RAC puts on cycle clips for the future

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The Independent Online
After a century of championing the car, the RAC relaunched itself yesterday with a pledge to not promote the motorist at the expense of public transport.

The radical rethink will see a new approach, new colours and a new type of member - the cyclist. Now keen to promote all forms of transport, not just motoring, the RAC said it was offering special bike insurance cover.

Bicycle legal protection will cover claims for personal injury and uninsured losses such as damage to bicycle or clothes due to accidents. The annual cost will be pounds 6 for an RAC member and pounds 10 for a non-motoring member.

The move will also see the club drop the crown from its logo, which was last changed 30 years ago. "It was a decision taken in the light of the RAC's new position - which will last for the next century," said Neil Johnson, the organisation's chief executive.

Asked if this meant the organisation envisaged the monarchy ending during the 21st century, Mr Johnson replied: "Not at all. I'm absolutely certain that both the monarchy and the RAC are set to carry on.

"The Palace was consulted and I understand the Queen was very pleased with the result," said Mr Johnson.

Despite the changes, Prince Michael of Kent will remain the RAC's president.

The makeover will extend to the organisation's characteristic patrol vans. The RAC's traditional colours - red, white and blue - are to be shed in favour of a fluorescent orange and white strips and chevrons which will cover the 1,500 patrol vehicles.

Other changes include a pounds 25 non-callout discount after a successful pilot scheme earlier this year.

Members have pounds 25 knocked off the annual subscription if they do not use the RAC's roadside assistance service during the year.

The motoring organisation, which represents 6 million drivers, has gradually been moving away from lobbying for the motor car. Earlier this year, it produced a remarkably frank critique of the effect of the motor car and called for a "massive investment in public transport".

At the time Mr Johnson startled the motoring world by saying that the RAC "champions mobility, not the motorist".

Yesterday directors went further. "We feel that some of the pounds 24bn of taxes raised from the motorist should be used to improve transport in Britain," said David Worskett, director of public affairs and a former head of safety at the Department of Transport. "We have seen no major response from government in the last few years - which have seen increasing congestion and high pollution levels.

"Regrettably we have seen little in the manifestos that promises much for the future."

The new moves flew into flak from some hardline motorists' clubs.

"It is symptomatic of the fact that motoring organisations are losing sight of their members' concerns," said Brian Gregory, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, which claims to represent "thousands of motoring enthusiasts."

"This has been compounded by a lot of false concerns spread by environmentalists."