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

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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Our representatives must represent us

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
MP David Lammy would become the capital’s first black mayor if he won the 2016 Mayoral election  

Crime, punishment and morals: we’re entering a maze with no clear exit

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot