Green chief left white with fear

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The Independent Online
The director of Friends of the Earth became a victim of road rage yesterday. His eight miles of terror on the M6 left him angry, shaken and three-quarters of an hour late for an important speech.

Charles Secrett tries to use cars as little as possible because of his strong pro-public-transport convictions. But yesterday he found he could not get from his home in west London to a National Trust conference in Manchester, and then on to a Friends of the Earth evening in Tewkesbury, by bus and train.

So he hired a high-economy Ford Escort, with catalytic converter, and ventured on to the motorways for the first time in more than a year. What followed would confirm any environmentalist's worst fears about the insanity of contemporary car culture.

All was going well until, past Birmingham, a Ford Sierra driven by a young man cut in front, forcing him to brake, and Mr Secrett flashed his lights to indicate disapproval. "He drove alongside me screaming abuse - his face was puce with anger. Then he dropped behind, accelerated so that he was rushing towards the back of me, flashing his lights, sounding his horn and jamming on the brakes at the last minute. This went for about eight miles. Eventually I just had to pull off into a service station."

There Mr Secrett spent one- and-a-half hours steeling himself to get back on the road, barely able to drink his tea because he was shaking so much. His reaction also made him forget his tormentor's registration number. But he went on to give his speech at the National Trust's centenary conference. His next engagement, in Tewkesbury, was to talk to the local FoE about a sustainable transport policy.

Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, was also due to speak at the National Trust conference. But he had to pull out because of a different kind of transport problem. He had been kicked and severely bruised by his horse earlier this week.