Chris Boardman has shut down any residual attention on the idea that cyclists should need registration numbers and licences to use the roads, and stressed "regardless of the headlines" people want to see more cycling and walking.
Speaking to BikeBiz magazine, the National Active Travel Commissioner said the best way to approach talk of licences, registration and number plates is simply to avoid giving the debate any air time — "You don't answer stupid questions," he concluded.
Boardman's comments come a couple of months withdrawn from the height of the summer heat, kicked up by then-Transport Secretary Grant Shapps' words in the Daily Mail (and subsequent backtracking) suggesting he would like to see stricter rules for cyclists.
Nonetheless, U-turn or not, Shapps' damage was done and prompted a string of frontpage splashes, talk show specials and TV 'debates' digging up culture-warring divisions now centred on the UK's roads and who should get to use them, and how.
Boardman suggests the best way to deal with the noise is simply to shut it out – "I just focus on the fact that we know, regardless of the headlines, 70 per cent of people want to see more cycling and walking – even if it requires road space giving over," he told BikeBiz.
"But a lot of the time the strategy has to be: just don't give it any air time. You don't answer stupid questions and perpetuate the argument about something that's not important. The Department for Transport knows that putting licences on bikes and enforcing these mandatory things doesn't get the outcomes, and so we don't need to speak to that kind of stuff."
Boardman added that he remains optimistic cycling will continue to grow, something he will hopefully oversee in his newly-appointed role at Active Travel England.
"Whether you like cycling or not, it's cheap. It's nine times cheaper than running a car. And that really matters right now. It's super-reliable, it's equitable. [It addresses] all of the big issues that you face," he continued.
"We know we won't make our carbon targets, our legal targets, unless we drive a lot less. And the only politically palatable way to do that is to give people a viable, attractive alternative.
"Active travel is so incredibly robust. [Where will we be] In five years' time? It's here. We've joked several times over the years that we should get a t-shirt that says: 'Cycling. The least shit option.' Because even if you hate it, you've almost got to back it. So I'm optimistic in that respect. I'm not sure if that's optimistic or pessimistic. I think it's realistic."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.