Thu 1 Nov 2018
As a new road cycling pantheon is launched, we ask who should be honoured for their efforts to promote cycling for all. Add your suggestions in the comments and we’ll select some of the best in a future post
Cycling champion Chris Boardman helped install 1,000 miles of safe cycling in Greater Manchester, while as then-London mayor Boris Johnson helped set up protected cycleways in the capital. Photograph: Andrew Matthews/PA
The world of mountain biking has had a hall of fame since 1988. Road cycling has a few of them, including a UK-centric one from British Cycling – and now a new international one from Rouleurmagazine launching on Thursday. But, to the best of my knowledge, transportation cycling has never had one.
Nature abhors a vacuum, so here’s our chance to start the Everyday Cycling Hall of Fame. I’ve taken the liberty of suggesting who I think ought to be the first 10 inductees. Who would you include?
Cycling journalist and writer Richard Ballantine in 1975. Photograph: Trinity Mirror/Alamy Sex had Dr Alex Comfort; cycling had Richard Ballantine. Richard’s Bicycle Bookwas a 1970s publishing sensation – it sold more than a million copies and turned many of its readers into lifetime cycle advocates. On the face of it, Ballantine’s book was about fixing bicycles and “zestful riding,” but the American author and activist also made a bold case for assertive urban cycling: “If it is unsafe for you to let [motorists] pass, don’t hesitate to take full possession of your lane so that they can’t pass.”
He also suggested readers who witnessed an attack on a cyclist from a car should “beat the assailant up black and blue” and, despite being an animal lover, he also had some sage but brutal advice for a cyclist attacked by a dog: “Ram your entire arm down his throat. He will choke and die.”
Ballantine’s book imagined a utopian future of cycleways, but he didn’t think this would be sufficient to get more people cycling. “Bikeways are not enough,” he wrote. “What is needed is the elimination of polluting transportation … the absolute elimination of internal combustion engines from urban areas is the practical solution which benefits everybody.”
Janette Sadik-Khan speaks at the World Bicycle Forum in 2015. Photograph: Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images In 2007, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed Sadik-Khan as his commissioner of transportation. An everyday cyclist, she took the city’s existing bicycle plan and made it flesh, installing cycleways and closing Times Square to cars.
Her first success was with a semi-protected cycleway on Manhattan’s Ninth Avenue. Cyclists flocked to the route and businesses along the way saw their sales blossom. Today, the city boasts more than 120 miles of protected cycleways. Now a principal with Bloomberg Associates, a philanthropic enterprise that works with mayors around the world to improve quality of life, she’s still advocating for cycleways via her role as chair of Nacto, the US National Association of Transportation Officials.
Chris Boardman, Manchester’s first cycling and walking commissioner. Photograph: Christopher Thomond for the Guardian The Scouse cycling champion made his name winning Olympic gold in the Barcelona velodrome in 1992, kickstarting the success of Britain’s racing cyclists, but his most lasting legacy may be the 1,000 miles of safe cycling and walking routes he’s helping to install in Greater Manchester. The £1.5bn network will be the largest joined-up network in the UK. “We are reclaiming streets so that they work for people first,” Boardman said at the project launch.
Many cycle advocates dream that Boardman will one day be made the UK’s “cycling tsar,” a role he could do in his sleep.