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Rio medallists urge Theresa May to invest in everyday cycling (+ video)

Chris Boardman asks for meeting with PM in letter sent to Number 10

10 of Team GB’s medal winning cyclists from Rio have written to Prime Minister Theresa May to say that the best way to honour their achievements would be to put in place “a legacy of every-day cycling” underpinned by investing 5 per cent of the transport budget.

Among the signatories to the letter are Jason Kenny, Laura Trott and Mark Cavendish, as well as past Olympic champions Sir Chris Hoy and Chris Boardman, who now acts as policy advisor to British Cycling and who features in a video released alongside the letter.

The letter is signed by all the Team GB track riders who won medals in Rio last month, other than Sir Bradley Wiggins, Stephen Burke, Ed Clancy and Philip Hindes.

Boardman said: “Britain is the best elite cycling nation in the world – we’ve proved it at three successive Olympic Games – and yet we’re still massively lagging behind other nations in terms of every-day cycling.

"How can it be right that we have so many Olympic champions but less than 2% of Brits cycle regularly? We know why people aren’t cycling. The fact is that most will only ride a bike if they are separated from traffic on convenient, well-maintained routes.

"How can it be right that we have so many Olympic champions but less than 2% of Brits cycle regularly?

“The ground work has been laid in that the government now legally has to come up with an investment strategy. But let’s see that published with a meaningful amount of money behind it. Under current proposals, investment will decline to less than £1 per head by the end of this parliament. This is a pitiful amount when you consider the £28 per head that is spent in the Netherlands on cycling.”   

> Government urged to increase cycling spend as consultation closes

The letter, reproduced in full below, request a meeting between Boardman and May to discuss the points raised.

Prime Minister The Rt Hon Theresa May MP, 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA

Thursday 1 September 2016

Dear Prime Minister,

The Great Britain Cycling Team athletes topped the cycling medal table for the third Olympic Games in a row at Rio 2016. It was a truly outstanding performance and enhances Britain’s status as the world’s leading elite cycling nation.

You were widely reported in the media as saying that there will be “no limits” on the honours that could be bestowed on our medal winners. But the best way to honour the achievements of our athletes would be a legacy of every-day cycling in this country – a place where cycling is the choice form of transport for people to get around in their daily lives.

Your predecessor called for a “cycling revolution” and your government’s manifesto sets out a target to “double” the number of journeys cycled. While some steps have been made, cycling is still a transport mode which does not enjoy the government investment or political leadership given to roads, rail or aviation.

The government is now considering feedback on the draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS). We urge the government to publish this and set out a timeline to address the chronic underfunding and lack of leadership which is keeping cycling for transport in the slow lane. Only networks of segregated cycle lanes in towns and cities across the country can achieve and influence growth.

The success of the CWIS will be felt not only across government but in all areas of the nation’s life. The government’s sports strategy seeks to extend the number of people living physically active lives and could be truly transformative. Active travel – walking and cycling – is the easiest way for people of all ages to fit physical activity into their lives. Currently, only one in five people achieve the recommended levels of physical activity.

Around one in three children is overweight or obese. The government’s childhood obesity strategy recognises the value of physical activity and the importance of walking and cycling to school. I am sure you know that this will seem a fanciful idea for most parents without the convenient walking and cycling routes which would give them the confidence that their children will be safe getting to school. Yet we know it can be achieved – in the Netherlands, 50% of education-age children cycle to school.

As cities like Copenhagen and New York have shown, cycling also creates better places to live and work. More cycling cuts congestion, reduces noise pollution and fuels local economies. Small businesses in New York have seen a 49% increase in business where cycle lanes have been installed.

There is huge latent demand for cycling. Two thirds of people would cycle more if they felt safer on the roads. The government’s road safety statement reiterates the manifesto commitment to reduce the number of cyclists killed or injured. The CWIS needs to set targets to improve road maintenance, enhance enforcement of the laws, and update the rules of the road to better consider the needs of cyclists.

To make this happen, we need 5% of the government’s transport spend allocated to cycling. This is the only way that cycling will be integrated into transport strategy and given the priority it deserves.

Investment in cycling as a form of transport isn’t purely an investment in cycle lanes. It is an investment that will pay off for the nation’s health, wealth, transport infrastructure and the vibrancy of our towns and cities. It has the added benefit of just making it easier for ordinary families to get to work and get to school.

Our athletes have inspired the country and now we urge the government to take cycling seriously as a transport option for everyone.

British Cycling’s policy adviser Chris Boardman would welcome a meeting to discuss this further. We look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Boardman, policy adviser, British Cycling and Olympic gold medallist

Sir Chris Hoy, six-time Olympic gold medallist, joint most successful British Olympian

Laura Trott, four-time Olympic gold medallist and Britain’s most successful female Olympian

Jason Kenny, six-time Olympic gold medallist, joint most successful British Olympian

Mark Cavendish, Olympic silver medallist

Joanna Rowsell Shand, double Olympic gold medallist

Callum Skinner, Olympic gold and silver medallist

Elinor Barker, Olympic gold medallist

Owain Doull, Olympic gold medallist Katie Archibald, Olympic gold medallist

Becky James, double Olympic silver medallist Katy Marchant, bronze medallist

Simon has been news editor at 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.

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