Cycling minister Robert Goodwill admits that the UK is three decades behind Denmark when it comes to cycling provision – and British Cycling’s policy advisor Chris Boardman is urging the politician to fight for the £10 per head annual spend that campaigners see as the minimum needed to try and help redress the balance.
Mr Goodwill, who is Conservative MP for Scarborough, accepted Boardman’s invitation to accompany him on a trip to Copenhagen last week so he could see for himself the infrastructure put in place there over the past decades.
Levels of cycling in the Danish capital are unheard of in the UK with two thirds of people using a bike to get to and from their place of work or study every single day.
“It was rather a shock to see just how many people were cycling,” said Mr Goodwill, quoted on British Cycling’s website.
“When I say people, I mean just that – ordinary people in ordinary clothes; people of all ages, people with young children, and a lot of women.
“The other thing that struck me was that if all of those people on their bikes had been in cars, the place would have been completely jammed.
"So I think the motorists understand that having all these people on bikes actually gives them more space to get around. It’s all very impressive.
“Here, we’ve seen vast numbers of people on bikes, very good provisions on the roads and a lot of innovative ideas that I’m sure we’ll be taking back with us,” continued the minister, who last week said he did not support cycle helmets being made compulsory.
“This has happened over a long period of time. The problem we have in Britain is that we should have started 30 years ago.
That means we need to re-double our efforts to ensure we get what the Prime Minister called a ‘cycling revolution’ in the UK, so we can come here without having to hang our heads in shame a little bit.
“I’ve been blown away by what I’ve seen in Copenhagen, and that’s given me an additional feeling of wanting to re-double our efforts back home to ensure that we can do more for cyclists,” he added.
An important part of that will include drawing up a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy, as required under the Infrastructure Act 2015.
That was included in the act following an amendment to the bill successfully tabled before the general election by former Cambridge MP, the Liberal Democrat Dr Julian Huppert, who was also co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.
Boardman, whose visit to Copenhagen earlier this year resulted in British Cycling inviting the minister to join him on a second trip, said he believed Mr Goodwill could lobby colleagues in government to secure that benchmark £10 per head spend.
He said: “Copenhagen is a shining example of what can be achieved with committed investment, not just in infrastructure but in everything required to make cycling and walking a legitimate choice for the people living there.
“Robert Goodwill was able to see how much work is needed to bring British cities up to speed with Copenhagen – this is a big step forward, and I thank him for taking part in the visit. I think he saw the huge benefits of proper investment in cycling and I think more of his colleagues in government should see this for themselves.
“The Minister has said some positive things, but the first real test of this government’s commitment will be the Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy they have promised. This needs meaningful funding and I want to see it published before the next Budget.
“Mr Goodwill will have to fight hard in government to deliver the ‘cycling revolution’ promised before the election, but with the Prime Minister’s backing I am confident he can persuade Treasury ministers to release the £10 per head per year that could transform cycling provision in the UK and save us from crises in obesity and pollution that the country can’t afford,” he concluded.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.