Chris Boardman inspired to improve travel after daughter unable to ride safely

The Olympic cycling gold medallist has been appointed interim commissioner of the new Active Travel England (ATE) by the Department for Transport.

Neil Lancefield
Saturday 22 January 2022 09:10
Chris Boardman is to lead a new Government agency (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Chris Boardman is to lead a new Government agency (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Boardman has said he was inspired to help improve healthy travel infrastructure in England after feeling it was not safe for his daughter to ride less than 550 metres to their local park.

Mr Boardman, who has been appointed interim commissioner of the new Active Travel England (ATE) by the Department for Transport said he wants to make roads safe for children to ride to school and for adults to cycle to work.

ATE is responsible for managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding to projects that improve health and air quality.

Speaking about his new role on BBC Breakfast, Mr Boardman said:  “Just over a decade ago now my youngest daughter asked me a question that changed things dramatically.

This will be a legacy we will be proud to leave for our children and for future generations

Chris Boardman

“She said: ‘Can we ride to the park?’

“I went to measure it (the journey) after, because I’m quite geeky, and it was 549 metres, and I said no.

“She wanted to do it, and I wanted her to do it, and I thought, that’s not right.

“I don’t feel like I can keep my daughter safe for two minutes, and that’s not right. It just didn’t feel comfortable.”

Mr Boardman, who delivered the first phase of Greater Manchester’s active travel system known as the Bee Network, added: “In Greater Manchester where I’ve been working for the last four years, 30% of car journeys, 250 million a year, are less than a kilometre.

“A lot of that is the school run and getting places for leisure, because you don’t feel comfortable enough, it’s not attractive, you don’t feel safe to do that.

“So that’s the point of this – we want places where your kids can walk or ride to school, and where you can trundle to work on a bike.”

Chris Boardman said he wants to leave a legacy for future generations (Jon Buckle/PA)

Mr Boardman previously said the scheme will be a proud “legacy” to leave for future generations.

He said: “This will be a legacy we will be proud to leave for our children and for future generations. It’s time to make it a reality; it’s time for a quiet revolution.”

It will approve and inspect active travel schemes, and identify failings in highways which are dangerous for vulnerable road users.

The new body will also help spread good practice in design, implementation and public engagement in relation to new infrastructure.

The agency will be headquartered in York from the summer.

Meanwhile, the Government announced £5.5 million of investment in cycling and walking schemes.

This includes:– £3 million to boost cycling infrastructure around railway stations.– £2.2 million to explore active travel being prescribed on the NHS.– £300,000 for electric cargo bike initiatives.

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