Liverpool City Council has appointed actor, TV presenter and environmentalist Simon O’Brien to be its first cycling champion.
Simon, who first rose to fame as as Damon Grant in Brookside and has been acting and presenting ever since on programmes such as Rough Guide and To Buy Or Not To Buy, has been tasked with revolutionising the city’s cycling offer by linking up Liverpool’s major green spaces with a series of new routes.
Having swapped the car for his beloved bike 35 years ago, Simon, who once ran a cycling café in the city centre, is uniquely positioned to carry out the new role having led a major review into Liverpool’s parks and cycled more than 1,500 miles to explore potential routes.
Liverpool City Council has made the appointment as it enters a new phase of delivering a £500m upgrade to the city’s highways network and is about to pilot green corridors through the URBAN GreenUP project – a key recommendation of the Green and Open Spaces review.
Key to its £500m “Better Roads” programme is improving access for all road users, especially cyclists with plans including connecting the city’s southern and northern shorelines to create a 30-mile riverside route.
The role of the Cycling Champion, who will work alongside the council’s walking, cycling and greenspace officers, is also seen as a key part of the city’s Clean Air and Fitness strategies to reduce pollution and improve health and wellbeing rates.
Liverpool City Council recently unveiled its 100th bike station – at Stanley Dock in the Ten Streets Creativity District – and has a growing network of community cycling ambassadors for Simon to work with.
The city is also witnessing an upsurge in cycling activity with a raft of new community events populating the calendar such as Croxteth Park’s Family cycling event this Saturday.
Simon O’Brien said: “Liverpool is a cycling heaven waiting to happen. Now with the full support of the Council, it’s time to make the vision a reality.”
Mayor Joe Anderson, said: “Cities like Liverpool need to rethink how people use transport and I’m delighted Simon has accepted our invitation to become Liverpool’s first cycling champion.
“He’ll be a great asset because has an unbelievable passion for cycling and a huge love for Liverpool – as well as a vast wealth of knowledge and experience.
“He’s already mapped out the city by bike when he carried out the Green and Open Spaces Review and I’m looking forward to hearing his ideas on how we can transform how people use our beautiful parks by giving cyclists a series of green corridors to explore and enjoy.
“I want to see a real step change in Liverpool’s cycling offer that will benefit people for generations to come and leaves a legacy of a healthier and cleaner environment for our grandchildren to enjoy.”
Cllr James Noakes, Cabinet member for Highways and the Environment, added: “We haven’t always got cycling right and improving the offer will be a big challenge, but Liverpool has lots of great cycling facilities across the city and Simon will help us develop a better offer.
“Having worked with him on the Green and Open Spaces review I know he has a real desire to transform how the city can engage with the cycling community and provide a new network of routes that makes the most of our fabulous open spaces.”