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Chris Boardman urges Rishi Sunak to stick with "fantastic" pro-cycling plans, admits concerns with language of "war on motorists" policies

The prime minister last week outlined his 'Plan for Motorists', a package of measures the subject of a speech from transport secretary Mark Harper this morning at the Conservative Party's conference...

Active travel commissioner Chris Boardman has urged Rishi Sunak to "just stick with" policies promoting active travel, the comments coming days after the prime minister announced his intention to tackle the "war on motorists" with a series of policies formally announced in more detail at the Conservative Party's conference in Manchester this morning.

Boardman was speaking to the PA news agency at the opening of "one of Manchester's biggest cycling and walking routes", and called on the prime minister to stick with the "fantastic" active travel plans.

He did also admit that the language of Sunak's announcement, which called schemes such as low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and 20mph zones "hare-brained" and committed to "slamming the brakes on the war on motorists", was "not the language I would choose" and called on the government to also announce "sensational active travel policy".

"It would be good if these things were said at the same time, in my view," Boardman said. "When you're doing just this one thing it doesn't show that that's important here, so I'd like to see them rolled out at the same time to get balance.

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"Everybody wants their kids to be safe, we need to make sure that that's been spoken to, and it's actually in there in the policy, but it hasn't been pushed up front in the last 48 hours."

The former professional cyclist who now heads Active Travel England is yet to see the detail behind the policies being touted, reiterated with slightly more detail by transport secretary Mark Harper during a speech in Manchester this morning, but urged caution around 20mph speed limits, a "really useful tool".

He also pointed out that making the roads less inviting for people who might otherwise cycle could ultimately just leave routes even more "miserable" for motorists.

"So if you actually join the dots, if we don't give reasons not to drive it's going to make life pretty miserable for motorists," he said. "Follow the logic string, it's not a very long one, if driving gets easier then logically more people will want to do it, which is more cars, which makes driving miserable."

> "This shouldn't be normal, but it is": Chris Boardman blasts "common criminal behaviour" after overtaking driver "almost kills" cyclists – "protected by hi-vis" – on charity ride

Specifically on the subject of LTNs, Boardman said "fear of change" was behind some of the opposition, but suggested there is a "mismatch of perception" as parents usually support the outcome if they see their children's journeys to school are made safer.

He also suggested the "only way that you're going to improve the health of a nation quickly and affordably is to make health easy".

The comments come around 48 hours since Sunak outlined his drive for votes ahead of the next general election by taking an explicit pro-motoring stance.

The so-called 'Plan for Motorists' was met with opposition from active travel groups, the CEOs of Cycling UK, British Cycling, Bikeability Trust, Living Streets, Ramblers, and Sustrans joining forces to say the proposals would deny citizens "their choice, health, and freedom".

Instead of giving people real choice over how they live their lives, Sunak's plan "ignores possibilities for cheap, reliable, and sustainable travel, leaving many with one default option: to drive", the active travel groups said.

Boardman was joined at the official opening of the active travel route on the Trafford Road by Dame Sarah Storey, Greater Manchester's active travel commissioner who described the project as one of "the biggest road improvement projects undertaken in Salford".

She said: "Along the full length of the road, shelters have been added to all bus stops along with higher kerbs from which to board the bus, new pedestrian and cycle-priority crossings have been added to every junction which connect the fully segregated cycle lanes along the entire length."

Dan is the road.cc news editor and has spent the past four years writing stories and features, as well as (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. Having previously written about nearly every other sport under the sun for the Express, and the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for the Non-League Paper, Dan joined road.cc in 2020. Come the weekend you'll find him labouring up a hill, probably with a mouth full of jelly babies, or making a bonk-induced trip to a south of England petrol station... in search of more jelly babies.

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18 comments

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mattw | 9 months ago
0 likes

Can anyone enlighten me on "Statutory guidance on active travel withdrawn by @transportgovuk as of yesterday."

https://twitter.com/humantravl/status/1709149607911973310

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David9694 | 9 months ago
2 likes

I can barely look at what ever the plan for drivers was - not much news cut-through that I've seen so far. 

Maybe, just maybe, a lot of this is along the lines of "we are 100% committed to stopping 5G masts giving you the Covid vaccine on the sly" - i.e. no action required.

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David9694 | 9 months ago
0 likes

duplicate 

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hawkinspeter | 9 months ago
2 likes

Chris Boardman - the adult in the room thinking and working for a healthier future.

Is there any way we could swap out Rishi Seven Bins Sunak and replace him with the straight talking and truthfulness of St Chris? I mean, no-one voted for Bacon Tax Sunak, so would we even need a coup?

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eburtthebike | 9 months ago
7 likes

To re-phrase H.G. Wells

"Nothing gives me greater hope for the future of the human race than the sight of Chris Boardman on a bicycle, in ordinary clothes and without a helmet."

Dear god Chris, keep it up: there are a lot of people depending on you.

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wtjs | 9 months ago
7 likes

Good work on our behalf Boardman and Storey!

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IanMK | 9 months ago
0 likes

Surely, for all of this sabre rattling rhetoric if anyone Google's the governments active travel policy they're going to find Gear Change and Active Travel England and realise that once again they are being lied to. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me, fool me over and over again I'm just a gullible sap.

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morgoth985 replied to IanMK | 9 months ago
3 likes

But next to nobody will google the government's active travel policy.  They will just suck up whatever sits best with their own prejudices.

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Dnnnnnn replied to morgoth985 | 9 months ago
1 like

Exactly. See also <insert most areas of public policy>.

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IanMK replied to morgoth985 | 9 months ago
2 likes

You're absolutely right, of course. There's been lots of nonsense on my local Facebook group about the LWCIP. It would be nice to have an informed debate with my neighbours about it but absolutely impossible because they aren't interested in informing themselves before spewing their crap.

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ubercurmudgeon | 9 months ago
6 likes

A group of people getting everything their way for a long time, then being told they need to share with others, and being unwilling to do so, is not any kind of war. What it most resembles is the temper tantrum of a toddler.

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morgoth985 replied to ubercurmudgeon | 9 months ago
1 like

Sad, but that I fear is the attitude of a large portion of the country

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the little onion | 9 months ago
9 likes

The thing is - this so-called "war on motorists" announcement isn't coming from the transport minister. It's coming from the Prime Minister. So it isn't a routine change in policy, but rather a front-and-centre, flagship, all-in policy and culture war. 

We cyclists (and pedestrians) should be very, very worried.

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Dnnnnnn replied to the little onion | 9 months ago
6 likes
the little onion wrote:

We cyclists (and pedestrians) should be very, very worried.

Indeed. Mark Harper, transport minister, is on-message though, and has just given a bizarre speech about wokery, sinister plots and various other nonsense that I doubt he even believes.
Fortunately, there isn't much time for real changes to be enacted before the election, and much of the talk isn't really commitment to action anyway - just the desperate thrashing of a drowning and directionless administration. Still pretty depressing though.

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the little onion replied to the little onion | 9 months ago
8 likes

Reading the news headlines, and it is worse than I feared. The transport minister's speech included lots of heavy-handed, cetralised proposals to restrict council's use of 20mph zones, bus lanes, etc. The punishment for non-compliant councils would be to cut them off from the DVLA database, i.e. make it impossible for them to access data on car owners from reg plats, thus essentially decriminalising all council-enforced parking restrictions, ANPR, etc. Absolutely insane nuclear option threat.

 

Also, the minister also indulged some crazy 15 minute city conspiracy theory nonsense. 

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the little onion replied to the little onion | 9 months ago
0 likes

Reading the news headlines, and it is worse than I feared. The transport minister's speech included lots of heavy-handed, cetralised proposals to restrict council's use of 20mph zones, bus lanes, etc. The punishment for non-compliant councils would be to cut them off from the DVLA database, i.e. make it impossible for them to access data on car owners from reg plats, thus essentially decriminalising all council-enforced parking restrictions, ANPR, etc. Absolutely insane nuclear option threat.

 

Also, the minister also indulged some crazy 15 minute city conspiracy theory nonsense. 

Avatar
Dnnnnnn replied to the little onion | 9 months ago
3 likes

A lot of it is weasel words though: "today, I am announcing that the Government will investigate what options we have in our toolbox to restrict...". It's intended to arouse those stupid enough to have put Liz Truss in charge but I doubt it will lead to anything substantial. At least I hope not...

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chrisonabike replied to Dnnnnnn | 9 months ago
4 likes
Dnnnnnn wrote:

;It's intended to arouse those stupid enough to have put Liz Truss in charge but I doubt it will lead to anything substantial. At least I hope not...

Problem is, they *did* put Liz Truss in charge, and those folks haven't all emigrated. It may not be much of the electorate but the "swivel-eyed loons" (as some in their own party affectionately refer to them) certainly have disproportionate influence.

Further, it seems to be one of those cycles where the party in charge makes a big song and dance about something and - rather than saying "not bovvered" - the other party rushes to show they've got a similar routine, but with a costume of their own colour.

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