"This is the biggest ever daily investment in cycling” Norman Baker, UK’s junior transport minister.
Traffic signal for horse riders and cyclists in Whitehall, UK
The recent fatal cycling accident involving two young school boys at Tampines here in Singapore has prompted calls from various bodies of the public calling for improvement of road safety. While efforts from the government to boost cycling infrastructure has been slowly trickling in over the recent years, Singapore still has some way to go.
Like Singapore, UK is one country that is lagging far behind when compared against established cycling nations such as Netherlands and Germany. Currently, only 2% of Britons use cycling as a main mode of transport. This figure is one of the lowest amongst all 27 countries within the EU. In a bid to boost cycling in the country, the UK Department for Transport has since announced a one-off investment of £62m to be channelled towards cycling infrastructure.
While the announcement supposedly came amidst growing demand brought on by Bradley Wiggins’ Tour De France win, Norman Baker, UK’s junior transport minister shared “I think the wider culture is changing, not least because of the Olympics, but also because a lot of people are high profile in life, including politicians, has been seen on their bikes”.
In this interview with The Guardian Bike Blog, Norman Baker, who has a Brompton “ministerial bike” which he uses mainly for short trips between his department and the Commons, also shares his thoughts on including more cycling elements in driving tests, the possibility of Britain reaching the cycling levels comparable to that of the Dutch or Germans, and whether the central government should be more directive in making sure that biking infrastructure is good.
While some in UK may argue that their government still lacks some degree of boldness and vision, this one-off investment might be a good first step in the right direction. On cycling safety in UK, Norman Baker shares:
“But I think it's wrong to imply that Britain is unsafe for cycling ... It is by and large safe. Of course, there are tragic individual accidents but if we end up telling people it's not safe they won't cycle, and that's not sensible. They'll do much more damage to themselves sitting in front of a TV eating a hamburger than they will out on their bike.”
“I certainly think drivers should be aware of the needs of cyclists. I think the driving test does that to some extent already. The best way to make drivers more aware of cyclists is to have more cyclists on the roads. That's what's happening in London and I think driver behaviour in London is changing as a consequence, and changing for the better.”
“Minister for cycling: UK will never be like the Netherlands”