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Chris Boardman to leave Manchester travel role for Government job

The Olympian is taking on a new Active Travel England role.

Greater Manchester’s Olympic cyclist and walking and cycling commissioner Chris Boardman is set to lead the Government’s new cycling and walking body, Active Travel England.

Chris Boardman will leave his Greater Manchester role to join the new government body.

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Active Travel England (ATE) will be responsible for driving up standards of cycling and walking infrastructure and managing the national active travel budget, awarding funding for projects that improve both health and air quality.

Chris Boardman with Andy Burnham Credit: TFGM

ATE will also begin to inspect and publish reports on highway authorities for their performance on active travel and identify particularly dangerous failings in their highways for cyclists and pedestrians.

Mr 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.”

As well as approving and inspecting schemes, ATE will help councils by training staff and spreading good practice in design, implementation and public engagement. It will be a legally required consultee on major planning applications to ensure that the largest new developments properly cater for pedestrians and cyclists.

Mr Boardman will be closely involved in the launch of the group, including the recruitment of the chief executive and management team. He has been appointed on an interim basis, while the government conducts a full and open competition for the permanent commissioner role.

Mr Boardman is the country’s leading figurehead for active travel and delivered the first phase of Greater Manchester’s ‘Bee Network’.

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

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “Whilst I am obviously sad to lose Chris as our Transport Commissioner, I am absolutely thrilled that he now has an opportunity to do what he has done for Greater Manchester on a national scale. We didn’t want him to go and, given that we are in the January transfer window, I look forward to agreeing the transfer fee with the Transport Secretary!

“Over the last four years, Chris has spearheaded our ambitious plans to build the UK’s largest cycling and walking network. His forensic attention to detail and his can-do attitude has put Greater Manchester in a strong position as we move towards the delivery of the Bee Network – a fully-integrated, London-style public transport network. Chris has done a brilliant job for Greater Manchester and I’d like to thank him on behalf of everyone here.

“His influence will be felt here for decades to come. I am sure he will be equally successful in his new role and he goes into it with our very best wishes.”

The new body will be headquartered in York from Summer 2022 and preliminary work is already underway, scrutinising councils’ plans for active travel and supporting them to create ambitious schemes that will enable more people to walk, wheel and cycle safely.

Active travel Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Cycling and walking is not only beneficial for our health and the environment, but can also be great fun and is a brilliant way to connect communities.

“This funding is about giving people across the country the opportunity to different forms of travel, as well as supporting local businesses with the transition to greener transport. I’m very much looking forward to working with our new active travel commissioner to improve standards for everyone.”

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: “This vital investment in cycling and walking schemes is providing new ways to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation and builds on the rollout of social prescribing across the NHS.

“We must do all we can to level up health disparities across the country, meaning everyone, no matter where they are from, can lead healthier, happier lives”.