Chris Boardman & Chris Hoy spearhead call to #ChooseCycling

A group of Britain’s top cyclists are today calling on local councils to across Britain to make a public commitment to improve conditions for cycling.

The initiative is being spear-headed by British Cycling’s policy adviser Chris Boardman who has written to council leaders in his home region of the Wirral. A further 13 world champion cyclists, including  Chris Hoy, Sarah Storey and Laura Trott have also today written to councils across Britain to ask them to choose cycling.

The riders and British Cycling are calling on councils to implement the organisation’s #ChooseCycling 10 point action plan, which sets out the actions that need to be taken to truly encourage hundreds of thousands more people to get around by bike.

British Cycling’s policy adviser, Chris Boardman, said: “Britain is now one of the most successful cycling nations in the world but you wouldn’t know this from looking at the state of our nation’s roads and junctions. We’re getting it right on the world stage but the work that is being done at a local level is falling far short of the mark.

“If we truly want to convince the British public to choose cycling as their preferred form of transport and create healthier, more pleasant places to live, we need local leaders to make some radical changes and to be far more enterprising about how they are using their public spaces.

Britain’s most successful ever Olympian, Chris Hoy, said: “If we want to inspire a transformation in communities across Britain – making them happier and healthier - cycling needs to be prioritised. There has never been a better moment to do this and councils must make some bold decisions now before it’s too late. We desperately need Britain’s roads to accommodate the needs of cyclists to encourage people of all ages to get on bikes.”

The top three recommendations in British Cycling’s #ChooseCycling plan include:

  • Accommodating cycling into the design of all new roads and junctions, known as ‘cycle-proofing;’;
  • Meaningful and consistent levels of funding are required to make ‘cycle-proofing’ happen;
  • Political leadership and measureable targets – as we’ve seen happen in London with Mayor Boris Johnson – are required to truly kick start a local transformation in the number of people getting on bikes.

The number of people cycling for transportation varies widely across the UK. Recent Office of National Statistics data shows that an average of just 2.8% of people commuted by bike in 2011. In some areas, such as this year’s Tour de France start town, Leeds, it’s as low as one percent, while just 25 miles away in York, where stage 2 of the Tour starts, 12 percent of people commute by bike. Stage 3 start town Cambridge boasts a 29 percent commuting rate, the highest in the UK.

York and Cambridgeshire, says British Cycling, have consistently invested in cycle-friendly roads and junctions and are now reaping the benefits.

Evidence consistently shows that more people commuting by bike would benefit all parts of the community. British Cycling recently commissioned research from Cambridge University which showed that if Brits made just one in 10 of their weekly commuting trips by bike, it would save the NHS £2.5 billion over a decade in the cost of treating illnesses related to physical inactivity. More commuter cycling would also benefit employers; research in Holland by TNO has shown that people who commute by bike take one less sick day per year, on average, than their non-cycling counterparts.

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.