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Olympic cyclists ask for everyday cycling investment

Jason Kenny

Jason Kenny, by Pistol Peet, Licence CC BY-ND 2.0

Olympic cyclists including Laura Trott and Jason Kenny have written to Prime Minister Theresa May, to tell her that the best way to honour their achievements is for the government to invest heavily in everyday cycling. They are asking May to meet British Cycling's campaigner and policy advisor Chris Boardman, according to Peter Walker in the Guardian.

In the letter, coordinated by Boardman, the Olympians say, 'You were widely reported in the media as saying that there will be 'no limits' on the honours that could be bestowed on our medal winners. But the best way to honour the achievements of our athletes would be a legacy of every-day cycling in this country - a place where cycling is the choice form of transport for people to get around in their daily lives.'

Referring to the government's cycling and walking investment strategy, Boardman said, 'It was quite a step, so we were all pretty gutted when we saw it will amount over this parliament to less than a pound a head, which just beggars belief.'

Boardman hopes the letter will 'put some moral pressure on the prime minister to have to say either what we're going to do, or why we're not going to do it. Even in these austere times, it's such a good economic investment, it's such an efficient spend of cash. It's exactly what they should be doing. So what we deserve is an answer.'

The government is committed to doubling the number of cycling trips by 2025. Boardman: 'The question I would like to ask is, you want to double the amount of cycling, to get from 2% to 4%. Do you think £1 a head will achieve that target? I don't think anybody could look you in the eye and say yes.'

The letter is signed by Chris Hoy, Laura Trott, Jason Kenny, Mark Cavendish, Joanna Rowsell-Shand, Elinor Barker, Owain Doull, Becky James, and Katy Marchant. It reads:

Dear Prime Minister, 

The Great Britain cycling team athletes topped the cycling medal table for the third Olympic Games in a row at Rio 2016. It was a truly outstanding performance and enhances Britain’s status as the world’s leading elite cycling nation. 

You were widely reported in the media as saying that there will be “no limits” on the honours that could be bestowed on our medal winners. But the best way to honour the achievements of our athletes would be a legacy of every-day cycling in this country – a place where cycling is the choice form of transport for people to get around in their daily lives. 

Your predecessor called for a “cycling revolution” and your government’s manifesto sets out a target to “double” the number of journeys cycled. While some steps have been made, cycling is still a transport mode which does not enjoy the government investment or political leadership given to roads, rail or aviation. 

The government is now considering feedback on the draft Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy (CWIS). We urge the government to publish this and set out a timeline to address the chronic underfunding and lack of leadership which is keeping cycling for transport in the slow lane. Only networks of segregated cycle lanes in towns and cities across the country can achieve and influence growth. 

The success of the CWIS will be felt not only across government but in all areas of the nation’s life. 

The government’s sports strategy seeks to extend the number of people living physically active lives and could be truly transformative. Active travel – walking and cycling – is the easiest way for people of all ages to fit physical activity into their lives. Currently, only one in five people achieve the recommended levels of physical activity. 

Around one in three children is overweight or obese. The government’s childhood obesity strategy recognises the value of physical activity and the importance of walking and cycling to school. I am sure you know that this will seem a fanciful idea for most parents without the convenient walking and cycling routes which would give them the confidence that their children will be safe getting to school. Yet we know it can be achieved – in the Netherlands, 50% of education-age children cycle to school. 

As cities like Copenhagen and New York have shown, cycling also creates better places to live and work. More cycling cuts congestion, reduces noise pollution and fuels local economies. Small businesses in New York have seen a 49% increase in business where cycle lanes have been installed. 

There is huge latent demand for cycling. Two thirds of people would cycle more if they felt safer on the roads. The government’s road safety statement reiterates the manifesto commitment to reduce the number of cyclists killed or injured. The CWIS needs to set targets to improve road maintenance, enhance enforcement of the laws, and update the rules of the road to better consider the needs of cyclists. 

To make this happen, we need 5% of the government’s transport spend allocated to cycling. This is the only way that cycling will be integrated into transport strategy and given the priority it deserves. 

Investment in cycling as a form of transport isn’t purely an investment in cycle lanes. It is an investment that will pay off for the nation’s health, wealth, transport infrastructure and the vibrancy of our towns and cities. It has the added benefit of just making it easier for ordinary families to get to work and get to school. 

Our athletes have inspired the country and now we urge the government to take cycling seriously as a transport option for everyone. 

British Cycling’s policy adviser Chris Boardman would welcome a meeting to discuss this further. We look forward to hearing from you.

Your sincerely,

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Theresa May

Theresa May, by DFID, Licence CC BY 2.0

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Andrew Jones MP with Chris Boardman

Andrew Jones MP with Chris Boardman, by Carlton Reid, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

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