Former Olympic cycling gold medallist and Tour de France yellow-jersey holder Chris Boardman MBE has been appointed as the head of a new active transport peak body in the UK.
Chris was this month named interim commissioner of Active Travel England (ATE), launched last week by the British Government to “create safer streets for cycling and walking, to boost air quality and help improve the health and wellbeing of the nation”.
The agency will become fully operational later this year, to drive up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and manage the national active travel budget, the Department of Transport said in a statement announcing the agency’s launch on January 24th.
Funds for ATE will be drawn from the UK government’s commitment of £2 billion (A$3.776 billion) for cycling and walking during the current term of government, as part of its Gear Change strategy to “make England a great walking and cycling nation”.
“We will do more than just encourage people to ride. We will enable them to get to shops, schools and workplaces under their own steam, by providing high quality, safe joined up routes“
As part of ATE’s establishment, the Department confirmed £5.5 million (A$10.38 million) in new investment in cycling and walking schemes. That includes a £300,000 (A$623,000) top-up for e-cargo bike schemes, along with £3 million (A$5.663 million) to improve cycling infrastructure around train stations and to explore active travel on prescription
ATE will award funding for projects that meet the new national standards set in 2020. It will inspect finished schemes and ask for funds to be returned for any that have not been completed as promised or have not started or finished by stipulated times.
The agency will also be responsible for:
- Assessing the performance of highway authorities in accommodating and fostering active transport. That includes identifying dangers for cyclists and pedestrians on UK highways.
- Helping local authorities train staff in spreading good practice in design, implementation and public engagement
- Ensuring major planning projects and developments properly cater for pedestrians and cyclists
Chris Boardman has been appointed on an interim basis, while the department conducts a full and open recruiting process for the permanent commissioner role.
Chris will be closely involved in the full set-up of ATE, including the recruitment of a chief executive and management team.
The English Face of Active Travel
“Chris is the country’s leading figurehead for active travel and delivered the first phase of Manchester’s public transport system known as the Bee Network,” the department said in a statement.
He has been involved in cycling advocacy for more than a decade, as Policy Advisor to British Cycling and more recently as Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester.
His legacy as Cycling and Walking Commissioner includes working with local authorities to establish a 2,897km cycling and walking network plan, a £1.5 billion (A$2.83 billion) project that will take 10 years to deliver and has become a template for similar ventures through the nation.
He broke the world hour record three times, and won three stages and wore the yellow jersey on three occasions at the Tour de France. In 1992, he was awarded an MBE for services to cycling.
In 2007, he founded Boardman Bikes, which has become the fastest-growing British brand for decades.
However, he describes his new role with ATE is possibly the biggest challenge he has faced.
He said the agency will raise the standards of active travel infrastructure and ensure that every large development in the country enables people to live without cars if they choose.
A Quiet Revolution
“The positive effects of high levels of cycling and walking are clearly visible in pockets around the country where people have been given easy and safe alternatives to driving. It makes for better places to live, while helping both the NHS (National Health Scheme) and our mission to decarbonise,” he added.
“The time has come to build on those pockets of best practice and enable the whole nation to travel easily and safely around their neighbourhoods without feeling compelled to rely on cars.
“This will be a legacy we will be proud to leave for our children and for future generations. It’s time to make it a reality – it’s time for a quiet revolution.”
In a comment on Twitter, Chris said ATE would do more than just encourage people to ride.
“We will enable them to get to shops, schools and workplaces under their own steam, by providing high quality, safe joined up routes,” he remarked.
UK Health Minister Maria Caulfield said the new agency and accompanying funding was providing new ways to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation.
“We must do all we can to level up health disparities across the country, meaning everyone, no matter where they are from, can lead healthier, happier lives,” she remarked.
The Minister said applications for the Transport Department’s national e-cargo bike fund, which subsidises the cost of e-cargo delivery bikes for small businesses, have exceeded the available funds, prompting the £300,000 top-up.
“This will enable businesses across the country to purchase up to 250 more e-cargo bikes to deliver goods in their local area,” she explained.
“This all comes as it has been confirmed that 14 local authorities have successfully secured part of a £1.2 million (A$2.27 million) fund to support the purchase of e-cargo bikes by local businesses, enabling the transition from motor vehicles as we work to decarbonise the entire transport network.
“The bikes can be used for deliveries and transportation by local businesses or councils themselves.”
In addition, train operators will receive a share of a £2 million (A$3.78 million) investment for 24 projects to provide more secure cycle parking facilities at 23 train stations across the country.
Another £1 million (A$1.89) will be spent on creating dedicated cycle routes to five stations.