British Cycling policy adviser Chris Boardman has hit out at the MPs on the government’s Transport Select Committee who yesterday held a two-hour session to investigate the recent spate of deaths on London’s roads, but instead discussed helmets, 'road tax' and cycling registration.
Update: According to a tweet on Tuesday evening from Press Association Transport and Travel Correspondent Peter Woodman, the chair of the committee, Louise Ellman, has invited Boardman to give evidence to the inquiry. On Wednesday, the committee is due to hear from minister for cycling, Robert Goodwill.
The session, Boardman says, was meant to be about why six people died riding bicycles on London’s roads in the space of two weeks but “the MPs demonstrated that they didn’t even know the most basic of facts. Evidence and statistics were bypassed in favour of opinions and anecdotes on sideline topics.”
He said that the MPs “should be embarrassed by their performance.” According to the Guardian’s Peter Walker, the discussion included Labour MP Sarah Champion wondering if helmets could be made compulsory; Conservative Martin Vickers asking if the panel thought cyclists should “contribute” to the upkeep of the roads; and Labour's Jim Dobbin asking if a solution would be to force all cyclists to be registered, tested, and to put their bikes through a sort of MoT test.
Observers were puzzled by the digressions. There’s no evidence that a helmet would have saved the lives of any of the six riders killed on London’s roads in November or the 10 who died elsewhere in the country last month. Nobody in the UK has paid directly for the upkeep of the roads via a ‘road tax’ since it was abolished in 1937. Instead roads are funded out of general taxation.
Jurisdictions that have tried compulsory registration of cyclists have almost always quickly dropped it because it almost impossible to enforce, expensive and has the main effect of suppressing cycling.
Boardman said: “Such a clear demonstration of lack of research and understanding at this level of seniority would, in any other business, be classed as negligent.”
Here’s the full statement from Chris Boardman, issued by British Cycling:
"The MPs that sit on the transport select committee should be embarrassed by their performance yesterday in an inquiry that was meant to be about why six people died riding bicycles on London’s roads in the space of two weeks.
“In front of them sat experts from campaigning bodies, transport research and the police – all ready to get into a proper discussion - and yet the MPs demonstrated that they didn’t even know the most basic of facts. Evidence and statistics were bypassed in favour of opinions and anecdotes on sideline topics.
“Such a clear demonstration of lack of research and understanding at this level of seniority would, in any other business, be classed as negligent.
“This was an opportunity to discuss how we can make our roads fit for people to get around by bicycle, improving our nation’s health, the environment and cutting emissions. This will deliver benefits for everyone, not just cyclists, and to do it we need to transform infrastructure, tackle dangerous junctions and encourage people to use bikes to get around.
“I’d like to see a proper, fruitful evidence session, rather than opinion-based discussion, on how to protect and encourage cycling as a mode of transport. To that end I am going to write to the MPs on the committee asking them to meet with British Cycling representatives to get to work discussing the real issues that can lead to the transformation of not just cycling, but the environments that we live in.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.