§ Mr. Bill Wiggin (Leominster)
I beg to move,
That leave be given to bring in a Bill to allow motorcycles to use bus lanes.
As possibly the only Member of Parliament who motorcycles to work every day, I am one of more than 1 million motorcyclists in Britain who recognise the pleasure and convenience of filtering past the gridlocked traffic and steering clear of public transport. However, transport policy on motorcyclists is inconsistent and unfair. It does not provide for motorcyclists as vulnerable road users, yet it encourages people to get out of their cars and on to a bike. The Bill seeks to turn promises into actions to give motorcyclists a fairer deal.
The Government recognise the important role of motorcycling. A Treasury consultation document on vehicle excise duty for motorcycles stated in November 2001:The Government believes that motorcycles should be encouraged where they replace car use…because of the lower environmental impact and the reduced congestion of travelling",and that they werean affordable alternative to the car".Despite that recognition, however, the Government's overall policy towards motorcycles is inconsistent. On the one hand, motorcycles are exempt from the congestion charge in order to promote the motorcycle as a more desirable mode of transportation, which I support. That has produced the desired effect, with more than 20,000 motorcycles being bought in London last year, and it could well be a longer-term solution to traffic gridlock. On the other hand, however, the Government are penalising and placing motorcycle users at a disadvantage by not providing for them in road traffic and safety schemes.
The Bill would introduce a national system of bus lane access for motorcyclists. It would require the Government to carry out their commitment to reduce congestion, improve safety and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by giving motorcycle users the extra incentive of traffic isolation, ease of access and life itself. With more than 1 million motorcyclists in Britain today, it is only correct and fair that, as citizens of a free society, we should have the right to ride where it is safest and most convenient. This is about civil liberties and the Government protecting the lives of a growing population of motorcyclists—a group whom they are promoting. By allowing motorcycles in bus lanes, we would be saving lives. Traffic isolation is the key to motorcyclist safety and accident reduction, which pedal cyclists have been afforded through schemes of segregation and access to bus lanes.
Such schemes have proved successful, with pedal cyclist casualty rates decreasing by 22 per cent. since 1997, which is likely to be a direct consequence of road isolation schemes. Most motorcyclist casualties arise from collisions with cars. Allowing motorcycles to travel independently of those vehicles would minimise potential collisions. Thus, motorcyclists nationwide want a share of the benefits of traffic isolation that are currently enjoyed by pedal cyclists across the country. Surely the correct position to adopt is a net safety benefit that takes the casualties of all road users, motorcyclists as well as pedal cyclists, into account.
661 I understand that access to bus lanes would mean motorcyclists overtaking in the inside lane. That is a risk, but it would be their choice and decision to do so. Obviously, riders who chose not to do so would travel in other lanes. The point is that motorcyclists should be able to ride where they feel safest. For a great many, including me, that may well be in the segregated bus lane.
The Bill aims to make available nationwide a policy that has been successfully tried and tested in nine places across the country: London, Bristol, Reading, Swindon, Bath, Hull, Colchester, Birmingham and the M4 bus lane. I ask the House to consider the experience of those trials, which have successfully admitted motorcycles to bus lanes. The Government welcomed the pilot studies in their 1998 transport White Paper in order to:help inform decisions on whether there is a proper case for motorcyclists to be allowed in bus lanes".How many successful precedent local authority schemes do the Government need to conclude that that is the best policy for transport, especially as local authorities had to fund the initiatives themselves to provide the Government with the proof that they said they require? The Government stated that the work of the advisory group on motorcycling would be completed by 2004. The Bill would ensure that motorcycle access to bus lanes nationwide was included in their strategy.
In my role as shadow Environment Minister I can highlight the positive environmental impact that results from the replacement of cars by motorcycles. A typical scooter consumes up to 81 per cent. less fuel than a car on the same journey. We should be doing everything we can to have a low-carbon economy, targeting transport as one of the worst climate change offenders. Providing motorcyclists with the option of travelling safely and more conveniently in bus lanes is likely to act as an 662 added incentive to travel in that much more environmentally friendly way. Motorbikes do not create demand for new roads and they occupy efficient parking and garaging space. Indeed, five motorcycles can be parked in the space occupied by one car.
It is a simple equation. First, motorcycle admittance to bus lanes would improve motorcycle safety, which equals accident reduction. Secondly, giving people the incentive to filter past the traffic gridlock without the risks they currently face will encourage more to switch from their car, which will alleviate traffic congestion. Thirdly, encouraging people to use a motorcycle benefits the environment, potentially helping the UK to achieve its ambitious commitment of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20 per cent. by 2010.
I am grateful for the help of the British Motorcycle Federation in introducing the Bill. It has campaigned widely for freedom of motorcycle travel in bus lanes in the UK. I hope that the Bill will be approved because it can only mean fewer people in cars, the alleviation of traffic gridlock, more lives saved through traffic isolation, a reduction in environmental damage and a fulfilment of people's rights. It is a fair deal for motorcyclists. For those reasons, I commend the Bill to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Bill Wiggin, Mr. Don Foster, Angela Watkinson, Mr. Mark Todd, Mr. Stephen Pound, Peter Bottomley, Dr. Brian Iddon, Mr. Robert Key, Mr. Adrian Flook, Mr. Bill Tynan, Mrs. Jackie Lawrence and Mr. Roger Gale.