Boris's comments on ‘hasty, rash, precipitous’ cyclists is classic government victim-blaming

Despite the recent deaths on London's roads, Johnson seems to believe that it is the personal choices of cyclists that determine their safety

Share
Related Topics

The past nine days has seen five cyclists killed and more seriously injured on London's roads. Boris Johnson has been reported this morning to have warned against the 'hasty, rash, precipitous' decisions of cyclists themselves for putting their lives in danger.

Boris has form on this - when warned of the dangers for cyclists trying to navigate the thunderous roundabout at Elephant and Castle, he replied that it was 'fine...if you keep your wits about you'.

Johnson clearly believes that it is the personal choices, for good or ill, of cyclists that determine their safety on the roads. He refuses to acknowledge that there could be structural reasons why London is so dangerous for cyclists - poor road layout, traffic signals, very few separate cycle lanes - not to mention his own prioritisation of 'smooth flowing traffic' over bike safety. These are problems that are built into the environment, and determine the safety of a cycle journey far more than a cyclist's 'individual choice'.

In this he is only echoing the views of the government as a whole when it comes to considering structural inequality. Whether it's Michael Gove blaming users of food banks for 'not managing their finances', or Iain Duncan Smith arguing that those on benefits have failed to take 'responsibility' for their lives, the rhetoric is the same.

By ignoring the material conditions which shape people's lives - poverty, education, poor housing, inequality, unemployment - neoliberal ideology tries to pin the blame for such suffering on the victims themselves. Those who remain poor obviously haven't 'kept their wits about them' on the busy junctions of neoliberal capitalism.

Indeed, just today David Cameron argued that the hegemonic dominance of privately-educated people over almost every area of life in the UK – from politics to business to journalism – was due to a lack of 'aspiration' amongst working class people to 'get to the top'. As he once put it: 'it doesn't matter where you come from. It's where you are going that counts.' Class, poverty, a system that not only creates but relies upon inequality: none of that matters as long as you take the 'right' decisions.

But while the slow, grinding destitution which is the consequence of such ideological myopia might not generate the same headlines as the recent spate of deaths on the road, the consequences are ultimately just as fatal.

The only way that London can be made safer for cyclists is by a systematic restructuring of the road system, rerouting roundabouts, altering traffic signals and building proper cycle lanes. The same is true for inequality more widely: it is systemic change that is required, not the ideological pretence that the working class just need to be 'educated' to to make 'better' choices.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea