As British Cycling’s Policy adviser Chris Boardman has recently been playing a high profile role in campaigning for better conditions for cyclists. Cycling Weekly asked the Olympic medallist about his proactive campaigning.
What was the biggest driving force behind you becoming a campaigner for cycle safety?
CB: I sat on the National Cycling Strategy Board about 15 years ago. It was a body set up to advise government on cycling-related transport policy.
I didn’t realise that setting up a committee was a way of making it look like you were doing something when, in fact, you weren’t. It struck me as ludicrous that as a society we weren’t saying, “Let’s enable people to travel by this mode of transport, because it’s brilliant.” And the fact that we still aren’t, is driving me up the wall.
What makes cycling so attractive?
CB: I just think that cycling is an ideal method of getting from A to B for short journeys, which make up about 70 per cent of those travelled, and it benefits everybody. It’s more a question of what happens if we don’t develop transport in this way.
There are 35,000 deaths each year that are directly related to obesity and we’re not meeting pollution emission targets at all.
What are the key factors for lasting change?
CB: There has to be political will. We’ve just assumed that the positive situation in the Netherlands and Denmark was a result of their culture, as though cycling had always been a part of daily life.
But actually, in the 1970s, they were going exactly the same way as the rest of Europe, but said, “Hang on, this is not the way that we want to live.”
How do you react when politicians are quick to make encouraging statements but act slowly?
CB: It’s just infuriating. It’s great when the government makes statements, like it did this year, saying that the aim is to make Britain a cycling nation – brilliant!
But then it goes ahead and allocates only £159 million for cycling, and only for two years. It just doesn’t add up, does it?
This article was first published in the November 28 issue of Cycling Weekly. Read Cycling Weekly magazine on the day of release where ever you are in the world International digital edition, UK digital edition. And if you like us, rate us!