The whole country can learn from Prudential RideLondon, says Chris Boardman
4 Aug 2019, 11:15 a.m.
Former Olympic track champion Chris Boardman saluted the success of Prudential RideLondon on Sunday, saying that the rest of the country could learn valuable lessons from the success and impact of the world’s greatest festival of cycling.
Boardman, one of the figures most instrumental in sparking a revolution in competitive cycling in Britain when he won the Olympic individual pursuit title in Barcelona in 1992, is these days playing a major role in making everyday cycling a way of British life.
As well as being a policy advisor to British Cycling and a television commentator here for the Prudential RideLondon Classique and Classic races, Boardman is also the Greater Manchester cycling and walking commissioner, who is using this weekend to learn what he can from the huge two-wheel carnival in the capital.
“For me, this weekend’s pro races, as fun as they are to watch, are almost incidental. Looking out yesterday with 70,000 people riding round the streets of London, that is what it’s about for me,” said Boardman.
“Thirty thousand of the people riding round in the FreeCycle don’t consider themselves cyclists and yet figures show that six months later, they’ll still be riding a bike and that’s the kind of stat that’s really impressive.
“It’s scenes like this weekend’s that give councils and politicians the confidence and ambition to invest in, and make the space for, the people to do it the other 364 days of the year. So there’s a huge amount here that London’s done that the rest of the country needs to learn from.
“This is my day job now; as cycling and walking commissioner for Greater Manchester, we’re trying to create space so people don’t have to use cars. We’re not trying to create cyclists; we’re trying to enable people not to have to use cars, which will benefit everyone.
“One of the reasons I’m here is to look and learn and also understand more about things like the economic benefit to the city.
“It’s a hell of a thing to shut down 100 miles of road, the whole city centre of the capital, and RideLondon’s organisers have shown not just that it’s do-able but that it pays for itself because it generates money. Two million pounds from this event will actually go to cycling-related good causes around London.
“So there’s absolutely no reason, for example, why you can’t have, say, a RideManchester, a Ride of the North. I’d be very keen for it to happen but I’m under no illusion as to the scale and difficulty of something like this.
“But I look at this event and it does have a major impact; it works where you make the space. Forget encouraging people; you have to enable them by making space.”