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Chris Boardman: Rishi Sunak must ‘stick’ with pro-cycling plans

The Prime Minister is vowing to tackle a ‘war on motorists’ by curbing 20mph zones and low traffic neighbourhoods.

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Chris Boardman

Rishi Sunak has been urged to “stick with” plans to boost walking and cycling by Olympic gold winner Chris Boardman as the Prime Minister vows to combat a supposed “war on motorists”.

The cyclist, who is the Government’s active travel commissioner, argued on Sunday that promoting more car driving could backfire to make driving more “miserable” by creating more traffic.

Head of the Government agency Active Travel England, Mr Boardman also raised concerns about the “language” being deployed around the plans to make driving easier.

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Mark Harper will set out the detail of the plans to tackle the ‘war on motorists’ (Lucy North/PA)

He said it is essential that local consent is not ignored over 20mph zones and low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) ahead of the full plans being unveiled.

Mr Boardman said he was awaiting “the detail“ of policy being billed as restricting such measures.

But the three-time Tour de France stage winner, who is also Chair of Sport England, was optimistic that his efforts to boost walking and cycling will not be hampered.

In an interview with the PA news agency as he launched a multi-million pound cycleway in Salford, Mr Boardman praised 20mph zones as a “really useful tool”.

He said that any limitation of the use of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras could “affect buses” as ministers vow to ease “over-zealous traffic enforcement”.

But he added: “I read all the detail and I couldn’t see anything that was going to stop me doing anything we’re doing.

“There’s some stuff around ANPR cameras and things, let’s see what the detail is there because that will affect buses.

“If you say make it a local choice, which it should be, then I don’t see a problem with that.”

Asked for his message to the Government, he said the existing active travel policy is “fantastic”.

“So just stick with it,” he added.

He raised concerns about the language being used in recent days as the Prime Minister says he is “slamming the brakes on the war on motorists” and combating “hare-brained schemes” like LTNs and 20mph zones.

“It’s not the language I would choose,” Mr Boardman said.

Mr Boardman urged ministers to set out a “sensational active traffic policy” alongside plans to boost driving.

“It would be good if these things were said at the same time, in my view,” he said.

“When you’re doing just this one thing it doesn’t show that that’s important here, so I’d like to see them rolled out at the same time to get balance.

“Everybody wants their kids to be safe, we need to make sure that that’s been spoken to, and it’s actually in there in the policy, but it hasn’t been pushed up front in the last 48 hours.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper will announce the details of the measures at the Tory party conference in Manchester on Monday.

The chief executives of walking and cycling organisations including British Cycling, Cycling UK, and Sustrans have warned that ministers could be “entrenching congestion” with their plans.

Mr Boardman agreed that any rowing back on existing measures to promote active travel could cause more traffic jams if cyclists are dissuaded from using their bikes.

He said that bikes are six times more space efficient than cars, adding: “So if you actually join the dots, if we don’t give reasons not to drive it’s going to make life pretty miserable for motorists.

“Follow the logic string, it’s not a very long one, if driving gets easier than logically more people will want to do it, which is more cars, which makes driving miserable.”

Stronger guidance on 20mph speed limits and action on low traffic neighbourhoods are expected to be detailed by Transport Secretary Mark Harper in his conference speech on Monday.

But the Prime Minister suggested that councils could still introduce 20mph zones as long as they have local “consent”.

“What they (councils) should be allowed to do in all cases is act in accordance with the government guidance,” he added to the BBC.

The Department for Transport said guidance would be reviewed to prevent the “blanket use” of 20mph zones.

Guidance will also be strengthened to make sure bus lanes can only operate “when necessary” and a consultation will be launched on motorcycles being able to use them.

Mr Boardman said the “only way that you’re going to improve the health of a nation quickly and affordably is to make health easy” through transport.

Opposition to LTNs, he said, comes from a “fear of change” but often there is a “mismatch of perception” because parents tend to back the results as making the school runs safer.

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