OK, we had to wait for a bit before the replies
arrived and when they did we had to take one froma prepared
press statement and try to extract what we wanted to find
out. No, I'm not going to say which party responded late or
which gave us such a headache. But it was the same one.
There are no pictures in this article, I'm
afraid, for the simple reason that it's difficult to find
something appropriate. But here are the answers, as clear
as you can ever expect from a politician, I guess.
Party answers came from Tim Yeo MP, Shadow Secretary
of State for Environment & Transport.
Democrats gave us a response from John Thurso MP,
Shadow Transport Secretary.
Party gave us a quote from an un-named spokesman.
Everything that isn't in black and white
from here on is directly from the responses to the questions
we asked. We haven't edited anything except to correct grammar
in one case and to move an embedded statement to the end section
where it belonged in another.
What is your
stand on speed limits generally, and
on the use of automated enforcement methods as opposed to
traffic police? Do you agree that casualty figures have not
fallen as hoped and that perhaps it is time to look at an
alternative approach to road safety? What would that approach
pledged to review all speed limits and we believe there is
a good case for raising them to 80mph where it is safe to
do so on motorways, whilst lowering them to 20 mph outside
schools and hospitals. We have made it clear that speed cameras
should be used to save lives and not raise money. They should
not replace effective policing or investment in better road
infrastructure. We will have a full audit of camera sites
and get rid of those that are not in place to reduce casualty
rates. In the last few years the number of speed cameras has
soared whilst the number of traffic police on our roads has
dropped by a third. We would reverse this.
77 more people were
killed on our roads in 2003 than in 2002. The Government has
relied quite wrongly on speed cameras, at the expense of firm,
intelligent policing. We want to see more traffic police,
and more money spent on worthwhile road safety schemes –
especially outside schools and hospitals - with vehicle activated
displays and clearer signage of the speed limit.
Instead of pursing
a war on motorists - like Labour - with cameras used as cash
raisers not life savers, we will ensure speed limits are properly
policed. We have pledged to increase the national police force
by 5,000 each year, which will release officers for this duty.
We will investigate alternative road safety schemes –
not just relying on crude methods such as speed humps and
restore focus on local road maintenance to make road surfaces
I believe there is
nothing wrong in principle with reviewing the upper speed
limits for motorways, however any increase must be accompanied
by stricter enforcement and must consider its impact on road
casualties and its environmental impact. The first priority
must be to properly enforce speed limits and we believe that
speed limits in urban areas should be reduced.
Speed cameras also
have a proven track record in reducing road casualties and
we support their appropriate use. In local Government councils
of all political persuasion – Tories, Labour and Lib
Dem, are supportive of their use to improve safety in local
communities and we believe the issue should not be used as
a political tool. They can be a good way to lower the number
of accidents and casualties where there is a proven problem,
but they shouldn’t be used as source of revenue raising.
Its about getting the right balance, and in some areas this
may be the case. We would not automatically get rid of them.
If, it should be local areas who decide if they are necessary
and if they are working.
Speed cameras clearly
can play a role, but this has to be part of a package of measures
and education and engineering solutions should play as much
of a role, if not more. That’s why it was disturbing
to get answers back to my Parliamentary Questions which revealed
that there has been a 8% decline in the number of road traffic
police officers. There is no substitute for traffic police
officers, and we shouldn’t allow speed cameras to be
used as a replacement for real policing.
Road safety is a major
priority for the Labour party. With our road safety strategy
there are nearly a quarter fewer people killed and seriously
injured on our roads each year than in 1997. And we are committed
to reducing these casualties further.
Speed limits are clearly
a vital part in this. They are set at a level that balances
getting around with the safety of road users. They provide
drivers with information that allows them to travel at a speed
appropriate to the nature of the road. Within the national
framework, local and highways agencies are able to set alternative
speed limits where it’s appropriate.
Traffic police and
automated enforcement methods both have their place in enforcement
of traffic laws. This is why, in January this year, we renewed
our commitment to ensuring the policing of our roads remains
a priority for the police. We believe roads policing should
seek to ensure that people can all use the roads, go about
their daily life and get round their towns safely and without
being harmed or intimidated by unlawful and anti-social behaviour
on the road.
Safety cameras also
have an important role to play in cutting deaths and serious
injuries on the road. An independent study of UK sites last
year concluded they reduce accidents by an average of 40%
at each site. This is why we use them. The best camera is,
as we’ve always said, the one that saves lives, but
doesn’t make a penny.
are currently not generally allowed in bus lanes. What is
your stand on this and how would you justify this position?
We have given a clear
commitment that motorcyclists should have access to bus lanes.
We moved an amendment to allow this in the recent Road Safety
Bill, but it was rejected by the Government. We would allow
motorbikes access to bus lanes, because they cause less congestion
and are more versatile and cleaner than cars.
We would allow local
authorities to open bus lanes to bikes. Liberal Democrats
understand that encouraging motorcycle use in urban areas
can help reduce congestion and increase traffic flow.
the motorcycling community’s interest in being able
to use bus lanes. This is something we’re already studying
and, though the research is not complete yet, the early results
are looking encouraging.
visors are generally made to the same
standard, regardless of their target market or the degree
of tint they carry. Given that it is perfectly legal to wear
cheap, non protective and non impact resistant totally dark
sunglasses under a clear visor on a cloudy day, how do you
feel about the fact that it remains illegal to wear a well
constructed, UV blocking visor that is tinted by more than
50%, regardless of conditions? For that matter, a visor which
has the legal tint but is iridium coated is also illegal,
which surely is even more of a paradox.
This is obviously an
important issue that has a bearing on safety for motorcyclists.
On taking office I would ask Departmental officials to review
the regulations surrounding visors with the intention of developing
a more coherent policy.
We have the ridiculous
and discriminatory situation where motorcyclists are prevented
from enjoying the same level of protection from glare as that
enjoyed by car drivers. A motorcyclist can wear a pair of
cheap sunglasses under a clear visor, but yet would be prosecuted
for wearing a darkened visor which is greatly beneficial to
their own safety. A BSI committee investigating the safety
of darkened visors fully backed this proposal yet the government
still chose to ignore their recommendations. The government
has wasted a lot of time on this pointless and unwanted law
when it could be focusing its attention on more pressing safety
concerns, such as driver education and training.
In 2002 we re-examined
the issue of motorcycle visors with a consultation considering
the benefit of dark visors against the potential dangers to
vulnerable road users. Arguments were made on both sides,
but it was judged the case wasn’t made to alter the
theft is a real problem. What measures
would you introduce to address this, especially in terms of
We will ensure that
there are more police on the streets – particularly
traffic police – to tackle more of the criminals targeting
bikes and motorbikes. We will also mount a campaign to ‘design-out’
crime by asking station operators to ensure that at any newly
built transport hubs and at the train stations we designate
for refurbishing as part of our plan to modernise the rail
network there are secure storage areas for motorbikes, monitored
Secure bike parking
is a key opportunity which we haven’t yet grasped in
Britain. Also identification, and trackers can help. Bike
theft will continue to be a problem for some time, but these
steps will begin to tackle it and we would in Government look
to discuss this with the industry to take this forward. Bike
parking also requires a dialogue with local authorities. Proper
secure bike parking exists today, but unfortunately not in
sufficient numbers. Places like Westminster and the centre
of London generally are desperately short of bike parking.
It needs consultation and may need some subsidy and, although
this is not a promise as we have not costed it, I can assure
you the strategy of adequate bike parking is our agenda.
We recognise that motorcycles
can be especially vulnerable to theft when parked. Security
is significantly enhanced where the motorcycle can be chained
to a fixing device anchored in or adjacent to the road. That’s
one of the reasons why the Labour Government introduced legislation
in the Transport Act 2000, to put beyond doubt the legality
of highway authorities providing such secure motorcycling
We want to see more secure parking
facilities for motorcycles and are making local authorities
treat the consideration of motorcycling as integral to their
parking strategies in their Local Transport Plans.
improvement measures often seem to
be accompanied by a reduced speed limit on the basis that
funding will only be forthcoming if this is the case. What
is your opinion on using road engineering as a sole means
of casualty reduction?
Road safety is not
something that can be tackled in isolation. A combination
of factors needs to be considered – the condition of
the road, its location, the past accident rate, the provision
of police and other safety mechanisms – when deciding
the appropriate speed limit. The National Road Maintenance
Survey reported in April 2004 that the condition of local
roads is worse than it was thirty years ago with one in three
main roads in English and Welsh cities liable to cause motorists
Improving the road
transport network in Great Britain, and specifically road
safety, is dependent on recognising the importance of engineering
enforcement and education. Appropriately designed and well
maintained roads can help to reduce the number of accidents
by reducing the risk to road users and creating an environment
which encourages responsible driving and does not allow for
excessive speed. A well thought through road layout can negate
and contain the effects of an accident which can help to reduce
the risk of death and serious injury, and need not mean there
has to be a reduction in any speed limit. Engineering alone
can’t bring the benefits we need to see, and education
has just as, if not more, important a role to play.
Often traffic authorities
will use a range of measures to address particular road safety
problems when improvements to the road are being undertaken.
But road improvements are not automatically accompanied a
requirement for reduced speed limits.
Similarly the other E of the safety
triangle – Education
– seems to be somewhat neglected. What is your position
on both basic and advanced road user training and the qualifications
needed to allow a person in charge of a vehicle on the Queen’s
Highway? How do you feel about the difference licensing standards
for drivers and riders?
We will investigate
working with insurers to develop a 'pass plus' type financial
incentive for riders to continue their training, which would
mean that the competence of drivers to ride large vehicles
is regulated in part by the insurance market. We will continue
to support the 'Bikesafe' scheme run by the police to improve
We want to ensure that
people are trained effectively to be competent and safe drivers
and riders - not just to pass tests. We will investigate the
best way of ensuring people are licensed in the most comprehensive
We would take a long
look at the training regulations, to make sure we’ve
got a common sense approach. Of course safety matters, but
it’s also a matter of risk management, not risk elimination
and we would not allow motorcycles to be squeezed off the
roads by the incessant addition of new regulations.
Our European colleagues
believe that the Third European Driving Licence Directive
is bad for biking and not good for the British bike industry.
It stands to mess about with the access ages for motorcyclists,
and the training regime. If the Government really does prevent
19 year olds riding bikes above 125cc, it secures the primacy
of the car as the transport choice for young people. There
is probably a lot more in it than that, but even these elements
contradict my commitment to environmentally friendly transport
alternatives as well as placing a limit on individual freedoms.
Education of course
is not just about motorbikes, and biker awareness is even
more – if not more – of a key challenge with car
drivers. There isn’t a proper bike awareness aspect
to learning to drive, and that could easily be addressed.
Education also has
an important role in motorcycling safety. Although we’ve
made our roads safer overall – with nearly a quarter
fewer deaths and seriously injuries each year than in 1997
– but recognising that biking accidents still remain
too high, we’ve listened to the biking community and
are committed to improving education by changing driving tests
for bikers and, crucially, for car drivers to make them more
aware of the need to look out for motorcyclists.
are – rightly – an area of concern in that they
are being damaged and sometimes rendered unusable by inappropriate
vehicular traffic. What is your standing on motorcycles using
green lanes in general and how will you justify that in the
face of opposition either from ramblers or from motorcyclists?
We will investigate
the option of allowing motorcyclists the right to use Green
Lanes and the effect this will have on other road users and
pedestrians. This will allow us to make an informed choice,
based on the safety implications.
Liberal Democrats are
concerned about environmental damage to sensitive areas from
off-road vehicles, and indeed in 2003 Baroness Ros Scott tabled
a successful amendment to prevent 4x4 off road vehicles from
driving on National Trails which led to the Government introducing
their own amendment to prohibit the use of non-essential mechanically
propelled vehicles on National Trails. However, there are
many green lanes where the use of motorbikes and/or other
motorised vehicles has not caused a problem, and we see no
need for this to continue to be the case where no problem
exists. Its about getting the right balance.
We have been working
with industry on the inappropriate use of Green Lanes to address
the real problems this can pose. We are happy to work with
the responsible representatives of motorcycling to seek to
protect legitimate use and prevent misuse.
What is your view on congestion
charging, road charging and tolls
generally, as well as in particular relation to motorcycles?
How about parking facilities?
We will only permit
congestion charging in cities where there is a direct benefit
to those who pay the charge and where the local community
supports the scheme. Motorway charges should not be introduced
to penalise drivers or riders for congestion caused by the
Government, but only to help pay for new capacity, in the
belief that motorists will accept the principle of a direct
charge for a direct benefit. Motorcycles should be exempt
from congestion charging as they do not cause congestion on
the same scale of cars.
Liberal Democrats understand
that encouraging motorcycle use in urban areas can help reduce
congestion and increase traffic flow.
Our policy on lowering
Vehicle Excise Duty on less polluting vehicles would mean
that this would be much less for most motorbikes, some paying
none at all, and would make two wheelers an even more attractive,
and environmentally friendly, alternative to cars.
We will encourage Local
Authorities to exempt two-wheeled motor vehicles from congestion
charging and we promise exemption from road tolls and congestion
charges nationally, as much as it is in central Government’s
power to achieve this as some places, such as Scotland, aren’t
regulated by Westminster.
We are addressing congestion
through increasing road capacity – with 100 schemes
built and major upgrades planned for key arteries like the
M1, M6 and M25 – and by better management of the road
network, for example, by introducing new traffic management
officers and reducing time lost to road works. But it’s
clear we will never just be able to build our way out of congestion
– the economic, environmental and community cost would
be far too high. So we need to examine whether we can make
use of new technology to make more efficient use of roads.
In order to do this, we will seek political consensus in tackling
congestion, including examining the potential for moving away
from the current system of motoring taxation towards a national
system of road pricing. Such a system is some way off yet,
but a recent study suggests it could halve congestion and
save £12 billion to the British economy. If the right
scheme can be developed it could help bikers and drivers get
around more easily. We recognise that a switch from cars to
motorcycles increases road capacity and that there is a benefit
to this in terms of reducing congestion. The congestion charging
scheme introduced by the Mayor of London reflects this by
specifically exempting motorcycles from the charge.
is there anything you would like to add about motorcycling
or transport in general that has not been covered here?
(Ed: This is the Party Political Broadcast)
Labour has let down
bikers and the transport industry as a whole. They promised
to make ‘Britain's transport the rival of any [country]
in Europe’ (The Independent, 19 July 2000). They promised
to reduce congestion, but congestion will rise by 20 per cent
by 2010. They promised to improve train reliability, but 1
in 6 trains still run late – more than in 1997. Mr Blair’s
major transport policy, their Ten Year Plan, has been a total
failure. Launched in 2000, it has failed to meet the majority
of its key objectives. It has not reduced road congestion;
it has failed to meet its targets on increasing rail use and
reliability; and it has failed to improve rural transport
Speed cameras have
been used to raise revenue rather than improve safety. In
1996-7 the Government took £21.4 billion off motorists
in Vehicle Excise Duty and Fuel Duty. By 2004-5 the total
had risen to £28.3 billion. Even though the number of
speed cameras on our roads has increased massively, 77 more
people were killed on the roads in 2003 than in 2002. It is
clear that Labour has failed the country on transport, and
the situation is not improving. Conservatives have a clear
timetable for action to improve conditions on our roads and
railways. On the Environmental front, we will also promote
greener road use by encouraging people to drive less polluting
vehicles – such as motorcycles - through tax reforms,
and by encouraging manufacturers to develop cleaner engines
When it comes to motorbikes,
Labour haven’t delivered what they promised. In 1997
they said they’d put motorbikes at the heart of their
transport strategy, but they haven’t. There are simple
things they could do, like opening bus lanes to two wheelers,
improving the road tax regime for bikes and so on. But it
hasn’t been a priority for them. Every step seems to
require great effort by the biking community, especially MAG,
the BMF and the Motor Cycle Industry Association. Credit to
them, but it’s a shame they’ve had to push so
hard for a sympathetic hearing from Ministers.
The Labour Government
is the first to really take motoring cycling seriously. We’re
committed to supporting motorcycling as an important part
of the transport mix, working together with the motorcycling
community to address the needs of motorcyclists. Recently
we have seen a significant increase in motorcycling, with
people turning to motorcycles to beat congestion, and, as
we have become more wealthy as a nation, an increase in biking
as a leisure activity with people riding for the sheer fun
of it. We have introduced our Motorcycling
Strategy this year which has been very well received by
the motorcycling community.
Labour is serious about
motorcycling – as we’ve demonstrated through our
dialogue with the motorcycle community, as we’ve demonstrated
through our Motorcycling Strategy and as we’ve shown
on listening to the views of bikers to identify and address
the main challenges they face – in rider safety, vehicle
security and design standards. And, if re-elected, we will
continue this engagement into the future.
If you there is a political party whose opinion
you would like to see here then why not get them to reply
to the questions and we will extend them the same courtesy
as we have to the 'Big Three.'