It was a busy opening of the newest offerings from Halford's earlier this month, a bright and shiny collection of the latest bikes and kits about to hit their stores. The coolest and most unruffled figure in the room was the legend that is Chris, 'the professor' Boardman. I waited patiently for my turn to chat with the former Olympic gold medal winner and now an MBE for his services to cycling. A recent study by Halfords discovered that a massive 82% of parents and children wanted cycling proficiency entering into the national curriculum. This view is passionately shared by Boardman, " We have to work on the safety aspect too, we have to educate both car drivers and cyclists in making our roads safer".
I have ridden my bike for 20 years in London and count myself lucky to only have been taken out twice in all those years. Boardman is convinced that we have a golden moment coming up with the impending opening of the Tour Du France in Yorkshire and GB's dominance of the event.
"It's a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness and push the case for cycling forward" he went on, " If you are eight or eighty, the bicycle is simply a fantastic tool for getting around. More than 60% of people surveyed by British Cycling who don't already cycle regularly said they would if they felt safer. So the government must invest in cycling infrastructure. Health congestion, pollution, more liveable cities, whatever topic you want to choose, the bicycle can be a large part of the answer".
Boardman is clearly a man on a mission and he oozes passion and seems to have a very clear solution to a long-standing problem. The YouGov report backs up Boardman's desire to change attitudes and improve safety, 42% of parents surveyed said they would not let their kids near a bike on the road. Boardman confessed that he "would not let his kids loose on the roads of London on a bike".
Halford's are taking this issue very seriously and since April 2013 over 20,000 parents and children have attended a Halford's kids bike workshop where kids 7-11 learn basic road safety.
It is time for the government to invest in making roads safer, make road users more aware and in doing so helping our nation become fitter and healthier. Maybe it is old age creeping in, but the sight of a cyclist jumping a red light drives me mad. It literally is a two way street with road safety. Cyclists have to be responsible too. I think Halford's have a great opportunity here, if they were to create a mobile ' Road Safety Unit' a truck or two to do the rounds, then there is no excuse from schools or government as the cost is kept in the private sector.
What is for sure is that if Chris Boardman has anything to do with it, it WILL happen. He clearly gets things done, from his bikes being used by our Olympic champions to chasing the suits in Whitehall, he is as focused as ever.
Since our meeting, his bike brand 'Boardman Bikes' announced their ongoing relationship and partnership with Halford's is to continue. Matt Davies Halford's Chief Executive commented. " Our investment on Boardman Bikes which are ridden by multiple Olympic and World Champions demonstrates our growing position as a specialist cycling retailer. We have worked with Chris and his team since 2007; they have created one of the fastest growing and successful brands in UK cycling. We look forward to a continuation of the growth that both Boardman and Halford's have enjoyed with such a strong brand".
The future of UK cycling is bright, it may take time but there is a huge push now to increase the numbers of people cycling and improve safety, something that will never be a bad thing.