Chris Boardman heads up Active Travel England

Cycling UK welcomes appointment of Chris Boardman to the Department for Transport newest executive agency which the charity says will “enforce local authorities' improvements to cycling”

In a move welcomed by cycling organisations, Chris Boardman has been appointed the national commissioner for the government’s new cycling and walking body, Active Travel England.

Active Travel England was promised in the Department for Transport’s cycling and walking strategy, Gear Change back in 2020.

The new funding body and inspectorate is expected to be responsible for driving up the standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that improve both health and air quality. 

With much of the burden on local authorities now to start delivering on the government’s ambition to make cycling the normal choice for shorter journeys in England, Active Travel England’s launch is timely, says Cycling UK’s chief executive, Sarah Mitchell.

“We welcome an Active Travel England that will both support and enforce local authorities' improvements to cycling and walking in their areas, and get best value for money,” said Sarah.

Cycling UK sees the potential of Active Travel England as a force for good. The charity believes it will enable local authorities not just to see the opportunities encouraging more cycling and walking will bring, but also help spread best practice in both urban and rural areas.

Key to all this is the appointment of Chris Boardman as interim commissioner, former gold medal winner Olympian and Cycling and Walking Commissioner for Greater Manchester.

“The creation of this body brings real opportunities as does Chris Boardman's leadership,” said Sarah. “As we’ve seen both on the track and in Manchester, we know he always rises to the challenge and Cycling UK looks forward to working with him over the months to come.”

As we’ve seen both on the track and in Manchester, we know he [Chris Boardman] always rises to the challenge and Cycling UK looks forward to working with him over the months to come

Cycling UK's chief executive, Sarah Mitchell

Boardman's role will initially see him be closely involved in the full stand-up of Active Travel England, including the recruitment of the chief executive and management team. He has been appointed on an interim basis, while the Department for Transport conducts a full and open competition for the permanent commissioner role.   

Active travel commissioner for England Chris 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 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.”

In addition to the Department for Transport’s announcement about the launch of Active Travel England, £5.5 million has been allocated for local cycling and walking schemes including £300k for e-cargo bike schemes; a further £3 million has been allocated for cycle parking at 23 train stations and dedicated cycle routes to five.

The government has also allocated part of a £2.2 million pot to 30 local authorities to carry out feasibility studies into creating “cycling and walking on prescription schemes”, which was promised in the Conservative Party manifesto in 2019. Cycling UK’s Cycle for Health scheme in West Yorkshire Combined Authority has already shown how successful these schemes can be.