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Who is Chris Boardman? What is Active Travel England and why is Olympic cyclist involved

Olympian Chris Boardman is heading up Active Travel England to create safer routes for children cycling to school

Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Boardman has said he was inspired to help improve healthy travel infrastructure in England after feeling it was not safe for his daughter to ride less than 550 metres to their local park.

Mr Boardman, who has been appointed interim commissioner of the new Active Travel England (ATE) by the Department for Transport, said he wants to make roads safe for children to ride to school and for adults to cycle to work.

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So, what is Active Travel England and when did Chris Boardman win a gold medal?

Active Travel England, the government’s new cycling and walking executive agency launches with Chris Boardman as interim commissioner.

Who is Chris Boardman?

Olympian Chris Boardman won Britain’s opening gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 in an individual pursuit race.

At the time, the medal win was the first British cycling gold medal in 72 years - and made the trained carpenter the face of the sport.

In 1993, he started his professional cycling career and proudly claimed the yellow jersey three times while competing in the Tour De France over eight years.

Chris is married to Sally-Anne Boardman and has six children, two dogs and a cat and has called the Wirral peninsula home for almost 30 years.

Now, Chris plays a huge part in cycling advocacy which stemmed largely through his role as Policy Advisor to British Cycling for more than a decade.

It’s since led him to becoming Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester before taking on the role of Transport Commissioner.

He’s now responsible for the delivery of a fully integrated, London-Style transport network known as the Bee Network in Greater Manchester to give people who live in the region a viable alternative to using cars.

Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Boardman is to lead a new Government agency tasked with improving cycling and walking infrastructure in England (image: PA)

What is Active Travel England?

The Active Travel England (ATE) team has been tasked with raising the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure across the country.

ATE is responsible for managing the national active travel budget for the Department for Transport, awarding funding to projects that improve health and air quality.

Speaking about his new role on BBC Breakfast, Mr Boardman said: “Just over a decade ago now my youngest daughter asked me a question that changed things dramatically.

“She said: ‘Can we ride to the park?’

“I went to measure it (the journey) after, because I’m quite geeky, and it was 549 metres, and I said no.

“She wanted to do it, and I wanted her to do it, and I thought, that’s not right.

“I don’t feel like I can keep my daughter safe for two minutes, and that’s not right. It just didn’t feel comfortable.”

What is the point of the Active Travel Fund?

Mr Boardman, who will also approve and inspect active travel schemes, and identify failings in highways which are dangerous for vulnerable road users, added: “In Greater Manchester where I’ve been working for the last four years, 30% of car journeys, 250 million a year, are less than a kilometre.

“A lot of that is the school run and getting places for leisure, because you don’t feel comfortable enough, it’s not attractive, you don’t feel safe to do that.

“So that’s the point of this – we want places where your kids can walk or ride to school, and where you can trundle to work on a bike.”

Mr Boardman previously said the scheme will be a proud “legacy” to leave for future generations.

He said: “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 new body will also help spread good practice in design, implementation and public engagement in relation to new infrastructure.

The agency will be headquartered in York from the summer.

Has the government announced futher funding in green transport?

Meanwhile, the government announced £5.5 million of investment in cycling and walking schemes.

This includes £3 million to boost cycling infrastructure around railway stations, £2.2 million to explore active travel being prescribed on the NHS and £300,000 for electric cargo bike initiatives.

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