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Chris Boardman visits Cambridge and calls for 50 per cent of journeys to be active

Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman – England’s active travel commissioner – visited Cambridge to see the work going on in the county to get more people out of their cars.

The cycling legend, who won gold in the individual pursuit at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, joined the mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Dr Nik Johnson, for a walking, e-biking, and public transport tour in and around the city last Thursday (December 7).

Chris Boardman and Dr Nik Johnson at Cambridge North station. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
Chris Boardman and Dr Nik Johnson at Cambridge North station. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

And he backed the Winter Wheelers campaign, supported by the Combined Authority, which encourages more people to get on their bikes this season.

Meeting at Cambridge railway station, the day included a cycle ride to Cambridge North railway station and along the Chisholm Trail.

Before setting off, Chris told the Cambridge Independent: “Active Travel England is working with local councils, local authorities all over the country who want to get more people riding bikes.

“Our job is to get 50 per cent of all journeys cycled or walked by 2030 – that’s four billion extra active journeys every year and three and a half million more people active.

“And when you start to connect that with things like an ailing NHS and reducing waiting lists, this is how you do it, you make healthy easy – and that’s what Cambridge has done for many years.

“I think nearly half of all journeys here are cycled or walked already, and they want to build on that, so our job is to help.”

Appointed national active travel commissioner in June 2022 by the transport secretary, Chris leads Active Travel England, which awards funding for facilities to encourage more people to walk, wheel or cycle journeys often made by car.

Active Travel England has given the Combined Authority and its partners a high rating for active travel ambition and delivery of projects, including the pedestrian and cycling footbridge at Peterborough’s busy Nene Parkway.

It has also already provided nearly £4million, in the latest active travel funding round, towards projects across the Combined Authority area, including the recently-completed Buckden to Brampton scheme.

Chris, who addressed the Intellectual Forum at Jesus College, where he is a visiting fellow, the night before, continued: “I think there’s an awful lot to learn from Cambridge, because it doesn’t necessarily have huge amounts of cycle lanes but it has a massive cycling culture, and I think there’s a lot that the rest of the country could learn from what’s going on here.”

Labour mayor Dr Johnson added: “We’re welcoming an Olympic hero in Chris Boardman, but he’s also the active travel lead for England and has shown what we can achieve across the whole of the United Kingdom, in terms of getting participation from all walks of life into active travel.

“He was a fantastic cyclist – he proved his worth back in the 90s and ongoing – but what he’s set up through other combined authorities in Manchester and now at a national level, in terms of the ambition to make sure that we get a healthier population, is the sort of thing that we want to push forward in Cambridge.

“And him coming today, for me, is a celebration of what we’ve achieved at the Combined Authority over the last few years, in terms of increasing the funding and of course working with partners, particularly Cambridge City, but also examples like Peterborough City.

“But we want to stretch out into the rural areas because this is what we want to see as something really forceful, something that really makes a difference to the lives of people in Cambridge and Peterborough.”

Chris Boardman with mayor Dr Nik Johnson and Cllr Anna Smith. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography
Chris Boardman with mayor Dr Nik Johnson and Cllr Anna Smith. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography

The mayor and the Active Travel England team discussed the challenge posed by the mix of terrains within the Combined Authority area, as well as their ambitions for creating greater active travel opportunities for people in rural communities.

Dr Johnson and the commissioner cycled the Chisholm Trail and took the guided busway from Cambridge North to the new town of Northstowe to see for themselves some of the active travel infrastructure being designed from the ground up to serve the community.

Chris praised the efforts made by colleges and local authorities to make walking and cycling easier and he joined the mayor in urging people across the county to saddle up in December’s Winter Wheelers campaign, run by Love To Ride.

Offering prize draws, the initiative enables you to track your bike miles, set goals and find help and support to ride more often.

“It may be December but anybody can be inspired to sign up to the Winter Wheelers campaign so think about joining and signing up at the website,” said Dr Johnson, who has himself clocked up miles on the online encouragement platform.

The mayor’s message was echoed by Chris, who added: “Even on a chilly day like this it’s a nice way to get in and out of town – so give it a go!”

[Read more: Eddie the Eagle lands at Charles Stanley Cambridge, First stage of Chisholm Trail walking and cycling route across Cambridge opens]

Visit lovetoride.net/uk. For more on Active Travel England, go to gov.uk/government/organisations/ active-travel-england.

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