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  • Writer's pictureJason Nisse

Two wheels bad

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

If you happen to be a member of your local Facebook community group, or are signed up for Nextdoor, you won’t have to wait too long before you find someone complaining about cyclists. Usually its about them jumping red lights, or going on pavements, or maybe taking a shortcut along a pedestrian path.

Unless I’m missing something, I’ve not seen many complaints about cyclists overtaking cars in a 20 MPH area – but then I don’t live anywhere near Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport and MP for Welwyn Hatfield. Maybe there’s a lot of super speedy cyclists up in Hertfordshire, prompting Mr Shapps to float the idea of licencing bicycles so their riders can be fined if they exceed the speed limit.

Leaving aside the practical challenges of licencing the 20 million cycles in the UK (which Shapps’ own department has flagged), you wonder why the Transport Secretary is making this such an issue.

The obvious answer is that he’s trying to show to whichever of Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss become our next PM that he is active and relevant, so that he either keeps his job or gets another good one. This may be why he is also trying to steal Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham’s policy of bus fare caps.

But why attack cyclists? After all Government policy long before committed cyclist Boris Johnson became Prime Minister has been to encourage people onto environmentally friendly, self-propelled, two wheel vehicles.

One reason is that areas of the right wing press has decided to paint cyclists as a danger to other road users. This may be because cyclists tend to be younger, more likely to live in cities and, therefore, more attracted to voting Labour. Take the massive outcry when a twenty something cyclist without brakes (which is illegal) jumped a light (also illegal) and killed a middle aged mother. While any death on the road is tragic, the stats don’t bear out characterising cyclists as a menace.

A report by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACT) analysed 2019 figures and found that cyclists were 20 times more likely to be killed by other road users than vice versa. In 2020 it was even more marked different, as cyclist fatalities jumped 40% to more than 140.

If Mr Shapps was wanted to cut down on threats to other road users (pedestrians and cyclists), he would clamp down on motorists jumping lights by mandating traffic cameras at all junctions and crossings.

However motorists tend to be more affluent, and live in towns and villages like Welwyn or Hatfield. And vote Tory.

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