Former BMX and track cycling World Champion Shanaze Reade has been announced as the first West Midlands Cycling and Walking Ambassador.
The British cyclist’s appointment was confirmed on the day that regional transport chiefs agreed a £17 million funding package to take spending on cycling in the West Midlands to £10 per head per year up to April 2021.
The grant, from the region’s £71 million Transforming Cities Fund (TCF) transport package, will be invested in safe cycle routes across the West Midlands.
As Ambassador Shanaze, the three time BMX World Champion and twice Team Sprint track world champion, will promote and guide development of cycling throughout the West Midlands.
She welcomed the West Midlands commitment to increasing participation in cycling and walking and the increased funding for safe cycle routes and infrastructure.
She said: “I look forward to helping people discover the amazing benefits of cycling and walking – both for pleasure and as a convenient method of transport. The benefits are endless from saving money, the sense of freedom, mental wellbeing from the exercise and keeping fit. With the infrastructure being put in place there will be no excuse to get out those trainers or on your bike.”
One of her first duties as Ambassador will see Shanaze join Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, transport bosses and cycling representatives at a summit on May 22.
Last month Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), adopted a new Walking and Cycling policy which outlined the ambition to develop a cycle route network across the region.
The WMCA Board has now approved the award of £17 million cycle funding. This follows the award of a £6 million TCF grant last October.
Combined with expected investment from councils and developers it means that spending on cycling in the West Midlands will reach the target of £10 per head.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Shanaze will make a brilliant Ambassador for cycling and walking. She has excelled on the track, is a superb role model and will inspire many young people here to get on their bikes.
“We set out to raise investment to £10 per head and are doing just that. In the West Midlands we are serious about cycling – it is fun and great for our health and as an alternative to the car can help ease traffic congestion and improve the quality of the air we breathe.”
The £23 million Transforming Cities Fund will be spent on cycling infrastructure. Last month the WMCA Board approved a new cycling and walking policy which outlined ambitions for a network of safe cycle routes across the region.
Councillor Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council and WMCA portfolio holder for economic, said: “For decades the West Midlands has been associated the world over with motoring, but it’s clear that we need to change the way people travel across the region. In addition to getting more people onto public transport, one of our key ambitions is to increase levels of cycling and walking.
“That’s why, in recent years, we’ve launched innovative schemes to get people on their bikes. Through the Birmingham Cycle Revolution and initiatives like the award-winning Big Birmingham Bikes, we’ve focussed on education, training and of course promoting the many benefits of cycling.
“Now we’re looking to build on that success and the creation of this new region-wide role underlines our determination to improve air quality, tackle congestion and improve the health of people across the region.”
The appointment has been welcomed by the Department for Transport and British Cycling, the sport’s governing body.
Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: “Massive congratulations to Shanaze on her appointment as West Midlands Cycling and Walking Ambassador.
“And massive congratulations to TfWM for using our new Government grant money to build new cycling infrastructure, as part of a region-wide transport investment programme.”
British Cycling chief executive, Julie Harrington, said: “Shanaze has always been a fantastic ambassador for our sport and I am sure she will be equally brilliant in her new role in the West Midlands.
“We are proud that our riders – both past and present – make such a valuable contribution to communities across Britain, and we look forward to watching Shanaze work with Mayor Andy Street to enable more local people to get around by bike in the coming years.”
The Cycling Summit, hosted by the Mayor and Shanaze, will be held in Birmingham and is open to members of the public and organisations. It will set out the mission to supercharge the development of cycling and walking across the West Midlands.