The Mayor of a city supposedly undergoing a two-wheeled revolution made several wrong turns yesterday. He plucked a disputed figure from memory and used it effectively to accuse cyclists of causing their own deaths by breaking the rules of the road. In doing so, he appeared to forget the six red lights he was filmed jumping in 2008, when he also failed to stop at a zebra crossing and mounted the pavement.
Johnson's office swiftly apologised for those misdemeanours, promising that he would be "more careful in the future". But the Mayor's biggest crime against cycling has been to fuel rather than tackle a culture of animosity that is more dangerous to riders, including himself, than any breach of the Highway Code.
Johnson has called cyclists "dreadlocked, Lycra-clad racers" who believe they are "morally superior". If he studied the profiles of the mercifully few riders killed on the city's roads, he may find they don't fit that stereotype. He may find, for example, that they are law-abiding, understandably nervous cyclists waiting at the lights in the shadow of a lorry at a poorly designed junction.
The Mayor has described himself as a "passionate" cyclist. That is a good thing, and Johnson has done much to make London more bike-friendly. But he has also described himself as a "militant" cyclist, which is less helpful. We need to rid our roads of militancy and lazy stereotypes because they inflate the dangerous sense that cyclists and drivers are at odds, ignoring the large proportion of cyclists who also drive.
I wince at militant cyclists as often as I do aggressive, frustrated drivers. If the pointless war between them is allowed to continue, the victims will most likely be those caught in the crossfire. Tribalism has no place on our roads and our Mayor has a responsibility to help drive it away.Reuse content