Tuesday, 6 January 2015

No Chris Boardman, we don't need more cycle lanes in Britain . . .


No Chris Boardman, we don't need more cycle lanes in Britain

Former pro cyclist Chris Boardman says he refuses to allow his daughter to cycle on the roads. But more infrastructure is not the answer, argues Andrew Critchlow
'Shoehorning cycle lanes into our historic town centres would arguably cause more bad feeling towards cyclists' Photo: Alamy

Ride a bicycle in Britain and you will be run over mercilessly by “white van man”, squashed into the curb by countless mothers in their Volvos, or if you’re really unlucky, flattened by a 16-stone middle aged man in lycra who wipes you out at the traffic lights.

To listen to some people talk, cycling is the most dangerous method of transport imaginable and a gentle pedal across London carries a greater prospect of serious injury than taking a lap of the Nürburgring in torrential rain in Niki Lauda’s 1970s Ferrari F1 car.

Former Olympian, yellow-jersey wearer and general flag bearer for British Cycling Chris Boardman is the latest expert to warn of the dangers that lurk around every corner on our roads. Mr Boardman – who played an integral role in the modern day rise of British cycling onto the global sporting stage – now writes in an article for the BBC stating that he won’t let his eight-year-old daughter anywhere near the quiet country roads of his home in West Kirby.

His reason for this is simple: Britain just isn’t Holland. According to Mr Boardman, cycling is statistically safe in the UK but just not "Dutch" enough to allow his daughter anywhere near an open road on a bicycle. To be honest, I feel the same, but turning every British city into a poor equivalent of Amsterdam, or even worse, Oxford, with cycle lanes almost as wide as the roads themselves just is not the answer.

For a start, Britain is not flat as a pancake like the Low Countries and shoehorning cycle lanes into our historic town centres would instead arguably cause more bad feeling towards cyclists than it would convince people to abandon their cars for a bike.

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Although Holland is a world leader in cycle lanes and lots of people ride bikes, Italy and Spain - two other great European cycling nations - seem to get away without having too many of them.

Mr Boardman – who rose to prominence racing up and down dual-carriageways on his bicycle in the 1990s – argues that if we invested more of the nation’s £13bn transport budget on cycling then more parents would feel comfortable to allow their kids out on their bikes and even join them for a ride. Again, this is questionable.

Although cycling has never been so popular, with over 100,000 members now signed up as members of the sport’s governing body, not everyone wants to ride a bike everywhere, irrespective of the amount of tax payers money that is blown on cycle lanes.

Indeed, according to the BBC, cycling isn’t even that dangerous after all, with the number of cycling fatalities on our roads historically falling.

So why is Mr Boardman – who incidentally refuses to wear a cycling helmet – so determined to spend our money on cycling infrastructure?

Could it be linked to selling his branded bicycle?

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