Chris Boardman to lead government's new active travel body

Cyclist Chris Boardman is to become national commissioner of the government’s new cycling and walking body, Active Travel England.

Launched on 24 January, Active Travel England will be responsible for driving up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that meet the new national standards set out in 2020.

The body will inspect finished schemes and ask for funds to be returned for any that have not been completed as promised or have not started or finished by the stipulated times. ATE will also begin to inspect, and publish reports on, highway authorities for their performance on active travel, and identify particularly dangerous failings in their highways for cyclists and pedestrians.   

The new body will also help local authorities to train staff in spreading good practice in design, implementation and public engagement. It will be a statutory consultee on major planning applications to ensure that the largest new developments properly cater for pedestrians and cyclists.    

The new body will be headquartered in York from summer 2022 and preliminary work is already underway, scrutinising councils’ plans for active travel and supporting them to create ambitious schemes that will enable more people to walk, wheel and cycle safely.

Boardman said: “The positive effects of high levels of cycling and walking are clearly visible in pockets around the country where people have been given easy and safe alternatives to driving. Perhaps most important of all, though, it makes for better places to live while helping both the NHS and our mission to decarbonise.

“The time has come to build on those pockets of best practice and enable the whole nation to travel easily and safely around their neighbourhoods without feeling compelled to rely on cars. I’m honoured to be asked to lead on this and help deliver the ambitious vision laid out in the government’s Gear Change strategy and other local transport policies. This will be a legacy we will be proud to leave for our children and for future generations. It’s time to make it a reality – it’s time for a quiet revolution. “

The government is also announcing £5.5 million of new funding for local authorities, train operators and businesses to encourage various active travel schemes, including: £3 million to improve cycling infrastructure around train stations and £2.2 million to explore active travel on prescription schemes.

Active Travel Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Cycling and walking are not only beneficial for our health and the environment, but can also be great fun and is a brilliant way to connect communities. This funding is about giving people across the country the opportunity to try different forms of travel, as well as supporting local businesses with the transition to greener transport. I’m very much looking forward to working with our new active travel commissioner to improve standards for everyone.”

Boardman delivered the first phase of Manchester’s public transport system known as the Bee Network.

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