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Boardman named Active Travel England commissioner

Our chair takes on the role in an interim capacity and will oversee the appointment of the body's first chief executive and management team.

22nd January 2022

Our chair Chris Boardman will lead the government’s cycling and walking executive agency after he was confirmed as the interim commissioner of the newly formed Active Travel England.

First announced in 2020, as part of the government’s £2 billion Gear Change plan for a cycling and walking revolution, Active Travel England (ATE) launched today.

It will 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.

Cyclists ride on a segregated bike lane in London.

Having already delivered the first phase of Manchester’s cycling and walking public transport system, The Bee Network, Chris will now be closely involved in the recruitment of the ATE chief executive and management team.

“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,” said the Barcelona 1992 Olympic gold medallist – who’s been appointed on an interim basis while the Department for Transport conduct a full and open competition for the permanent role.

“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.” 

ATE’s remit will see them be a statutory consultee on major planning applications, to ensure the largest new developments properly cater for pedestrians and cyclists.

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.

The body, which will be based in York from this summer, will improve and inspect schemes, as well as inspect and publish reports on highway authorities for their performance on active travel, while identifying particularly dangerous failings in their infrastructure.

In addition to this, it will also help councils to create ambitious schemes that will help enable active travel, as well as training staff and spreading good practice in design, implementation and public engagement.

And news of the body’s formation pleased our chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth.

“The creation of Active Travel England is hugely welcome news as part of the government and Sport England’s continued work to help more people get cycling and walking,” he said.

“A critical part our Uniting the Movement strategy is the creation of safe spaces for activity, which is fundamental to helping people to make moving and exercise part of their everyday lives. 

“Active Travel England’s role as a statutory consultee on major planning applications will ensure developments to local communities consider the needs of residents and their ability to choose cycling or walking as viable and safe travel choices.

“It means active travel can become a way of life for communities all over the country, providing a vital boost to health, wellbeing and the environment.

“It’s also great news that Chris Boardman will be at helm of Active Travel England as interim commissioner alongside his role as Sport England Chair.

“His impact as Greater Manchester’s Transport Commissioner can serve as a model for a better-balanced transport network throughout the nation.

“And as a rightly respected expert in this area, Chris is both well placed and hugely committed to helping both Sport England and Active Travel England deliver on ambitions to make cycling and walking the go to option for shorter journeys.”

Also announced today is a further £5.5m of funding for local authorities, train operators and businesses to encourage various active travel schemes.

The money is being split between a £300,000 top up to the e-cargo bike scheme, £3m to improve cycling infrastructure around train stations and £2.2m to explore ‘active travel on prescription’ programmes.

These prescription programmes are currently in the form of feasibility studies as the government looks to embed active travel into our established system of social prescribing.

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