Chris Boardman has been in Exeter this week filming a road safety video about how to pass cyclists safely.
The Olympic and Tour de France veteran took time out to speak to the Western Morning News about his decision to leave his helmet at home while filming a segment for BBC Breakfast about cycle safety.
Viewers complained when Boarman was seen riding around Manchester in a dark coat and jeans.
“I had the audacity to ride a bicycle in normal clothes and was pilloried for it,” he said.
“I dressed as I would to drive down the shops. I have nothing against helmets.
“If I go on a long ride I wear one – sometimes out of habit, often on a mountain bike – but I am under no illusion about the effect on my safety. I manufacture the things. In an incident with a car they will have almost no effect.
“They are being used to deflect from making real decisions and I won’t waste air time talking about them. The danger for me is being hit by a vehicle doing something it shouldn’t. We should focus on how we stop accidents not what happens to people who have them.”
He said that cycling around town was a clear winner for health and the environment.
“We are drowning in data – economic, health, pollution, you pick any battleground you want and using cycling as a mode of transport for short journeys wins hands down,” he adds.
“The only way to get people to exercise more is to get them to include it in their daily life. It is not about cyclists but communities. We need infrastructure and there need to be laws to protect people. At the moment the easiest way to kill somebody is to do it in a car with the minimum penalty. As a logical person I am desperately frustrated that we are even talking about this. The fact that we have to push for it is ludicrous.”
The video about cycle safety will be released online this week, partly made by Carlton Reid, executive editor of BikeBiz.com, who flew the drone camera and is now editing the final cut.
“In the good old days a video like this would been produced and disseminated by the Government as a public information film but the Government doesn’t do them any more so the Bicycle Association and British Cycling funded this one,” said Reid.
“Some motorists don’t give cyclists sufficient space when overtaking, failing to take into account the wobble room a cyclist needs. Cyclists don’t always ride in a straight line partly because they can spot potholes and other road imperfections that motorists can’t.”
The short film, called Space, highlights Highway Code section 163 – which requires overtaking drivers to give cyclists and horse riders as much room as a car – and reinforces the legal right of two bicycles to ride alongside one another.
“You don’t encounter people very often and when you come around the corner on a lane with high hedges and encounter cyclists, it’s a shock, you weren’t expecting them,” said Boardman.
“But the law does not protect cyclists, and so often incidents are written off as driving without due care and attention which attracts paltry sentencing and penalties.
“I want to see our villages, towns and communities prioritising people – putting them and businesses first. I want everybody to think “what’s the nicest place I have been to?” And I can guarantee it was not full of cars.
“That’s what we need to be aiming for. It’s not about cyclists, it’s about communities. I want the car to be a visitor not dominating where me and my kids live.
“I want my daughter to be able to ride 300 yards to the local park because there is space to do it and the laws and infrastructure allow it. It needs a holistic approach but people will get used to it and prefer it.
“The scary one is on a political level. There is only a finite amount of road space around our towns and cities and you have to take it away from someone else. People don’t like change.”
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.