The Spectator

The Leader | 7 August 2004

Cycle paths might provide an opening for the Tories.

Listen hard and you can hear J. Bonington-Jagworth grumbling loudly. The Association of London Government has announced that it is to fine motorists up to £100 a time for driving in the capital’s cycle lanes. The RAC Foundation, one of the many real-life organisations which have come to ape Peter Simple’s splendid Motorists’ Liberation Front, has already complained. Soon the dinner parties of Fulham will reverberate to moans that it is all but damned impossible to negotiate the King’s Road at more than 50 mph without landing a wheel or two of your Super Yobbo Sports Utility Vehicle in a cycle lane.

We are inclined towards a libertarian approach to government. Nevertheless, it won’t prevent us from asking whether there might actually be some merit in the business of creating and policing cycle lanes. Unless one is going to embrace anarchy, it is impossible not feel sympathy with the London cyclist who is obliged to do battle with an angry stream of powered vehicles. If there ever was a proper role for the law, it is surely in protecting the weak and vulnerable.

Sadly, it has become a grim orthodoxy in certain conservative circles that motorists’ rights must be supported at all costs and that lesser forms of road traffic, namely cyclists and pedestrians, must necessarily be treated with contempt. According to this philosophy, all motorists are red-blooded, free-born Englishmen merely attempting to mind their own business, while all cyclists and pedestrians are smug environmental fascists motivated by some puritanical desire to stop people having fun. True, there is some merit in this view; there are, indeed, some people who claim to have discovered mankind’s true vocation the moment that they venture out on a bicycle, and who care little for the needs of a mother of four children, isolated in a shopless village, attempting to deliver her young charges to various schools or bring home enough nuggets to feed her ravenous brood.

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