Bringing an end to the so-called ‘culture war’ between cyclists and motorists is key to securing a long-term shift in travelling habits in the UK.
That’s the view of Chris Boardman, the former Olympic champion and Hour Record holder who now heads up Active Travel England, the governmental body tasked with implementing the Gear Change strategy and delivering a new “golden age of walking and cycling”.
Boardman told parliamentary publication The House this week that he is frustrated with the seemingly constant ‘culture war’ refrain that he feels surrounds cycling in the UK.
“I’m trying to stop it being a culture war,” he says. “It’s packaged as a war but it’s two percent of people against 98 percent of road users. It’s not really much of a war, is it?
“We’re not different tribes. I want to see normal people in normal clothes, doing normal things – just doing it less with cars.”
Boardman believes that raising the standards of active travel infrastructure in the country – and likewise, challenging any failures – is needed to “genuinely create behaviour change”.
He continued: “We won’t build anything that isn’t usable for a competent 12-year-old, and to give their parents the confidence to let them use it. If you don’t meet that standard [as a council], then you don’t get funded.
“That encourages councils who aren’t doing much, as local residents tend to go ‘where is ours?’ And then it becomes positive political pressure for change.”
However, Boardman is well aware that there has been a small but vocal opposition to recent active travel schemes, including the implementation of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods.
“There’s no such thing as a low-traffic neighbourhood, because it’s not a neighbourhood if it’s full of traffic running through it,” he points out.
“Saying ‘LTNs: are they good or bad?’ is like saying ‘roads: are they good or bad?’ If we had one bad road, should we stop doing all roads?
“The overwhelming and consistent evidence is that the vast majority of people support [the concept of LTNs]. We’re just ignoring the silent majority.”
While Boardman recognises that the rapid growth in cycling during the Covid pandemic – “People went out on bikes, and they did it in their droves. And they liked it” – is beginning to wane as road users return to old habits, he insists that a two-wheeled revolution is still occurring “in patches”.
The three-time Tour de France stage winner reckons his greatest triumph would be to be out of a job in ten years’ time.
“Success would be that there is no Active Travel England. You make this into genuine culture change,” he says.
Following this morning’s news about Bullshire’s designated cycle ditch, road.cc reader Mungecrundle pointed out in the comments that, while the fictional town’s novel plan for segregated cycling infrastructure does have its merits, there may be a few teething problems…
Dame Laura Kenny, Britain’s most successful female Olympian, has revealed that she considering walking away from cycling at the beginning of the year.
In April, Kenny announced that she suffered a miscarriage in November 2021 and had one of her fallopian tubes removed due to an ectopic pregnancy two months later, during what the five-time Olympic gold medallist described as the “hardest few months I’ve ever had to go through”.
“I felt like nothing was going our way at all,” she told the Guardian, as she prepares for the Commonwealth Games, which begin on Friday.
“January was a tipping point, I was at breaking point. Without [husband and fellow Olympic champion] Jason, I think I’d have just canned everything and just gone, ‘You know what, I can’t even cope with doing any of this’.
“But I grabbed for my safety blanket and decided I needed to ride my bike again. That’s what I’ve done for the last 13 years. It feels like a safe place.
“It put lots of things into perspective. It really did make me think, ‘Why am I doing this?’ It’s because I enjoy it, that’s why, and it made me realise that more than ever.”
Kenny, who returned to racing at the National Madison and Omnium Championships in April, is targeting the upcoming Commie Games, where she will take part in the team pursuit, scratch and points races, with a relaxed mindset.
“I don’t know whether it is because I never really thought the Commonwealth Games was going to be a target, because we were planning on having another little one by now.
“I feel more relaxed than ever … I’m so excited just to get out in front of a home crowd again.”
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 26, 2022
Yesterday was, in Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig’s own words, “a shit day”.
Her FDJ Suez Futuroscope team suffered a disastrous stage two of the Tour Femmes into Provins – co-leader Marta Cavalli was forced to abandon after a sickening crash, while Uttrup Ludwig herself lost a minute and a half to her main rivals for GC after another spill.
But today, on the uphill finish into Épernay, the popular Danish champion banished yesterday’s woes and continued her country’s sensational month on the roads of France, storming past yellow jersey Marianne Vos to take the biggest win of her career.
Pre-race favourite Annemiek van Vleuten, who is aiming to win a historic Giro-Tour double, suffered again today, however, ceding 20 seconds to the select group of GC contenders in the finale, after already losing contact a few kilometres earlier.
“I’m sorry… It feels like such a good comeback, after – it was a fucking shit day yesterday,” an emotional Uttrup Ludwig said at the finish.
“Losing Marta, and crashing, and having to come back. But I just love how the team kept the fighting spirit, and we knew that today was a super good day, and if I had the legs I could try to go for the win.
“And to actually do it, and be a Tour de France stage winner, and in this jersey – it doesn’t get better.”
— FDJ - SUEZ - Futuroscope (@FDJ_SUEZ_Fut) July 26, 2022
Uttrup Ludwig’s redemptive triumph – by far the most important win of her career and one which has been a long time coming for the consistent Dane – came after another intriguing, tactically fluid stage.
While the bunch split to pieces on several occasions on the lumpy course around the Champagne area of France, the race-defining move went with around 16 kilometres to go as SD Worx’s Ashleigh Moolman Pasio accelerated on the savage 12 percent slopes of the Côte de Mutigny.
As Uttrup Ludwig, Kasia Niewiadoma, Kristen Faulkner and yellow jersey Marianne Vos struggled on the steep gradient, Moolman Pasio dragged clear a group containing Van Vleuten, her teammate Demi Vollering, Liane Lippert, Silvia Persico (sitting second on GC), Mavi Garcia, and Elisa Longo Borghini.
However, as the leading group crested the top of the climb Vollering, who had just hit the front to up the pace, slid out on a right-hand corner, with Lippert following.
Vollering’s crash ultimately killed off the group’s momentum – with Moolman Pasio ordered not to work by SD Worx DS Danny Stam (an exchange we were able to hear thanks to the Tour Femme’s excellent team radio snippets), Vos, Uttrup Ludwig and co. were able to regain contact.
On the final punchy climb of Mont Bernon with four kilometres to go, it was Van Vleuten’s turn to struggle. As Longo Borghini took the bonus seconds at the top of the hill, the Dutch Movistar rider – who has appeared lethargic throughout the race so far after her dominant performance at the Giro – was distanced, and looked noticeably ragged, fighting with her bike as she tried to change gear over the crest.
While Van Vleuten was able to catch the leaders on the descent into town, she suffered again on the drag to the line, eventually ceding 20 seconds to Uttrup Ludwig and 18 to the likes of Longo Borghini and Niewiadoma.
— Le Tour de France Femmes avec Zwift (@LeTourFemmes) July 26, 2022
There was no such suffering for the Danish champion, however. As Niewiadoma started the sprint with 250 metres to go, Uttrup Ludwig was caught out of position, at least ten bike lengths behind the Polish Canyon-Sram rider, who had Vos lurking dangerously on her wheel.
But the charismatic Dane – perhaps fuelled by yesterday’s setbacks – put in the sprint of her life, scything through the select group before exploding past the yellow jersey to take a hard-fought, emotional, and fully deserved win on the biggest stage of them all.
A happy dead fish, for sure.
Are you sick of being decked out head-to-toe in Rapha and Le Col while out on the club run?
Does your cycling style revolve around a love for flaky bakery goods and early nineties pro racing chic?
Do you want a pair of cycling shorts that don’t actually offer the basic functions of cycling shorts?
Well, you’re in luck – because Greggs, after presumably realising that selling vegan sausage rolls on every street in the UK wasn’t enough to achieve world domination, have launched their second fashion collection in collaboration with Primark.
The funky range includes bucket hats, crocs, vest tops (for all your festival-going needs), and of course, the rather cool ‘bike’ shorts.
As someone who owns cycling clothing from Italian football club Atalanta BC and pioneering German electronic band Kraftwerk, I have to say, I’m pretty tempted…
It’s all kicking off on stage three of the Tour de France Femmes, with attacks from Ellen van Dijk and Marianne Vos (who else?) splitting the peloton on the way to Épernay.
It’s just a pity we can’t see it yet…
If ever there was a good argument for full coverage, this is it: pic.twitter.com/Lhb3N1Kll4
— Claus Jensen (@cj_42_) July 26, 2022
I appreciate we are spoiled with men's grand tour and classics coverage from km0 but I am tearing my hair out not being able to watch this stage of the #TDFF is sounds SO GOOD 😅 Counting down the minutes until I can #WatchTheFemmes
— Katy M - Tour mode 🇫🇷💛 (@writebikerepeat) July 26, 2022
Unlike the wall-to-wall, from the gun coverage of the men’s race, the women’s Tour is limited to two and a half hours of live TV every day – which, to be fair, is a significant improvement on previous televisual attitudes towards the women’s side of the sport (looking at you, last year’s Giro Donne).
So, for the first hour or so of every stage, we’ll just have to revert to the old-school method of constantly refreshing the live ticker.
Not long to wait now, though…
— Geraint Thomas (@GeraintThomas86) July 26, 2022
With cycling’s most famous body warmer now making its way along the Tour de France Femmes route, it was able to take time out of its busy schedule before yesterday’s stage to pose for a photo with BikeExchange-Jayco’s Urška Žigart and her fiancé, who you may recognise from the last three weeks.
2022 Tour runner-up Tadej Pogačar is following Žigart during the first few stages of the relaunched women’s race, before he’s dragged away by the prospect of post-Tour appearance fees and sponsor obligations. But he says he’ll be back to watch the final two decisive stages in the Vosges in person.
“I'm super proud and happy that she's at the biggest race of women’s cycling,” the two-time Tour winner said of his fiancée before the start of yesterday’s stage.
“I hope Urška can win,” he told Cycling Weekly. “I hope she can shine on Saturday or Sunday. They are two good stages for her and I can’t wait to see her race and support her.
“I love to watch women's cycling. It's more complicated than men's cycling and more interesting. There’s more attacking, you never know what's going to happen and I think it makes it really, really fun to watch.”
I sense a pattern emerging on the live blog this morning…
The resurfacing of #LimeStreet is now complete - and doesn’t it look fantastic. Thank you for your patience.
The road is open from 6am tomorrow.
Enjoy your new cycle lane! 🚲 pic.twitter.com/O6IdI355cy
— Joanne Anderson (@MayorLpool) July 22, 2022
On Friday, Liverpool’s mayor Joanne Anderson announced that work was set to be completed on the much-anticipated cycle lane on Lime Street.
However, this was the sight which greeted commuters this morning:
I see the new cycle infrastructure on Lime Street is being well used. 🙄 pic.twitter.com/L0P52xZ51x
— Marianne (@marianneheaslip) July 26, 2022
While most of the cars appear to belong to contractors finishing up work on the bike lane and installing traffic lights further on up the road, it’s still not the best look…
They'll only be a minute.
— Wes (@Frailerpark) July 26, 2022
Meanwhile, in London:
— Ruth Mayorcas (@RuthMayorcas) July 26, 2022
Perhaps those Bullshire bike ditches weren’t the worst idea after all…
I thought I’d kick off Tuesday with something a bit light-hearted and jovial… Or not.
Over the weekend, the satirical police force of Bullshire reminded cyclists that “it is mandatory for them to use the designated cycle ditches” around the fictional town.
With a tone strikingly similar to the real-life Met Officer who, when dealing with a cyclist who had just avoided a collision with a red-light jumping taxi driver, pointed out the apparent law-breaking tendencies of cyclists, Bullshire Police’s Chief Constable Sir Mason Lodge said that his officers “will be taking robust action against any cyclist caught flouting the law” by not riding in the new bike ditches.
He continued: “The law is there for a very good reason. Under no circumstances should car drivers and other superior road users’ progress be impeded by cyclists.”
This isn’t the first time Bullshire Police have tackled pressing road safety issues. Back in 2017, they took on the Highway Code:
— Bullshire Police (@BullshirePolice) July 26, 2017
While this weekend’s parody post had a little something for everyone – Cyclists wear ridiculous clothing! Motorists think they’re above the law just because they drive cars! – some Facebook-using drivers (says it all really) took it all a bit too seriously.
“Oh if only, this would be a dream come true,” wrote one, while another described Bullshire’s cycle ditches as “where they deserve to be”.
Some didn’t even bother with the point of the post, and just used it as yet another stick with which to beat people riding bikes.
“If cyclists had a form of ID/reg plate and compulsory insurance their behaviour would improve immensely,” said one user, frantically scribbling on her anti-cycling bingo card as she pressed ‘send’.
Though top points go to the Facebooker who used a post from a parody page to wish violence upon vulnerable road users, writing: “Get run over by a heavy vehicle, that'll show them.”
Over on reddit (it’s been a productive morning), cyclists agreed that Bullshire County Council’s active travel plan actually represented an upgrade on some real-life examples of cycling infrastructure.
“Unrealistic,” said one user. “There are no potholes or fallen trees in the bike lane.”
“And no parked cars too,” wrote another.
“And no smashed bottles.”
“Or road construction signs.”
We could go on…
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.