British cycling legend Chris Boardman is adamant a £4m vision of how Leeds’ Headrow - the startline for the 2014 Tour de France - could be transformed with Government help is an opportunity not to be missed.
The former professional cyclist, who won gold at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, revealed a scheme that would include introducing a 20mph speed limit, an open plan ‘boulevard’ design and closing it off to private cars.
Working as a British Cycling policy advisor, Boardman is calling on national Government to commit £10 per head per year from existing transport funds to every local authority in Britain to help kickstart a cycling revolution but states until now the next generation of cyclists has been “let down” by a lack of safe roads.
He has described the £4m vision for The Headrow, put forward by British Cycling and Leeds City Council, as a “possible lasting legacy” from Yorkshire’s hosting of the Grand Depart.
Speaking at the Leeds Schools Cycle Challenge at Temple Newsam Park yesterday, where 550 children from 55 schools in Leeds took part in Tour-inspired cycle events, he said: “This is the next generation of cyclists and where we let them down is we don’t give them somewhere where they can ride their bikes safely.”
He said: “The opportunity [to cement a legacy from the Tour] hasn’t been missed yet and it is an opportunity. At the moment we will have to see whether it is missed. At a local level people wont have the courage to change unless someone dedicates money to make it happen and at the moment there has been some great noises and fantastic soundbites but nobody has committed long-term funding and set substantial targets – I think that’s negligible.”
The plan for the The Headrow would include the introduction of a 20mph speed limit; a ‘boulevard’ design with wide open spaces; closing the road to private cars; the widening of footways and low kerbs for easy wheelchair and cycle access; the removal of all guard rails and most street furniture; a cycle-bypass; and remodelled junctions with separate signal phase for cycles.
British Cycling claims the scheme would reduce motor traffic by 40 per cent, encourage more walking and cycling – trebling cycling levels and reducing injuries by a quarter.
He added: “This isn’t just about cycling, it’s about creating accessible, pleasant, healthier places to live and work. It isn’t even a cycling project, it’s a logical, people-first, evidence-based vision with no down sides.”
Boardman, who won three Tour stages in his career, was at Temple Newsam handing out awards to some of the hundreds of children taking part in the Leeds Schools Cycle Challenge, which saw several races inspired by the Grand Depart which will visit Leeds on Saturday.
Coun Keith Wakefield, leader of Leeds City Council, said: “Our long-term aim to do everything we can to encourage and help as many people as possible to get cycling.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said it is “committed to ensuring more people feel safe enough to use two wheels” and has more than doubled funding for cycling to £374m to help deliver safer junctions, while the Highways Agency is improving roads to make them safer for cyclists.
Wearing special T-shirts designed using the yellow, green, polka-dot, white and red jersey colours, the primary children enjoyed a sun-drenched day of exercise organised by the council and overseen by a party of Tour de France figures. Tour director Christian Prudhomme, five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault and Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity were presented Yorkshire parkin by Coun Keith Wakefield in a gesture of thanks.
Prudhomme said: “I’m already very impressed with what I’ve already seen with all the villages with bicycles painted yellow and polka-dot.
“In a village near Harrogate there are so many flags, it’s just unbelievable. Yesterday it was the first time ever we had people just to see us landing, it will be amazing.” And when quizzed about early weather reports suggesting this weekend’s Grand Depart could be rain-affected, he added: “When I was in Paris I saw the weather forecasts but the last forecast Gary showed me there was no rain.”