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OPINION

Grant Shapps’ stupid cycling comments are ill-judged, dangerous and fuelling more hatred towards cyclists

Although cycling number plates and mandatory insurance make so little sense they will probably never happen, it feels like the damage has already been done

Well, it's official. The Twitter opinions of that profile with an England flag in its username, and which will likely be active for a month before being 'cancelled' for racism, has become official government policy.

With Michael Green (sorry, Grant Shapps) telling the Daily Mail that he would be making it illegal for people to ride a bike without a licence or insurance (before backtracking somewhat in a different interview) social media and the right wing press went into meltdown. Suddenly the 'U DON"T PAY RAOD TAX!!!' brigade knew that the Government had their backs, and that their illogical prejudices were right. After all, why else would the Government bother legislating it?

Well, there is a simple answer to this: populist governments need a target.

Brexit was all about targeting the 'unelected EU bureaucrats' and 'forin workers stealin ur job', but as that has now been enacted they can't use ‘them’ as a target. In the modern world you may be able to use dog whistles, but this is not the 70s. You can't target people based on their skin colour or religion (although I think some newspapers tread that line very closely). So, let's go after the people on bikes.

Cyclists have just become the latest target of the unending culture war that aims to distract from the terrible state of the country. (Economy is collapsing) RED LIGHT JUMPERS. (Waiting 40 hours for an ambulance) THEY DON'T PAY ROAD TAX. (Fuel bills rising by about £4k) CYCLING ON THE PAVEMENT! Now that unions are the most popular they've been since Thatcher and Jeremy Corbyn is out of office, what other group could they demonise?

It's all very predictable, but also so ill-judged and dangerous.

This Government policy is actually consistent with its overall governing philosophy: demonise or ignore the most vulnerable and protect the most privileged.

If a cyclist and motorist get into a collision, the Government is arguing that the damage done to both is comparable. Think about that. If I hit a car going at 20mph, which is going to come off worse? A bag of bones and blood or a solid metal object?

It's also fuelling more hatred towards cyclists, focussing not on the massive benefits of cycling but demonising those doing it. If I am car driver and I have been led to believe that cyclists are criminals or they're 'getting away with it', does that make me more or less likely to pass them safely?

What Michael Green (sorry, Corinne Stockheath… nope, sorry, Sebastian Fox… ahh, Grant Shapps) has done in a single briefing is demonise cyclists, making it more dangerous for millions of us on the road. His legacy among cyclists wasn't bad at all. He has overseen Chris Boardman being made the CEO of Active Travel England, an increase in funding for active travel and even changes to the Highway Code to make us safer. What he has done now is not only tarnish that, but within 24 hours has reversed every positive thing the Department for Transport has done.

Well done, Sebastian. Sorry, Grant…

George is the host of the road.cc podcast and has been writing for road.cc since 2014. He has reviewed everything from a saddle with a shark fin through to a set of glasses with a HUD and everything in between. 

Although, ironically, spending more time writing and talking about cycling than on the bike nowadays, he still manages to do a couple of decent rides every week on his ever changing number of bikes.

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