WIRRAL Olympic hero Chris Boardman is to become national commissioner of the Government’s new cycling and walking body, Active Travel England (ATE), which launches today (Saturday, January 22).   

ATE 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.  

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.   

Boardman, who is from Hoylake and attended Hilbre High School, will be closely involved in the full stand-up of ATE, including the recruitment of the chief executive and management team. He has been appointed on an interim basis, while the Department conducts a full and open competition for the permanent commissioner role.    

The cyclist, who won an individual pursuit gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics, is the country’s leading figurehead for active travel and delivered the first phase of Manchester’s public transport system known as the ’Bee Network’. 

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.”

Health minister, Maria Caulfield, added: “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.” 

After winning gold at the 1992 Olympics and wearing the yellow jersey three times on the Tour de France, Boardman, 53, joined British Cycling as a policy adviser, becoming one of the country's leading advocates for active travel.  

In 2016 his mother was killed by a dangerous driver while out cycling in Connah's Quay, Flintshire.   

In 2017 he was appointed as Cycling and Walking Commissioner, then Transport Commissioner, for Greater Manchester. He is leaving this role to take up the post at Active Travel England, but will retain his part-time chairmanship of Sport England.