The chance to create a cycling legacy through the Tour de France could be wasted if Government refuses to commit long-term funding, Olympic legend Chris Boardman has warned.
With less than 100 days until the Grand Depart begins in Yorkshire on July 5, Boardman, who is policy advisor to British Cycling (BC), believes the Government is yet to recognise cycling as a “grown up form of transport” and is treating its future as a “charity” by giving short-term lump sums without long-term assurances.
He claims transport chiefs refused to set targets for increasing cycling in the UK, or to commit any long-term funds to improving cycling safety when he presented BC’s ChooseCycling manifesto to the Commons Transport Select Committee in February.
When asked if Le Tour could be a missed opportunity to spark a cycling legacy in Britain, he said: “It’s quite possible. If there is no action you can’t expect a reaction – you have got to do something if you want change.
“It’s fundamental, it’s culture change. Cycling and walking are often not the easiest solution and while that’s the case people will choose otherwise to get around.”
He said the Government is failing to back up the Prime Minister’s words that funding would start a “cycling revolution”, as its lack of commitment “doesn’t give the local authorities confidence to support and invest”.
Boardman said cycling in Yorkshire has decreased over the past 10 years, while Leeds has seen a recent increase as it has invested in infrastructure.
The ChooseCycling plan highlighted Cambridge University research, which found the NHS would save £250m-a-year if just one in 10 journeys nationally were made by bicycle. It urged Government to treat the sport more seriously through increasing spending to £10 per head to ensure 10 per cent of trips were made by bike by 2025.
He said: “The Government have given me no indication to be confident at all. At the moment cycling is not being treated as a grown up form of transport.
“There is no standing order, it is a lump of cash and in two years time they might not give another lump of cash.” He added: “Bringing the Tour de France to Britain just gives us a real shop window and if you can link up that commitment behind it we can revolutionise transport in the UK.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Getting people to use bikes is an absolute priority for this Government and that is why we have already invested £278m in cycling.”
He said the Government has made a commitment to “cycle-proof our strategic road network” and it hopes local authorities will do the same.