02-06-2010 MAG meets with the new Minister for Transport

Less than two weeks after the formation of the new government, Mike Penning MP, the new Minister with responsibility for Britain's roads at the Department for Transport invited MAG and the other 'Riders Are Voters' campaign organisers to a high-level meeting with senior civil servants.

Nich Brown, MAG General Secretary said; “All the effort people put in to the Riders Are Voters campaign is paying off. So many MPs and Ministers in the new Government are now aware of the isues surrounding the new test fiasco, bikes in bus lanes, parking, the need for common-sense on road safety and an end to offical disinterest. For once, we have had an earlier hearing than most of the established lobby groups that have consistently marginalised biking. The presence of more senior civil servants than we would normally have been greeted by demonstrates how serious the minister is that his staff should reverse some of the worst failings of past administrations.”

The new Minister said he wanted to see a situation “...where biking is as pleasurable as possible, with the state interefering as little as possible”. He added that “any action government takes should be based on evidence”. Of course, most of his predecessors in the Ministerial office-suite have said much the same from time-to-time, so we listened carefully to what he had to say on some current topics:

On the expense, safety and availability of the new riding test...

We understand that the Minister visited one of the DSA's handful of white-elephant 'Multi-Purpose Test Centres' to witness the new bike test for himself - just one week in to his new job. From what we could gather, it seems that what he saw convinced him that we need a better, fairer, more affordable and accessible training and testing system - just what MAG has been campaigning for.

On bikes in bus lanes...

With the results of the Transport for London Bus Lanes experiment expected at any time, the new Minister seemed convinced that letting us use bus lanes has to be good, not only for riders but for others as well. However, despite the obvious need for certainty and consistency from one town to another, there is no prospect of DfT dictating every bus lane should be opened-up - although we may see stronger guidance from DfT on the safety and mobility benefits that allowing bikes to use bus lanes can bring.

On parking...

Again the Minister talked in terms of stronger guidance from DfT about the need to provide enough bike parking of the right kind, but this will fall short of insisting on minimum standards and consistent treatment across the country. That being the case, MAG is renewing its commitment to grass-roots campaigns for better bike parking, such as the NoToBikeParkingTax who have called for a mass demonstration by riders on 19th June in the form of a slow lap of the M25 see:

On the real causes of bike accidents...

The new Minister says any proposals for an EU-wide limit on Brake-Horse Power would not tackle the real issues of road safety. Instead, he sees riders' and drivers' attitudes as the most important issue when it comes to preventing crashes.

On compulsory protective equipment...

The new minister clearly does not like to see riders exposing their flesh to the possibility of gravel-rash, or worse, and wants to see more use of protective clothing to prevent injury. However, he was clear that further compulsion as to the choice of helmet, high-viz or protective clothing is not on his radar and agreed with MAG that education, not regulation, is the way to achieve his goal.

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