British Cycling’s policy adviser Chris Boardman says the government has to do “more than simply make positive noises” about increasing cycling and walking to improve the health of people in the UK.
Boardman has welcomed today’s Physical Activity Commission call for a doubling of walking and an eight-fold increase in cycling.
He said: “It is clear that we need to design physical activity back in to our daily lives. Walking and cycling are obvious solutions: healthy, low-cost, and accessible.”
But Boardman says it’s not enough to simply tell people they should be more active, as successive governments have done over the last several decades with little or no effect.
“We know that people’s choices about transport are strongly influenced by their environment,” said Boardman. “If the roads continue to be designed solely for the car then that is the choice people will make. We now need the government to create environments that encourage sustainable physical activity.”
Boardman has spoken before of an official attitude of “positive indifference” toward cycling and active travel: officials from ministers down say cycling is good, but then do nothing concrete to enable people to ride more.
Giving yet another example, he said: “I wrote to four government ministers from key government departments in February about what they are doing to grow cycling - so far I have had only two responses that seem to be simply passing the buck to local authorities or their officials.”
The report Tackling Physical Inactivity—A Coordinated Approach urges the government to bring a halt to a growing “physical inactivity epidemic”.
The report, published by the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity, estimates that diseases of idleness cost the UK £20 billion a year and calls for dedicated funding to make walking and cycling “regular daily transport.”
It reiterates the findings of the 2013 Get Britain Cycling report by the All Party Cycling Group, and the recommendations of British Cycling’s Time to Choose Cycling plan – launched in February - that set out the need for national targets, sustained investment and accountability of outcomes.
Boardman said: “How many more reports do we need before the government does more than simply make positive noises?
“We need leadership, the setting of some national targets, long term planning and the reallocation of funds to increase cycling.
“Getting people on bikes is a major solution to this inactivity crisis. With an election looming, I will be pressing MPs to make tangible, quantifiable commitments in their manifestos to tackle this issue.”
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.