Chris Boardman welcomes report on inactivity epidemic - but bashes government's inactivity on cycling

"How many reports do we need?" asks British Cycling policy guru

by John Stevenson   April 8, 2014  

Chris Boardman being interviewed

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.”

26 user comments

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If I was ever given the choice of giving Chris Boardman a hug and punching Clarkson in the face, I would be genuinely torn.

posted by Bikebikebike [71 posts]
8th April 2014 - 15:37

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Make Clarkson stand just behind Chris. Then do a hug-punch. Problem solved.

posted by Aapje [165 posts]
8th April 2014 - 15:56

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Bikebikebike wrote:
If I was ever given the choice of giving Chris Boardman a hug and punching Clarkson in the face, I would be genuinely torn.

I'd *prefer* to do both - but as a Scotsman, hugging anyone not closely related comes hard - so a right skelp in the gob for Clarkson it is!

posted by mad_scot_rider [538 posts]
8th April 2014 - 15:58

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Boardman for PM.

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

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posted by Gizmo_ [765 posts]
8th April 2014 - 16:15

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The problem is that Government is all about passing the buck. That way they don't have to take responsibility (blame) for anything.

+1 for a punch in the gob.

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posted by nowasps [245 posts]
8th April 2014 - 16:30

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mad_scot_rider wrote:
Bikebikebike wrote:
If I was ever given the choice of giving Chris Boardman a hug and punching Clarkson in the face, I would be genuinely torn.

I'd *prefer* to do both - but as a Scotsman, hugging anyone not closely related comes hard - so a right skelp in the gob for Clarkson it is!

Surely a hug for Boardman and a Glaswegian Kiss for Clarkson Wink

posted by JonD [177 posts]
8th April 2014 - 16:56

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I am suddenly very depressed. Sad

STOP F*****G TALKING AND B****Y WELL DO SOMETHING YOU GREAT USELESS, GIFTLESS, SHIFTLESS B*****DS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Depression gone! Big Grin

posted by levermonkey [344 posts]
8th April 2014 - 18:28

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He's quite right, this level of inactivity surely demands an enquiry... D Oh

posted by bikebot [463 posts]
8th April 2014 - 19:35

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It's hardly surprising. Jamie Oliver got pretty much nowhere after a promising start to get kids eating healthy school dinners. The Government just reneged on it's promises and withdrew funding so back to square one. If people want to be fat and lazy then let them. It's their premature funeral.

Airzound

posted by Airzound [223 posts]
8th April 2014 - 19:43

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Airzound wrote:
It's hardly surprising. Jamie Oliver got pretty much nowhere after a promising start to get kids eating healthy school dinners. The Government just reneged on it's promises and withdrew funding so back to square one. If people want to be fat and lazy then let them. It's their premature funeral.

Fat Jamie is the last guy I'd take nutritional advice from!

posted by daddyELVIS [384 posts]
8th April 2014 - 19:49

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bikebot wrote:
He's quite right, this level of inactivity surely demands an enquiry... D Oh

and a leaflet campaign or whist drive .... ow, not the face, not the face Smile

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [682 posts]
8th April 2014 - 19:58

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There are more people taking to bikes, one of the things that would encourage people is changing facilities at work.

As far as the roads are concerned, you just have to pick a route and be mindfull of traffic.

I wouldn't punch Clarkson in the gob! I'd kick the bast**d in the balls, then let his tyres down Laughing

Endorphines going up and adrenaline going down, who needs drugs?

posted by banzicyclist2 [188 posts]
8th April 2014 - 20:58

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Chris is getting angry now. Name and shame the buggers is always a good approach. Go get 'em.

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
8th April 2014 - 21:00

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The government has a simpler solution: Sneakily privatise the NHS so the country doesn't have to foot the bill for inactivity related illnesses, while simultaneously reducing the pension bill. Problem solved without bicycles.

@rich22222

posted by rich22222 [108 posts]
8th April 2014 - 21:35

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Health education is a waste of time - some of the fattest people in the country work for the NHS, and they of all people know the risks.

The one sure fire way to get more people on bikes is to make cycling illegal.

posted by jarrow1948 [6 posts]
9th April 2014 - 7:58

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I am just back from a weekend of cycling and watching the Tour of Flanders in Belgium. One thing that was immediately obvious is the way that cycle specific lanes have been established into the road network. Making it safe and enjoyable to get from a to b whether you are in 'sporting mode' or 'popping down to the shops'. These cycle specific lanes are not just for a few hundred feet, but along most roads, making getting about accessible and safe for all. Very impressive and in stark contrast to our transport infrastructure where bikes are concerned. It seems to me that if government provides these facilities people will certainly use them, with the obvious health benefits. Thinking

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posted by evo111 [20 posts]
9th April 2014 - 8:32

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banzicyclist2 wrote:
There are more people taking to bikes

According to the data given on the road.cc report next to this one, that may be the case in a few towns and cities, but certainly not across the country (Cambridge and Oxford top cycle to work league table).

Desirable as it is to encourage more people to cycle to work, the measure we should really be looking to increase is children cycling to school and elsewhere, on an everyday basis. According to Sustrans, 48% of kids would love to cycle to school, but only 2% actually do.

banzicyclist2 wrote:
one of the things that would encourage people is changing facilities at work.

That's a cop out. Do workers in the Netherlands, where cycling enjoys a high modal share, all have changing facilities where they work? And are UK children not cycling to school because of a lack of changing facilities?

For most kids changing facilities are irrelevant, mostly because our roads are no go zones if they want to use their bikes.

It might be important to you, but provision of changing facilities isn't going to make any difference to the low take up of cycling anywhere in the UK. It doesn't for me, and I've been cycle commuting in London for 25+ years.

banzicyclist2 wrote:
As far as the roads are concerned, you just have to pick a route and be mindfull of traffic.

Another spouter of Boris's 'keep your wits about you' nonsense, which doesn't exactly fill parents with confidence about letting their kids loose on the roads. Cycling is fun, and encouraging more people to do it isn't about making it appear dangerous - it's about making it the easiest, safest and most convenient solution for short journeys, for everyone - starting with kids.

As David Hembrow says on AViewOfTheCyclePath: 'Today's children are the only possible source of tomorrow's adult cyclists ... children love to cycle and cycling is a transport mode which can offer children a greater degree of freedom and affordability than anything else that is open to them.'

posted by congokid [112 posts]
9th April 2014 - 9:58

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+1 on starting with schools.
Set aside funds to put in infrastructure and get a handful of flagship schools set up (the latest all party committee recommends setting aside road funds for cycling - do it). Perhaps make the funds available by application, maybe on the basis of surveying parents where there is greatest appetite. Put in dutch infrastructure where the car comes a distant third, after walking and cycling. Set it up to succeed and hey presto, you have the blueprint to adopt across the country.

posted by arfa [455 posts]
9th April 2014 - 10:38

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Airzound wrote:
If people want to be fat and lazy then let them. It's their premature funeral.

I'd rather my taxes went to heal people who didn't do it to themselves. Unfortunately you can't pick and choose. So I prefer if the UK population becomes healthier so I don't need to pay for couch potatoes getting diabetes etc...

posted by jacknorell [287 posts]
9th April 2014 - 10:54

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Another +1 for starting with schools.

But far too many parents can't even bother to drive or park considerately near our local primary school. They fill the road outside the school and park on the nearest estate roads because they can't be bothered to walk the 100 yards from the large car park on one side or the nearby pub's car park opposite (which gladly lets parents park there at school time).

It is mentioned in the school newsletter every single term but the selfish b*stards just don't care.

At Wits End

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posted by Simon E [1919 posts]
9th April 2014 - 10:55

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banzicyclist2 wrote:
one of the things that would encourage people is changing facilities at work.

That's a cop out. Do workers in the Netherlands, where cycling enjoys a high modal share, all have changing facilities where they work? And are UK children not cycling to school because of a lack of changing facilities?

For most kids changing facilities are irrelevant, mostly because our roads are no go zones if they want to use their bikes.

I absolutely agree. I happen to be a veteran racer. The interesting thing about the upsurge in cycling is that a lot of it is inspired by Team GB success. ie it's a great sport. That's great btw I welcome that. But it is substantially different to the Dutch and Danish view of cycling in general. Which is that it is a fantastic way to get about vey easily.

So as an old racer I still have trouble just using a bike to travel. OK I'm 52. But somewhere in my brain there is a missing part. I always arrive at work sweaty because I like to go faster. (not that fast these days mind).

What I am trying to do is to be more Dutch about it all and just ride at a nice sedate pace as a form of travel. This is how I drive by the way. My days of being a boy racer are well and truly in the past.

This is the disconnect in my opinion. To summarize:

In the UK cycling is seen as a niche and recently more glamorous pursuit based on sport. It can be somewhat elitist requiring people to wear lycra, to ride quickly, wear helmets in order to be respected as a "cyclist" (because it is seen as rather daring by some). It has a spin off as a means of transport.

In NL and Den. A bike is a good cheap means of transport not requiring any special equipment, does not need to bring you out in a massive sweat. Anyone can do it and most people have done or do now. It's not niche at all. It's not elitist in fact it's quite democratic. It has a spin off that some people take it up as a competitive sport.

What the UK needs is more people to be in the Den and NL model. I actually have a role model in my head. A chap that used to lead our club runs back in the 70's. he was a journalist on a local paper. Travelled everywhere by bike. Popped out for 80 miles all day on a Sunday leading a group of teenagers all full of piss and vinegar. Calmly pedalling along with his right trouser leg inside his sock. No helmet, no lycra, regular clothes, a saddlebag and Brooks saddle no bother whatsoever. We need more of that. I'm giving it a go.

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

posted by oozaveared [505 posts]
9th April 2014 - 12:11

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banzicyclist2 wrote:
I wouldn't punch Clarkson in the gob! I'd kick the bast**d in the balls

What, only once?? Shame on you!

K Stand Ken

posted by K Stand Ken [41 posts]
9th April 2014 - 14:43

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Some of the things that saw carried on bikes in Amsterdam last summer made me wonder whether anybody 'needs' a car...

Currently going slower than I'd like...

posted by stealth [177 posts]
9th April 2014 - 15:00

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Casual cyclists also get a lot more respect in The Netherlands than those on racing bikes. It's a lot easier to demonize a lycra-clad, lid-wearing 30 year old man than a 30 year old mum in a nice dress with 2 kids.

posted by Aapje [165 posts]
9th April 2014 - 15:16

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stealth wrote:
Some of the things that saw carried on bikes in Amsterdam last summer made me wonder whether anybody 'needs' a car...

They take their cargo bikes pretty seriously, it's like a small van - http://vrachtfiets.nl/

posted by bikebot [463 posts]
9th April 2014 - 15:58

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I saw the race on tv and the cycle lanes/roads either side of the road looked real good.They have integrated cycling when building the roads not added them as an after thought.Can't ever see it in Britain though people would moan so much the government trying to do the work would fall.They are so used to taking no exercise.Ever noticed at the supermarket people park close to the door they just hate to move then wonder why they are so fat.

big mick

posted by big mick [176 posts]
23rd April 2014 - 23:36

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