consultation paper and discussions with the Joint Committee on the Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted People. My honourable friend's department will shortly issue comprehensive advice to local highway authorities. This advice will emphasise that shared use should only be considered when there is no other way of overcoming the problems that cyclists face on the roads. Allowing cyclists to use facilities which were formerly reserved for pedestrians should only be introduced after very careful survey and wide consultation.

There is no intention of allowing a general freedom to cycle on pavements, which has already been discussed tonight by your Lordships. That is illegal and will remain so. The behaviour of cyclists who persistently ride on pavements is to be deplored. It does no good for their cause or for their standing in the eyes of the public. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said that he was president of the cyclists' association. All of us should stress to cyclists that when they are using public footpaths they are doing wrong. They must be carefully educated and shown that it is not good for their own cause, especially among pedestrians.

The Bill provides a right to object to footpath conversions. When an objection is made to an order, the eventual decision rests with the Secretary of State after a public inquiry. The regulations which my honourable friend will make after wide consultation will clearly stipulate the procedure that is to be followed, which will include consultation with interested bodies including those representing the interests of the blind, partially sighted or disabled people. That is a vital part of this Bill, if I may say so.

Footpath conversion is seen as a safety measure. It is not a way of providing recreational routes in rural areas, although rural footpath conversions may be appropriate on safey grounds where a footpath links a village to its school. The additional protection when a footpath crosses agricultural land is welcome. There are many miles of quiet rural roads and bridleways which allow the cyclist access to the country without having to ride across a farmer's land. This is important to avoid aggravating the farmer, who is probably growing his corn right up to the edge of a footpath.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to barriers. One particular area of concern over shared use is the advisability of physical separation between a cycle track and an adjacent footpath or footway. Separation by a white line or those situations where the entire footpath or footway is converted to a cycle track are viewed with concern by many. The Department of Transport's advice will recognise that white line segregation or unsegregated use are cyclist safety measures which should be available to highway authorities but they should be used only in exceptional circumstances.

Noble Lords will be aware of the tactile surface which has been provided at the pedestrian crossing on Parliament Square as an aid to blind or partially sighted pedestrians. The Transport and Road Research Laboratory, which devised the surface, is also examining tactile surfaces which could assist the blind or partially sighted pedestrian using a footway or a footpath adjacent to a cycle track. The power given under Clause 4 of the Bill will allow highway authorities to install suitable tactile surfaces or to undertake other works to separate cyclists and pedestrians on cycle tracks which they maintain at public expense.

I should like to break away from my brief for a moment to refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, and other noble Lords mentioned about the alarm signal on a bicycle. As I said earlier in my speech, if one is blind very often one cannot hear a cyclist coming up behind one. It is a very frightening experience. This matter was reviewed when pedal cycle safety regulations were being prepared. I will bring the noble Lord's view to the attention of my honourable friend the Minister of State for Transport. I know that she has undertaken to consider further representations on this point. I hope that the answer I have given will he of help to the noble Lord and other noble Lords before we come to the Committee stage of the Bill.

My noble friend Lord Colwyn was worried about cycling on rough surfaces and he was also worried about the parks. He mentioned Regent's Park, which is a Royal Park. The footpaths are subject to by-laws. A cycle track has been provided in Hyde Park but there have been problems with cyclists thinking they have a right to ride on all other footpaths. This is a matter for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and I will bring to his attention my noble friend's suggestion.

He spoke about rough roads and potholes at the side of roads. We have emphasised the need for good maintenance of all roads. Funds for maintenance have been made available in the transport supplementary grant. The amounts have risen in recent years. However, authorities have discretion as to how much money is spent and it is up to the GLC to deal with this.

My noble friend Lord Gisborough referred to a cyclist and a horse. I would point out to him that a horse has four legs and a cyclist has only two. He was quite right in what he said. The fact is that cycling is a dangerous hobby. especially in London. Sometimes it is very difficult. Recently I was involved with a Royal visit. En route to Heathrow my car was stuck in Cromwell Road and I noticed that the cyclists were doing much better than I was.

The debate has been extremely useful. At Committee stage no doubt we will be able to improve the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, wanted to know why this legislation was coming forward only now, and the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, made the point that it has taken six years for us to get to this stage. As with all things, the difficulty is to find the right time to slot in such important legislation. Now it is going forward and we have had this debate. I hope that with help from all sides of the House we shall be able to see the Bill through to a conclusion.

The provisions in the Bill will add to the wide range of measures—innovatory cycle schemes, cycle route research in five towns, cycle safety publicity, construction and safety standards for bicycles—which the Government are taking to encourage cycling and, above all, to improve the safety of cyclists using our roads. We support the Bill and commend it to the House.

8.7 p.m.

Lord Henley

My Lords, we have had quite a useful debate and I am very grateful that the Bill has had general support. I do not intend to delay the House very long. I know that some noble Lords—I am thinking particularly of the noble Lord, Lord Underhill—have been here since 2.30 p.m. Probably he is in need of dinner; certainly I am.

I want to refer to one or two points. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. quite rightly is worried that the interests of the blind might suffer because of cyclists. I think the new procedure for creating cycle tracks gives them a better right of objection than they have at the moment, in that this all comes together in one single inquiry. When the Secretary of State makes regulations obviously the blind cannot see advertisements in newspapers in regard to rights of objection. and there must he some other way of allowing them to know of proposed cycle tracks.

The noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, referred to doubts she had on the question of compensation. That is really a matter for the Committee stage. At that stage we can find out exactly what the noble Baroness wants. I must say that I did not envisage any questions as regards the time limit at this stage.

I am very sorry that my noble friend Lord Gisborough does not like the title of the Bill—the "Cycle Tracks Bill". I can assure my noble friend that not all cycles are bicycles. There are tricycles. I have even seen what I suppose one would describe as a monocycle hurtling round Hyde Park Corner—and it looked very terrifying. Presumably my noble friend would like the monocyclists and tricyclists to use the proposed cycle tracks.

I must stress that I gained the impression from various noble Lords that there is some confusion as regards the difference between a footpath and a footway. A footway is what we would normally call the pavement—in other words, it runs alongside the highway. There is no intention that cyclists should be allowed on a footway and it is at present illegal. A footpath is not the same thing.

The noble Lord, Lord Underhill, is yet another cyclists, and I must say that all these cyclists make me feel very guilty. I have tried cycling in London only once. However, to do so in the country is very different. At the moment I find it terrifying to do so in London. As the noble Lord says, the procedure for creating cycle tracks will be eased and what is as important is that the right of objection of pedestrians will be increased, thereby preserving the balance.

I do not think there is anything more that I can usefully add at this stage. I am sure that various amendments will be put forward by noble Lords at the Committee stage. However, I hope that there will not be too many amendments, because that would delay the Bill. It has already been a long time in gestation and the sooner we can get it on to the statute book, the better.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.