The name Chris Boardman keeps cropping up...


Transport Minister Robert Goodwill has said that if the Commons  Transport Select Committee recommends he appoint a cycling champion “it would be very hard to say no”. But Chris Boardman - whose name came up several times in the minister’s evidence to the committee last night - says he’s not interested unless the role has “significant powers” or reports “directly to the PM”.

Asked by Colne Valley Conservative MP Jason McCartney if he was planning to implement the recommendation of the Get Britain Cycling report to appoint a national cycling champion, Mr Goodwill said: “I think we have a lot of cycling champions in this country and as minister certainly I’m one of them. People like Chris Boardman are already championing cycling around the country.

“I had a meeting with Chris and many of his colleagues and other stakeholders - the secretary of state was at that meeting - so we’re certainly looking at it at the highest possible level.”

However, British Cyling policy advisor Chris Boardman told road.cc that that while the idea of him getting the job was “very flattering” he could only see it happening if politicians had “a genuine will to change”.

In an email, Chris Boardman said: “Oddly, I am not convinced this role is actually needed, for it to viable (certainly for me to be interested) then that person would need to be given significant powers and/or be reporting directly to the PM.

“The only way I can see this happening is if the person was executing a plan on behalf of politicians with a genuine will to change, otherwise they'd be fighting on two fronts.”

Mr Goodwill also implied that change had to come from a powerful political body such as the Transport Select Committee.

He said: “I suspect if this committee recommended we should have a champion it would be very hard to say no, wouldn’t it?”

But he also sounded a note of caution: “Before you appoint a champion you have to ensure that champion in that role is specifically laid out. Is that champion going to be the person who looks at regulations and cycle lanes or is that person just going to be someone who goes in the media and talks about cycling to encourage people to do it.”

“We have had a number of tsars appointed over the years and sometimes that hasn’t been followed through with the delivery.”

That chimes with Chris Boardman’s comments earlier this year that he would only be interested in the job if it had a proper mandate.

The lorry problem

Opening his evidence with a note of condolence to the families and friends of cyclists who have been killed on the roads, Mr Goodwill said that he felt that tragic as the recent spate of deaths had been, the publicity around them had been bad for cycling.

He said: “The perception among many people may be that cycling is more dangerous than it actually is.”

The minister was giving evidence to the committee after six London cyclists were killed in crashes with large vehicles in November.

Acknowledging that HGVs are disproportionately involved in crashes in which cyclists are seriously injured or killed, he suggested that truck drivers should get on bikes to understand how vulnerable cyclists can feel on the road.

Mr Goodwill said “it would not be a bad idea to get truck drivers on cycles” to help educate them on the needs of cyclists.

But he added: “But judging by the physique of some truckers it might not be easy to do it.”

The committee was slammed by Chris Boardman on Tuesday after Monday’s committee session was characterised by irrelevant digressions on helmets and cycle registration.

Boardman said MPS should be “embarrassed” by their failure to understand “even the most basic of facts” and has been invited to give evidence at another session on safety.

Mr Goodwill said he was “slightly critical” of the committee’s critics and hoped the committee could allay fears about the safety of cycling and “also ensure we do more to promote cycling and get more people on two wheels”.

Improving road design regulations

On the general subject of cycle safety and road design he said: “We have a lot to learn from the Continent.”

He said it was important that money be spent on effective cycling infrastructure that people would actually use, and said that good solutions were not necessarily expensive, such as the ‘armadillos’ used to delineate the cycle path on London’s New College Street.

On the other hand he cited a roundabout where the local council had gone to great lengths to provide a path across the roundabout, but the signage was so confusing people weren’t using it.

On his recent tour of cycle facilities in London, Mr Goodwill said he had seen some good design, but also some “nightmares”. He invited the committee to repeat the journey he had made and offered to lend his Brompton to any MPs who did not have bikes of their own.

Part of the problem, he said, is that the rules that govern road design were not written to accommodate cyclists well. For example, he said, cycle-specific traffic lights could have a green or amber cycling light, but not a red one.

Traffic lights that catered specifically to cyclists would encourage cyclists to stop at red lights, he said, “because if they knew there would be an early light for them they wouldn’t be tempted to go through on red.”

He also suggested uniform national standards for cycle lanes so cyclists would be able to recognise them, more contraflow cycle lanes on one-way streets and improvements to the design of advanced stop lines.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.


Leviathan [2974 posts] 4 years ago

Chris' forthright comments from earlier this week are still bumping around the news pages here:


Sudor [189 posts] 4 years ago

Whilst I think that CB would be my pick of candidate for cycle champ - what makes CB think that reporting direct to slippery Dave will help - it didn't help Leveson much did it?

kitkat [491 posts] 4 years ago

Here's an idea, how about a quango called Cycling Britain which would deliver joined up planning and offer a pool of cycling information that ministers & civil servants could access. It wouldn't be too expensive and would return great benefits to the country...

NickK123 [95 posts] 4 years ago

Thought it was recommended previously ....

antonio [1168 posts] 4 years ago

'Talking shops' would be afraid of CB, he just makes them look like 'stupid talking shops'.

jason.timothy.jones [293 posts] 4 years ago

I can see exactly where CB is coming from here as I work in a political environment, and politicians make decisions based on what will get them re-elected, and not what is best for the country, a very recent example (without going into details) a local Labour Councillor has been suspended for not agreeing with the rest of his party, to the point where he has not been allowed to ask questions at Council Meetings....but thats a n aside...

If CB were to take this appointment without significant powers, it is highly likely that the politicians will not act on his recommendations as it does not serve there immediate needs, and as such the rubbish news papers that no sane person should read, but everyone does, will have headlines such as CB fails to deliver or CB lets down the nation, or some such crap...all because he does not have the powers to put in what he, and the rest of us know is the right thing. If you dont believe this have a look at recent comments by the people in power, both politicians and senior police officials, and the utter crap that the tabloid media have printed.

Unless CB is given the appropriate powers, the position is a poison challis

teaboy [307 posts] 4 years ago

Chris Boardman is ALREADY the cycling champion. When the media want to speak to someone sensible about cycling issues they go to Chris. When someone wants to make a film about cycle-proofing infrastructure, he's top of the list of people to get involved. He's the sane voice amongst the politicians, and is respected because he knows what he's talking about and doesn't pander to 'the motorist' for the sake of votes.

Skylark [201 posts] 4 years ago

What do they mean by Cycling Champ?

If by sporting star, then no, it means very little. A Sporting Champ may be a Champ at their Sport but that's hardly an automatic qualification by any means.

Why can't a fat face Minister take up Cycling and learn something about it for himself? No doubt they're Champs at sitting on a chair or talking.

skippy [416 posts] 4 years ago

Talking heads that MPs are , they would HATE to give an outsider , more POWERS than they have themselves !

CB is unlikely to get any assistance from MPs but plenty of crap when THEY fail to act .

Matt eaton [741 posts] 4 years ago

“But judging by the physique of some truckers it might not be easy to do it.”


Best thing I've read today.

I love CBs stance on all of this. Basically he knows that getting involved would be a waste of time and he doesn't mind saying so. He already does loads for cycling and being a 'cycling champion' would do nothing to add to this.