Howard Cox wrote in the Daily Express, Aug 4 2020
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, remains hell-bent on driving a political and social wedge between cyclists and drivers. He’s plotting a dangerous strategy against drivers with his recent colossal and unnecessary Congestion Charge hike, the further extension of his cash grabbing pay-to-pollute emission zone – and by fast-tracking the construction of free-to-use dedicated cycle lanes.
The London Mayor knows there are votes in Lycra, fittingly borne out in the latest FairFuelUK survey of 25,000 road users, in which the contrast could not be starker. Some 87 per cent of dedicated London cyclists believe Mr Khan is doing a good job as mayor. To illustrate the growing divide, just 3 per cent of drivers agree with them.
Now this abyss between carbon-based fuel users and cyclists has been further widened by the Prime Minister’s recent gift of £2bn to cyclists – making this decision while knowing that £2.4bn has been lost in fuel duty during lockdown. One might ask: where is the traditional Tory fiscal prudence now?
PEDAL PUSHERS: The economic recovery will falter if car use is squeezed
Motorists did not vote for the Green Party in the General Election. But that is what we’ve got. Backbench Tories have told me they’re uncomfortable with the government’s focus on the privileged cycling few. Its complete disdain for (and lack of consultation with) the highest-taxed drivers in the world in the form of Boris Johnson’s so-called “bold vision” for cyclists is a betrayal of huge proportions. Although only 3 per cent of journeys nationally are made by bicycle, their special treatment, using taxpayers and borrowed money, is set to decimate small businesses, the self-employed, low-income families and city economies.
The Prime Minister and his Lycra-clad advisors are out of touch with economic reality and majority opinion. Forcing hard-pressed drivers out of their vehicles through such costly virtue signalling is as contemptible as it is regressive. For Boris’ sake, it’s good there is not an election tomorrow. His 80-seat majority would be crushed.
The growing conflict in road policy is being fuelled by the delusional belief that cycling is the ultimate transport solution. Anyone who cycles to work in London lives close enough to make that journey – which means they are mostly well off and almost invariably white-collar. Few builders cycle to work on a building site for eight hours of manual labour and then cycle home again. The PM’s policy is a subsidy for the already well-off middle class.
Number 10’s special advisors (or SpAds) have got this one wrong too, with their promotion of combination cycling and train travel. Taking a cycle onto a commuter train steals passenger space for up to four people and so reduces their standing room on already overloaded trains by up to 75 per cent
Moreover, at the first sign of inclement weather, cycle lanes lie empty. Only a few Tour de France fanatics take to pedal power when the only option is to get soaked, frozen or blown around on the way to work. Also, how many workplaces can tolerate dozens of staff queuing to the washroom to clean up before starting work?
Already the world’s highest-taxed motorists, who contribute the fifth largest amount of any group to the Treasury, it rankles with British drivers when the cycle lanes next to them are empty. While car drivers and motorcyclists pay for road space, this form of highway robbery swipes vast tracts of road away, mostly for the benefit of a group largely composed of white-collar middle-class men.
It seems the Government is too scared to stand up to these uncompromising cyclists. Drivers were happy to coexist with cyclists, even though many on pedal power ignore the rules of the road. Cycling had a chance to prove it could make a meaningful contribution to travel in this country if only its adherents would cut out their holier-than-thou belief that they have a majority right to road user-ship.
“Most cyclists said they have relied on home deliveries during lockdown’
But now they’ve gone too far, and it’s time to reclaim the streets for the people who actually pay for them.
That the Mayor of London’s office now saying there should be a ten-fold increase in cycling is simply ridiculous. Cycling has its place – but it’s a relatively small place.
This is a conflict driven by a minority of militant cyclists and now, demonised drivers are fighting back and calling for common sense to close the divide once and for all.
All our campaigning group FairFuelUK asks is that we work together to produce a sensible road-user plan. But all too often, cycling groups reply with insults and a road plan for them alone. They don’t care if the elderly and disabled can’t park close enough to get to their shops with walking sticks, or that families with small children need to use cars, and resent them even being able to unload outside their homes.
But here’s another thing. In FairFuelUK’s survey, 90 per cent cyclists said they have relied on home deliveries during lockdown. Needless to say, most of these deliveries were not made by bicycle. This selfish opportunism is apt and must be challenged.
Drivers are voters too, and the question any political party has to ask itself is this – are we willing to lose an election for the sake of more cycle lanes? This transport plan must be urgently re-balanced.
Howard Cox, Founder of the FairFuelUK Campaign
Published in the Daily Express, August 4th, 2020
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