The Government’s decision not to install a National Cycling Champion is seen by some a missed opportunity.
Although it is true that all relevant Ministers have a responsibility to make sure that cycling is promoted, the existence of a cycling ambassador with no links to a political party was seen by many as desirable. A way to ensure that the needs of cyclists are met and that improvements are achieved, without the individual being accused of political bias.
The idea of a Cycling Champion was floated by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group as part of its ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report. Ian Austin MP, co-chair of the APPCG, believes that it is important to have somebody to raise the profile of cycling and to get everybody working together in order to achieve this.
“I think anything which would give prominence to issues relating to cycling safety and to encourage people to cycle would be a good thing,” he said. “I also think that cycling is not just about the Department of Transport, but local councils, and other government departments such as the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice, the department for Education and the NHS. You need someone with authority and clout to get them all working together.”
The role would potentially mirror that of Andrew Gilligan who was appointed Cycling Commissioner for the Greater London Authority. Gilligan has been widely praised in his efforts in this role, which involves overseeing the development of Transport for London’s cycling policy, whilst also acting as an advocate for cycling in the capital.
There have been a few names mentioned as potential candidates for the position, most notable Sir Chris Hoy and Chris Boardman. Either one of these legends would be an ideal choice. Their entire focus in this role would be to look after the needs of cyclists. It would also enable cycle users to feel confident that they will be listened to, rather than feeling sceptical about a politician’s true motives.
A figurehead from the world of sport would be an ideal way to capitalise on the impact the Olympics and Tour De France had on the British Public. Sir Chris himself states that “we are at the peak of our attention from the general public” and so it now would be an ideal opportunity to capitalise on this.
If the Government truly is committed to getting behind cycling, it may want to think again about rejecting the idea of a National Cycling Champion.