The real legacy from the UK hosting the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games would be Britain becoming a true cycling nation, British Cycling's Chris Boardman told a parliamentary inquiry today.
Above: Full bike racks are a common site in cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Chris Boardman told the inquiry that there is a finite amount of time to capitalise on the interest generated by London 2012 to create scenes such as this in British cities.(image: Freefoto)
The fourth session of the All Party Cycling Group’s Get Britain Cycling inquiry focused on the health benefits of cycling and how British Cycling’s success at London 2012 can inspire more people to get on bikes. Olympic champion and British Cycling's Chris Boardman MBE, told the inquiry that cycling is a less popular form of transport today than it was more than 60 years ago: “The last time the Olympics was in London in 1948, 15% of journeys were made by bike - compare that with just 2% today. A true Olympic legacy would be to get back to that.”
Boardman added, "We would like to see cycling considered at the planning stage of every junction in this country. We are spending £4 billion a year on obesity-related illnesses. We could build a lot of cycle lanes for that."
Summing up the third session, co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, Ian Austin MP, said:
“It was the success of British Cycling’s athletes at London 2012 that prompted the Get Britain Cycling inquiry - to see how we can translate that success into becoming a true cycling nation. While the Games undeniably inspired more people to get on bikes, the fact is that we’re not going to get there without a concerted and co-ordinated effort strategy from central and local government.”
“The last time the Olympics was in London in 1948, 15% of journeys were made by bike - compare that with just 2% today. A true Olympic legacy would be to get back to that.”
During his evidence session, Chris Boardman called the All Party Cycling Group’s inquiry a “watershed moment” and said “we’ve got a finite amount of time to capitalise on the interest.” He also told MPs that the interest and demand for cycling “can only get us so far. We need to address the environment on the streets to see a real culture change; cycling should be an easy choice for people.”
The health benefits and cost savings for the NHS were also covered during the inquiry’s fourth session. Health and transport specialist, Dr Adrian Davis, said: “For every £1 pound spent on cycling initiatives they can generally return up to £4 in saved costs to the NHS and value to the economy. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks by 20 to one.”
Sustrans’ Philip Insall agreed on the need for a cross-departmental approach: “We need to see walking and cycling included into departmental objectives across government. There is existing guidance out there – if NICE guidance was implemented tomorrow we would have a cycle friendly environment.”
Bikeability and the need to ensure people, particular school children, learn how to ride safely was also addressed. Peter Salmon, of Mountbatten School in Hampshire, said: “It is important that cycle training is inclusive so that people of all abilities can become safer road users.”
The need for government departments, and indeed all workplaces, to take cycling seriously as a form of transport was covered by the inquiry. Mark Brown of the Cycle to Work Alliance told the inquiry that not all government departments are signed up to the cycle to work scheme. “Showers, changing rooms and places to lock up bikes at work would be an effective measure to get Britain cycling,” he said.
Commenting on the session, APPCG Co-Chair Julian Huppert MP, said:
“It was encouraging that we had a variety of government department representatives talking about the health benefits of cycling and how we can actively promote them. This is just the sort of joined up approach we need to encourage people to see cycling not only as a viable means of transport but also as a way to getting and staying fit.
“With a third of our children and two thirds of adults overweight or obese we need to find a way to promote healthier lifestyles and cycling offers that opportunity. And if we encourage youngsters to learn how to cycle safely those skills should encourage them to continue through into their adult lives.”
London Cycling Campaign Chief Executive, Ashok Sinha, added:
“We agree wholeheartedly with Chris Boardman’s call for an end to roads that are hostile to cycling, and for cycle provision to be a priority from the outset when designing and upgrading streets, with a view to making them safe and inviting for everyone to cycle.”
Representatives from British Cycling, Sustrans, the Department of Health, the Cycle to Work Alliance, the Forestry Commission, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and Natural England all gave evidence at today’s inquiry.
The next session of the Get Britain Cycling inquiry, exploring what changes need to be made at a local level, will take place on 27 February.