Helen Pidd North of England editor
Friday 15 December 2017 00.01 GMTBoardman, the first cycling and walking commissioner for Greater Manchester, has made the ambitious demand in his first report to Andy Burnham, the region’s mayor.
He wants to spend the money over the next 10 years to produce more than 700 miles of safe cycle lanes and claims that the investment will result in a return of at least £8.3bn in public benefits. Currently 50% of adults in Greater Manchester are physically inactive, costing the NHS more than £500,000 per week, he says.
Boardman, who won gold at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 and wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, told the Guardian earlier this year that he now avoided cycling on UK roads because he feels they are too unsafe.
His goal is to drastically increase the number of people in Greater Manchester who walk or cycle, and says the only way to do this is to radically redesign the region’s streets. “The fact is that people will only travel this way if it is easy and pleasant. Riding a bicycle or crossing a street should not require bravery,” he argues in the report, which he will present to the leaders of Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs on Friday.
“We need protected space; uninterrupted, all the way from where I am to where I want to be. Only with safe and attractive space will people that don’t walk or cycle now venture out on to the road in significant numbers.”
He has based his vision around the idea that a 12-year-old would choose to use it. “That ‘12-year- old’ represents a pensioner, a mother, someone with mobility issues, all the people we want to travel by bike instead of car but currently don’t,” he said.
“There are strong precedents and clear evidence. Other European countries like the Netherlands started to prioritise walking and cycling in the 1970s. There, they’ve seen child fatalities on the road fall from over 400 to just 141 in 2010, while at the same time increasing the proportion of children who cycle to school to over 50%. Here in the UK, just 3% of children cycle to school.”
Burnham welcomed Boardman’s recommendations but stopped short of saying he would be able to provide such a vast sum of money.
In a statement he said: “Chris has identified the need for substantial investment in our cycling infrastructure and in response, we are aiming to create a challenge fund of around £50m a year from 2019 to 2021, which will be able to be accessed by our 10 districts if they are building to the required standard and meeting part of the costs. This will go a considerable way towards meeting the required funding challenge and we will provide initial funding next year to get things going.”
But Boardman insists his demand is not excessive: “Over the next decade, this works out at £150m per year and will deliver an initial network spanning the main conurbations of Greater Manchester. It will give a return of at least £8.3bn in public benefits. It sounds like a lot, but with over 700 miles of main corridors across Greater Manchester, this is the scale of network we need to aim for.”
Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Cycling UK, said: “Chris Boardman’s report shows an exciting level of ambition which the government and other cities now need to copy.”