Norfolk: Rural cyclists must not be left out of government cash boost
- Credit: IAN BURT
People living in rural areas should not be neglected in the government move to get more people cycling, a Norfolk MP has warned.
North-West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham called for more rural speed limits and investment in safer highways during a packed backbench business debate.
His comments come just weeks after Norwich was awarded £5.5m to improve cycling infrastructure over the next two years.
The cash, made up of £3.7m from government and £1.8m of local money, will be used to upgrade cycling infrastructure across Norwich, including an eight-mile route through the city centre linking people with growth areas from the Norwich Research Park to Heartsease.
During the debate, Mr Bellingham said that a lot of money would be spent in the conurbations and in London but it was important that rural areas were not neglected in the great drive to get more people cycling.
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He said that cyclists were at a 'big disadvantage' on small rural lanes and needed more rural speed limits and more investment in safer highways in rural areas.
He said: 'In the rural hamlets and communities we do want people to cycle because of course, traditionally, they did bicycle.
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'They visited neighbouring farms or small businesses on a bicycle. Some of the most dangerous places to cycle are on the most narrow country lanes.
'There is an argument for reducing the speed limits on those country lanes to 40mph and for more villages to have 20mph speed limits.'
He also criticised the Hardings Pit bus lane, in King's Lynn, which was built with community infrastructure fund money.
He said: 'It was a safe cycle track and it is now very dangerous for cyclists to go on it.
'There should have been a like- for-like plan. Councils must be sensisitve to cyclists.'
Liberal Democrat Norman Baker told MPs some £375m would be spent on cycling under the coalition government – almost double that spent under the previous Labour administration, in the backbench business debate on the cross party Get Britain Cycling report.
It coincided with a protest ride past Parliament of an estimated 5,000 cyclists on Monday.
Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle called for a cross party consensus on long-term funding for cycling provision, and changes to ensure all new road projects and upgrades were safe for bikes.
Mr Baker faced calls during the debate for a dramatic increase in funding for cycling equivalent to around £10 per person, per year, with the goal of ensuring 10pc of all journeys were made by bicycle by 2025 – a target endorsed by MPs without a formal vote.
He said: 'The government wants more people cycling, more often, more safely – we are determined to drive that forward and I believe we have a good record to date.'
He said that government wanted to 'go even further'.