Cycling is neglected in countryside, says Hexham MP

Cyclists in Northumberland are almost forgotten when it comes to Government funding, an MP has claimed

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has called for more cycling funding for rural areas
Hexham MP Guy Opperman has called for more cycling funding for rural areas

Cyclists in Northumberland are almost forgotten when it comes to Government funding, an MP has claimed.

Hexham’s Guy Opperman used a parliamentary debate to call for a greater emphasis in helping the thousands of people who like to cycle across the county.

Mr Opperman said that the regions need a Boris Johnson type character to champion cycling outside of London. He said: “I can cycle from Fulham, where I live, to King’s Cross, pretty much all on a cycleway.

“It is much quicker than going by car. In Northumberland, I live near Stamfordham, where we see more bicycles than cars travelling around and about. There is no question that the Northumberland economy depends to a large degree on cycling tourism and the economic benefit that it brings.

“I therefore support the motion wholeheartedly, but while cities such as Newcastle have benefited from over £5m, the benefit to some rural areas, whether Northumberland or other counties, is significantly less. We need equality of funding across all parts of the country so that we may all benefit, rather than simply the towns that have been allocated money thus far.”

Hexham MP Guy Opperman
Hexham MP Guy Opperman
 

Mr Opperman was one of many MPs to welcome recent Government cycling investment while calling for further support during a three hour debate on Monday night.

Also making the case for better cycling facilities, this time from an urban viewpoint, was Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, who was among many calling for better national leadership on the issue. She said: “At the end of July, Newcastle Gateshead hosted its first Sky Ride. It was an amazing success, with 7,800 people attending, and shows just how many people in Newcastle and Gateshead want to get on their bikes if they can feel safe doing so.

“The North East has some of the lowest cycling levels in the UK, with just 8% of people cycling once a week.

“We also, this fact is perhaps related, have higher than average levels of obesity and lower levels of physical activity in adults.

“I pay tribute to the work Newcastle City Council is doing and to its commitment to supporting cycling. In Newcastle, we are lucky to have strong cross-party political leadership on cycling. We have an enthusiastic cycling champion, Coun Marion Talbot, who chairs our cycling forum, which brings together the many different voices for cycling in our city. There is, however, a lack of such strong political leadership at a national level.”

Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker told MPs some £375m would be spent on cycling under the coalition Government - almost double that spent under the previous Labour administration.

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