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Chris Boardman: "Political courage" needed to deliver safe cycling infrastructure for London

Champion cyclist turned campaigner was speaking before London Assembly's Transport Committee...

Chris Boardman has said that “political courage” is needed to advance plans for cycling infrastructure in London and that the capital’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, has missed the opportunity to maintain the momentum built under his predecessor, Boris Johnson.

Boardman, the former world and Olympic champion, now policy advisor at British Cycling and Greater Manchester cycling and walking commissioner, was speaking yesterday in front of the London Assembly’s transport committee.

The meeting (which you can watch here – livestream starts at around 13 minutes 30 seconds) also heard from Dr Rachel Aldred of the University of Westminster, Simon Munk of the London Cycling Campaign and Matt Winfield of Sustrans.

Many campaigners have been disappointed by what they see as a lack of progress made by Khan since he took office in May 2016.

“The current administration didn’t take input from previous lessons and so have encountered many of the same problems,” Boardman said.

“Regrettably, Andrew Gilligan [the city’s cycling commissioner under Johnson] was not consulted by the current administration. I

“I would hope this wasn’t a party political thing,” he said. “We plan to use his knowledge in Manchester.”

Boardman, who met with Khan prior to his election to emphasise the need for safe infrastructure for the capital’s cyclists, added: ““if we were looking solely at the evidence for progress, it should be the car lobby fighting to keep road space, not cycling trying to gain it.”

> Chris Boardman leads calls for Sadiq Khan to deliver on cycling

Aldred, whose work includes the Near Miss Project, spoke of the way cycling is perceived in Britain and agreed that there needed to be a desire on the part of politicians to ensure decent infrastructure was built.

> Near Miss Project: 'Very scary' incident once a week

She said: “There is not necessarily a single baddie, but a paper I’ve written previously found that many consider that you have to be a bit brave to cycle and that quickly turns cycling into a marginalised activity and one deemed by many to be for the eco-warrior.

“That creates undue hostility which simply doesn’t exist elsewhere in Europe.

“Political will is often therefore the biggest barrier, perhaps even more so than financial constraints. In respect of London there are varying levels of support within TfL and within the boroughs. We haven’t yet managed to mainstream cycling across the board.”

Boardman touched on the way cycling is often perceived in the mainstream media, saying: “Negative news surrounding cycling unfortunately spreads disproportionately, so politically cycling is treated with caution.

The DfT in particular I’ve found to uncomfortable with upsetting the status quo and we have to push quite hard for progress.

“There are some very obvious quick wins that we can fight for,” he added. “British Cycling’s Turning the Corner campaign, for example, would bring us more in line with the rest of Europe. This has been demonstrated to deliver efficiencies for all road users, including a 47 per cent enhanced efficiency for motor traffic.”

In December 2017, Khan announced plans to double spend on cycling in London to £770 million from 2017/18 to 2021/22.

> Sadiq Khan "to double" amount spent on cycling in London

Current projects that have been the subject of recent consultations include Cycle Superhighways running from Kensington Olympia to Brentford (and ultimately, Uxbridge) and from Greenwich to Tower Bridge.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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