Chris Boardman said MPs on the Transport Committee should be “embarrassed” for not knowing the most facts about cycling and for failing to get to grips with the issue of why six cyclists died in London in two weeks.
Following the Transport Select Committee evidence session yesterday – ostensibly to discuss evidence and ideas to make cycling safer and reduce unavoidable deaths – the British Cycling policy advisor said MPs’ lack of research and understanding would “at this level of seniority in any other business, be classed as negligent”.
The former Olympic champion slammed MPs for sliding into anecdote and debating sideline topics.
The committee heard evidence from a number of campaigners and experts, including London Cycling Campaign’s chief executive, Ashok Sinha, cycling campaigner from Newcastle, Katja Leyendecker and London’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan.
Boardman said: “The MPs that sit on the transport select committee should be embarrassed by their performance yesterday in an inquiry that was meant to be about why six people died riding bicycles on London’s roads in the space of two weeks.
“In front of them sat experts from campaigning bodies, transport research and the police – all ready to get into a proper discussion – and yet the MPs demonstrated that they didn’t even know the most basic of facts. Evidence and statistics were bypassed in favour of opinions and anecdotes on sideline topics.”
The basic facts and understanding Boardman was talking about include references to “a war” on the roads between motorists and cyclists, whether a mandatory helmet law should be introduced and the danger posed by cyclists to horses and their riders.
Boardman said he would write to MPs on the 11-member committee, including its Chair Louise Ellman, urging them to seek proper engagement with British Cycling on the topic.
Boardman’s was the most high profile criticism of the hearing. However Guardian journalist Peter Walker described the committee as “not fit for purpose” on social media and said he found it hard to find words to describe how “disheartening and shambolic” the two-hour session was.
Leyendecker also found the experience frustrating. She told BikeRadar: You think you’re going to a transport committee who you think would be enlightened on the subject of sustainable, inclusive, resilient transport options and we just came across fairly common, really quite silly, almost stupid questions which didn’t address the real problem we were trying to discuss there – cycle safety.”
A second Transport Select Committee hearing on cycle safety will be held tomorrow, where witnesses include the new minister for cycling, Robert Goodwill.