Boardman: I'd swap Olympic gold for more ordinary Britons cycling

British Cycling launch new campaign at Palace of Westminster

by Simon_MacMichael   February 10, 2014  

Big Ben © Simon MacMichael

Chris Boardman says he would swap the Olympic gold medal he won at Barcelona more than 20 years ago for a Britain in which more people get on bikes for everyday journeys.

The 1992 Olympic individual pursuit champion was speaking at the launch at the House of Commons today of British Cycling’s new #ChooseCycling campaign.

He said: “If I could help more people choose cycling it would mean more to me than my Olympic gold medal.”

His was one of just five gold medals won by Great Britain at Barcelona - and the first for Great Britain in track cycling since Antwerp hosted the Olympics 72 years earlier in 1920.

“Most of our journeys are within a 25 minute bike ride but we need to make it look and feel safer for everyone, not just those who are already fit and confident,” continued Boardman.

“We think about cycle safety in completely the wrong way by focusing on the individual, rather than the benefits more people cycling would deliver for us as a society.

“The safest places in the world for people on bikes have taken the positive decision to prioritise cycling as a mode of transport.

“The results are far higher rates of cycling and far lower rates of inactivity-related illnesses.”

Boardman added that he wanted MPs “across all political parties to wake up and realise that cycling is the solution to so many of the problems we face today.”

Transport minister Robert Goodwill, quipped: “I don’t think many other than British Olympians and our Tour riders have done more to put bicycles on the front page - perhaps with the exception of Andrew Mitchell” - a reference to the former government chief whip at the centre of the ‘Plebgate’ row.

Mr Goodwill, whose responsibilities include cycling, said that said he wanted “to win people’s hearts and minds” to bring about David Cameron’s promised “cycling revolution.”

As part of that, he said it is necessary “to tackle a number of the little misconceptions that are out there. Like:

“There’s no such thing as a parking lane. There’s no such thing as road tax. Not all cyclists jump red lights. And cyclists are not responsible for inflicting serious injuries on large numbers of pedestrians.”

Mr Goodwill also referenced two contrasting figures - Eddy Merckx and Jeremy Clarkson - in his speech.

He quoted Merckx, one of only five cyclists to have won all three Grand Tours, and winner of a host of other races besides, as saying: “I am certain that the bicycle will once more become a means of transport and not just an object of leisure.”

On the subject of Clarkson, the minister said: “We need to puncture the myth that drivers and cyclists are in constant conflict.

“For example, I read a typically tongue-in-cheek piece by Jeremy Clarkson earlier this year.

“In the article, he described his rage at being stuck behind a slow moving cyclist on a wide boulevard in London.

“I’m not sure he meant to, but I think he made the case for cycle lanes in a nutshell.

“89% of delays are caused by traffic congestion in urban areas.

“Good cycle lanes on wide roads benefit everyone.

“Faster cars aren’t in conflict with slower moving bikes.

“Cyclists don’t come into conflict with pedestrians.

“And investment that helps encourage more people to get out of their car and onto their bike means less congestion on the roads for everyone else.”

Also speaking at the launch of the #ChooseCycling manifesto hosted by British Cycling president Bob Howden at the Churchill Dining Room at the House of Commons today was shadow transport secretary Mary Creagh, who reiterated Labour’s position on cycling.

She was joined by AA president Edmund King, who outlined his organisation’s support for cycling, adding that 19 per cent of its members say they cycle regularly.

17 user comments

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Boardman for presi... I mean Prime Minister!

posted by jacknorell [169 posts]
10th February 2014 - 22:57

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Quote:
“89% of delays are caused by traffic congestion in urban areas.

“Good cycle lanes on wide roads benefit everyone.

“Faster cars aren’t in conflict with slower moving bikes.

“Cyclists don’t come into conflict with pedestrians.

Doesn't Mr Goodwill mean that 89% of delays are caused by CARS AND LORRIES? 'Faster' cars are not faster when they are in a queue.

David Cameron might have 'promised' a cycling revolution but his government is doing sod-all to make it happen. If they were then Boardman's comments in this article (and several others over the last few months) would probably be very different. And of course one of the first victims of the Tories' so-called Bonfire of the quangos was Cycling England.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1780 posts]
11th February 2014 - 0:51

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And yet, the Highways Agency won't build cycling infrastructure on its roads because cyclists don't use its roads... but cyclists don't use its roads because they have no infrastructure and mixing with 60+mph motor traffic unprotected is no fun. Will the minister do anything to break that loop?

posted by a.jumper [655 posts]
11th February 2014 - 1:44

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In case anyone was wondering why cycle lanes are ever built:

Quote:

“In the article, he described his rage at being stuck behind a slow moving cyclist on a wide boulevard in London.

“I’m not sure he meant to, but I think he made the case for cycle lanes in a nutshell.

Welcome to the cycling ghetto. Crap infrastructure motivated by a desire to deny us our right to the road.

posted by Ush [360 posts]
11th February 2014 - 2:28

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A lot of very sensible speak in this item, keep up the good work Chris.
Lets see what the government do in response?

posted by Rouboy [57 posts]
11th February 2014 - 6:56

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I've got mixed feelings about Robert Goodwill. He mainly says the right things, but he has an odd way of phrasing his comments, and of course there were the recent daft 'lycra mob' remarks.

Ultimately, though, he is irrelevant if the people higher up in government decide to keep the current £2 per head cycle spending, rather than give us £10 rising to £20, which British Cycling is asking for.

posted by HarrogateSpa [34 posts]
11th February 2014 - 7:24

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Let's be honest, the only thing the government are looking at are the books. Do people honestly think that any governemnt will want to reduce the amount they get in from vehicle exercise duty, fuel duty, vat from fuel and cars? Yet initially spend more on roads etc.

Now if we put forward the arguement that an increase in cycling will reduce the amount of damage done to the fragile roads, as well as reducing the burdon on the failing health service. At the same time helping to meet the commitment to reduce CO2 emmisions etc. With the added spin off that as most of todays youth will be too busy riding cycles they will not be rioting. The increase in mobilty will also allow people to find jobs getting them off benifits. Thus helping to reduce the national debt, we maybe listened to.

There again no government in this country looks any further than 4 years in a vain attempt to keep themselves on a gravy train that is partly funded by the duties described in the first paragraph.

posted by Yorkshie Whippet [208 posts]
11th February 2014 - 10:15

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No doubt the government doesn't want to see a reduction on fuel duty revenue.

But it certainly does want to reduce its spending on new infrastructure.

I realise this isn't a purely London problem, but as most commenters seem to view things from London's perspective, so will I (I'm in Essex btw, but work in the City).
The population of London is forecast to increase by 1 million, or 11%, in the next 10 years. Due to the nature of where housebuilding is concentrated, London Transport and DfT is planning for a 53% increase in passenger usage in that period. The costs associated with accommodating that increased demand are astronomical. It involves rebuilding loads of tube stations, new trains, new signalling, new buses, more drivers, more depot space, etc etc. Reducing that expenditure by getting people to cycle rather than take the bus or train is well worth while.

posted by racyrich [81 posts]
11th February 2014 - 11:15

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I fear that no matter how good the arguments for more take up of cycling as a mode of transport the cause will be lost due to the attitudes of a minority of small minded bigots as the following demonstrates.

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/yoursay/letters/10996773.Cyclist_s_death__was...

posted by usedtobefaster [56 posts]
11th February 2014 - 12:01

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usedtobefaster wrote:
I fear that no matter how good the arguments for more take up of cycling as a mode of transport the cause will be lost due to the attitudes of a minority of small minded bigots as the following demonstrates.

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/yoursay/letters/10996773.Cyclist_s_death__was_the_fault_of_all_cyclists_/

Yes it is a surprising decision for the Echo to publish that letter. It verges on hate Speech. I am not a big fan of censorship in any event but people do get taken to legal task for saying a lot less than that.

And woe betide him if he is ever in a collision with a cyclist. The letter itself would be like a noose around his own neck.

But there are always idiots. Shutting them or reacting aggressively towards them doesn't help. The best way is to marginalise them. I have taken up the cudgels in the office with the avowed petrolheads. I happen to be an Advanced Driver because I was formerly a professional driver. BTW I would urge cyclists who also drive to join the IAM as well as BC or CTC. IAM is actually pretty good on vulnerable road user advice and being an advanced driver often takes the wind out of the sails of people that bang on about cyclists and their roadcraft)

I digress. To marginalise people like that you simply place them in the category of people that can't cope with traffic. People in need of more experience or training. I have done this in the office. So the petrol head is met with questions about why they have trouble dealing with other road users. Why they aren't able to "read the road" properly. You can imply that their anger at other road users is because they are finding driving particularly stressful. Quite often the petrolheads believe that they are better drivers than average. Disabuse people of that. People that are angry at other road users (road ragers) are usually suffering stress. There is a strong link to psychiatric morbidity http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11583457
ie mental illness.

As ever with any discussion remeber the audience. You may not convince the road raging petrolhead that cyclists are lovely. But people in the office and elsewhere are listening to a person full of anger being quietly and calmly asked pertinent questions that impune their driving ability, personality and mental health.

Do you find driving on busy roads a bit difficult?
It can be quite a workload driving on busy roads with lots of traffic and having to watch out for all kinds of hazards but if you tried to be more relaxed you might find it easier.
Do you find yourself getting wound up by things a bit too easily?
You know of course that one of the main criteria for success in things like motor racing or police pursuit driving is the ability to deal with high workloads and remain calm - not your sort of thing really is it?
Have you thought about some extra driving training?

Stuff like that. Works a treat. Better if you yourself are an advanced driver though.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [364 posts]
11th February 2014 - 13:20

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“I’m not sure he meant to, but I think [Clarkson] made the case for cycle lanes in a nutshell.

“89% of delays are caused by traffic congestion in urban areas.

No.

Clarkson inadvertently made the case for drivers understanding that they're not the only people who have the right to use the road.

Bikes don't cause congestion, cars do. Fewer people on bikes mean fewer cars. But framing the whole sentence as "adding cycle lanes will reduce delays (to drivers)" is fundamentally wrong.

Buses used to have stickers on the back saying "Wish you were in front? Next time take the bus." We need to change the reaction from 'must stop the cyclist getting in front', to 'I think I'll get on a bike, it's clearly quicker'.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

Gizmo_'s picture

posted by Gizmo_ [642 posts]
11th February 2014 - 14:19

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oozaveared wrote:
BTW I would urge cyclists who also drive to join the IAM as well as BC or CTC. IAM is actually pretty good on vulnerable road user advice and being an advanced driver often takes the wind out of the sails of people that bang on about cyclists and their roadcraft)

Where "pretty good" is defined as "Infrastructure improvements which separate cyclists and heavy traffic should have the top priority for investment... The IAM does not support changing the law to place blame for cycle crashes solely on the driver as all road users have an equal responsibility to behave safely; Cyclists should adhere to the highway code, obey road signs and signals and cycle in a safe and predictable manner; Cyclists should wear helmets, reflective clothing and use lights at night..." and so on. http://www.iam.org.uk/media-and-research/policy/our-policies/safer-cycling

In other words, IAM is mainly another promoter of the "equal responsibility", dress like a drongo and get THEM off OUR roads mentality, hiding that attitude among a few strawmen and some sops to cyclists about educating drivers. The equal responsibilty one is particularly daft: if one party in a crash brings 100kg at 15mph and the other brings 1000kg at 55mph, which probably has the greater responsibility for the damage caused?

posted by a.jumper [655 posts]
11th February 2014 - 14:58

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Not sure the loss of fuel duty would influence government desicions but pressure from the motor industry and the banks who finance the purchase of cars almost certainly does.

posted by IanW1968 [98 posts]
11th February 2014 - 22:32

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a.jumper wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
BTW I would urge cyclists who also drive to join the IAM as well as BC or CTC. IAM is actually pretty good on vulnerable road user advice and being an advanced driver often takes the wind out of the sails of people that bang on about cyclists and their roadcraft)

Where "pretty good" is defined as "Infrastructure improvements which separate cyclists and heavy traffic should have the top priority for investment... The IAM does not support changing the law to place blame for cycle crashes solely on the driver as all road users have an equal responsibility to behave safely; Cyclists should adhere to the highway code, obey road signs and signals and cycle in a safe and predictable manner; Cyclists should wear helmets, reflective clothing and use lights at night..." and so on. http://www.iam.org.uk/media-and-research/policy/our-policies/safer-cycling

In other words, IAM is mainly another promoter of the "equal responsibility", dress like a drongo and get THEM off OUR roads mentality, hiding that attitude among a few strawmen and some sops to cyclists about educating drivers. The equal responsibilty one is particularly daft: if one party in a crash brings 100kg at 15mph and the other brings 1000kg at 55mph, which probably has the greater responsibility for the damage caused?

Yes the IAM is a motorists organisation. The clue is in the name. But look at their advice to drivers on their approach to vulnerable road users.

Go on surprise yourself. I don't agree with compulsory helmets high viz or any of that. I don't always agree with the CTC either.

Find friends and allies where you can.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [364 posts]
11th February 2014 - 23:01

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oozaveared wrote:
a.jumper wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
BTW I would urge cyclists who also drive to join the IAM as well as BC or CTC. IAM is actually pretty good on vulnerable road user advice and being an advanced driver often takes the wind out of the sails of people that bang on about cyclists and their roadcraft)

Where "pretty good" is defined as "Infrastructure improvements which separate cyclists and heavy traffic should have the top priority for investment... The IAM does not support changing the law to place blame for cycle crashes solely on the driver as all road users have an equal responsibility to behave safely; Cyclists should adhere to the highway code, obey road signs and signals and cycle in a safe and predictable manner; Cyclists should wear helmets, reflective clothing and use lights at night..." and so on. http://www.iam.org.uk/media-and-research/policy/our-policies/safer-cycling

In other words, IAM is mainly another promoter of the "equal responsibility", dress like a drongo and get THEM off OUR roads mentality, hiding that attitude among a few strawmen and some sops to cyclists about educating drivers. The equal responsibilty one is particularly daft: if one party in a crash brings 100kg at 15mph and the other brings 1000kg at 55mph, which probably has the greater responsibility for the damage caused?

Yes the IAM is a motorists organisation. The clue is in the name. But look at their advice to drivers on their approach to vulnerable road users.

Go on surprise yourself. I don't agree with compulsory helmets high viz or any of that. I don't always agree with the CTC either.

Find friends and allies where you can.

If you can get past the fact they support a form of transport that costs everyone, including non addicts , huge amounts in subsidy, that kills hundreds directly and more indirectly, that exacts huge amenity costs, yes they aren't that bad. As in, at least they aren't obviously insane like ABD. But sorry, they still support using cars, so no, not that wonderful.

posted by oldstrath [80 posts]
11th February 2014 - 23:16

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Britain has failed cycling and will continue to do so until the law is changed to allow the Department for Transport to oversee Local Authority transport planning.
Achieving even a half-decent cycling strategy in the UK needs a shift in government to give a cycling Tsar the necessary powers to direct get all Local Authorities, presently united only in their institutionalised discrimination against cycling development.
The mechanics of government simply do not exist to permit this to happen. The Department for Transport has no powers to direct Local Authority transport planning. They can only advise.

posted by Condor flyer [6 posts]
11th February 2014 - 23:51

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Will never happen unfortunately...to actually achieve this means doing something.

Take the current flood situation as an example. My dad used to work for the environment agency and he left in frustration at the politics and utter nonsense he had to endure to get anything done...couldn't bear it in the end.

Now the horse has bolted government takes an interest but its basically too little too late as usual. They've had I believe in the region of 60 COBRA meetings and today I hear that Cameron has announced there will be no financial limit to resolving the issues, he'll do whatever it takes.

Contrast this with the cycling issues. Just before Christmas we had a speight of dark days with person after person killed in the capital.

Where was the COBRA meeting for that?

Where is the promise of funding to make changes?

Perhaps more importantly where is the desperately overdue legislative changes to deter lethal people in lethal weapons killing more vulnerable people? Would that cost the multi millions that Cameron has just pledged to stop replaceable items being damaged?

'Road Tax' is a depressingly familiar misconception, that we can now prove courtesy of the bimbo Emma Way, is a direct link to the dangerous attitudes out there.

Why don't the DVLA detail how roads are funded with the adjoining paperwork or with a clear message if bought online?

Why aren't the ASA forced to intervene when your local car dealership bangs out another 'free road tax with any car' advert?

Lots of examples of things that could have and should have been done but no pro activity from government at all. The flooding is just a very obvious demonstration of government apathy at its finest and cycling will take a back seat to obvious displays of environmental carnage every time.

Buy a coach and drive round London really slowly spewing out toxic fumes, if you're lucky you'll catch an Eric Pickles offering his congratulations on helping to improve the community.

Hating our selfish and ignorant car culture

posted by ironmancole [111 posts]
12th February 2014 - 0:27

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