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.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.