Chris Boardman, the former world and Olympic champion turned cycling campaigner, has been named Greater Manchester’s first ever cycling and walking commissioner.
The 48-year-old, who is policy advisor at British Cycling, will be formally introduced in his new role by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham at an event at Exchange Street this afternoon.
The Labour politician, who was elected mayor in May, announced Boardman’s appointment via the Manchester Evening News this evening.
The event marks the launch of the GM Moving plan, an initiative of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership, and Sport England.
Boardman, who comes from the Wirral on Merseyside, has been an ardent campaigner for cycling in recent years.
In his new role, according to a press release, he will “work across Greater Manchester’s public, private and voluntary institutions to improve safety and conditions for cycling.
“He will also publicly represent cycling, walking and increasing activity levels in Greater Manchester to raise
He said: “My first priority will be to pull together all the people who need to be involved in making cycling and walking viable, attractive and important part of the transport network in Greater Manchester.
“Cycling isn’t currently a big part of how people get around in the region but surveys have showed there is real desire to ride more, if we create an attractive, safe environment.
“There’s a passion from all branches of local government and health to make it happen too but we’re not going to enforce change – we will take people along with us.
“With my background in sport, I’m a big fan of setting targets, being measured and being held accountable for results,” he added.
“I’m going to spend several weeks talking to people to understand the landscape for cycling in Greater Manchester before setting a number of goals we want to achieve and timescales – and you can rest assured that they’ll be ambitious,” Boardman concluded.
Burnham, who was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in Gordon Brown’s government before taking on a similar role at the Department of Health, said: “I am a big believer in physical activity because it has a positive impact on both physical and mental health.
“Going from inactivity to activity is often one of the easiest and most positive lifestyle changes people can make.
“Having taken that step, people are then more likely to make other changes – be that in smoking, drinking or diet.
“We need to encourage the people in our city region to move more, to cycle and walk and maximise the contribution to being a healthy society.
“I want Greater Manchester to be the sport and physical activity capital of the world,” he added.
After the publication of All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling report in 2013, which called for the government to appoint a cycling champion, many people saw Boardman as an ideal candidate for such a role, which was never created.
Many campaigners will see the fact that Greater Manchester has persuaded him to take on the role as a coup for the region.
Earlier this month, Boardman said that the justice system was failing cyclists and their families, a year on from his mother Carol being killed while riding her bike in North Wales. The van driver involved has not been charged with any offence.
> On anniversary of his mother’s death, Chris Boardman says justice system is failing cyclists and their families
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