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“There is no war on cars. There is a war on bikes”: Cyclists react to Grant Shapps’ “hugely damaging” number plates and speed limits pledge; Cyprus introduces mandatory helmet law; F1 star prefers rim brakes; ‘But cyclists’ special + more on the live blog

It’s Wednesday and Ryan Mallon is here with all the cycling news and views on your middle-of-the-week live blog. So, where’s the best place to buy number plates?
17 August 2022, 16:20
“This is so depressing”: Readers react to Grant Shapps’ cycling proposals

I’m sure you’re as shocked as I am to find that the ‘Grant Shapps endorses cycling number plates (or does he?)’ story has dominated the comments section of today’s live blog.

Here’s a selection of your thoughts on what has clearly been the story of the day (just look at the road.cc homepage – there are more stories on Grant Shapps than the man himself has had pseudonyms…):

road.cc reader Surreyrider asked what we were all thinking: “Just wondering if a bike with stabilisers would need a registration plate and if so whether the DVLA will expect the four-year-old owner to complete form to get one.”

Tigersnapper has an ingeniuous solution just in case Shapps’ proposals ever come to fruition: “Perhaps we ought to have 1.5m long number plates sticking out on the offside.  At least we'd get space from overtaking motor vehicles then.”

Hutchdaddy also noted some of the flaws in the proposals, writing: “Yes please let's have number plates, enforcement of speed, and red light jumping for cycles. To implement all that we will need even more cameras on the road which will also catch a lot more drivers that currently get away with speeding, jumping red lights etc.

“The downside will be that we will have to listen to even more drivers bleating on about how hard done with they are and how the speed camera was in the wrong place and it should be where they won't get caught and... yawn yawn yawn.

“I'd be much happier to have conversations about road safety with non-cyclists if they didn't insist on being so patronising.”

Eburtthebike reckons the whole thing is down to Brexit – or more specifically, how certain sections of the media have popularised and championed ‘popular’ movements in recent years.

“Nobody used to be concerned about EU membership,” he says. “In polls about what bothered people, it didn't even make the top ten.  Then the DM, Farrage and Banks and other off-shore non-domiciled for tax purposes billionaires started stirring things, lying, taking money from Russia and lying again, again and again, and suddenly it was an issue.

“I'm sure cyclists wouldn't have registered on most people's list of things to worry about a few years ago, but I'm sure that has risen after the lies published by pretty much the same papers with the same non-resident owners, that it would now make the top ten.

“We absolutely need to regulate the media in this country, starting by not allowing foreign residents to own any.”

Peted76 then summed the whole sorry affair up: “This is so depressing to read today. I don't think it'll become anything, but FFS it really is… I just can't.”

He then used a four letter word to describe Mr Shapps, which I won’t repeat here…

17 August 2022, 16:11
My eyes, my eyes! Is this the world’s ugliest bike?
17 August 2022, 15:43
Martin Johnson at  Revolution 20 - Adam Tranter fusionmedia.co.uk
Rugby World Cup winner Martin Johnson takes on the Wild Atlantic Way for charity

England’s 2003 Rugby World Cup winning captain Martin Johnson is once again taking to two wheels as he joins Leicestershire and Rutland’s Hope Against Cancer charity for their latest ‘Tour de Hope’ cycling challenge in September.

The event will see riders from across the UK take on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, covering 570 kilometres of rugged and scenic coastline in the west of the island.

Keen cyclist Johnson – who has competed at the Revolution track events, previewed sportive courses with David Millar, and even attempted to break a world record for most bike in a line – will join the team for the final two days of their epic ride.

Martin Johnson Tour de Hope

“We are proud and honoured that Martin has chosen to take part in this exhilarating challenge,” says Hope Against Cancer’s CEO Nigel Rose.

“Like all charities, Hope faces an increasingly uphill struggle itself in these difficult times - and having a sports super-star participate in this event will help us raise awareness for our continuing efforts.”

Since its foundation in 2003, the charity has funded numerous cutting-edge research projects in partnership with Leicester University and the Leicester Hospitals. They have also funded the original construction and recent doubling in capacity of the Hope Cancer Trials Centre, where treatments not yet available throughout the NHS open pathways to new and improved patient outcomes.

You can support the Tour de Hope and donate to Hope Against Cancer here.

17 August 2022, 15:27
All grown up and racing the Vuelta

In happier pro cycling news, the Vuelta starts in 48 hours – and Ethan Hayter and Fred Wright are racing it!

(Good job these two race on teams where there’s not even the faintest whiff of anything untoward… Cycling, eh?)

17 August 2022, 15:05
A glimpse into the road.cc newsroom this week…

Simon’s on fire with the tweets today:

17 August 2022, 14:24
Nairo Quintana 2022 TDF (Zac Williams/SWpix.com)
“Quite sad that still not everyone wants to follow the rules”: Riders and fans react to Nairo Quintana tramadol positive

The news that former Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España winner Nairo Quintana has tested positive for tramadol, resulting in his disqualification from last month’s Tour de France, has shocked a cycling world seemingly no longer used to its star names falling foul of the drug testers.

> Nairo Quintana sanctioned by UCI for tramadol infringement

According to the UCI’s statement today, the Arkéa–Samsic climber – who finished sixth at this year’s Tour – tested positive for tramadol on the days of the crucical stages to La Planche des Belles Filles and the Col du Granon, where the Colombian was the only rider able to stay within a minute of the rampant Jonas Vingegaard.

The controversial painkiller was banned by the UCI in 2019, but is not currently on WADA’s list of performance enhancing substances (which may prove interesting if Quintana chooses to appeal his sanction).

In 2016, disgraced former Team Sky pro Jonathan Tiernan-Locke claimed that British Cycling “freely offered” tramadol to the country’s riders at the 2012 UCI Road World Championships.

The Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC) – a voluntary organisation adhering to stricter anti-doping guidelines and of which Arkéa–Samsic are part – has been campaigning since 2013 for tramadol to be banned, claiming that its painkilling effects have led to an increase in crashes in the peloton.

Controversies concerning suspected doping practices have dogged Quintana in recent years since his move to Arkéa–Samsic from Movistar, where he achieved his grand tour successes.

2021 Tour de France Arkea Samsic Quintana Canyon Aeroad - 1

> Two in custody as Arkea-Samsic manager distances team from doping probe

Quintana’s hotel room was searched at the 2020 Tour de France, while two members of his French team were taken into custody as part of an anti-doping investigation. The team distanced itself from the raid, claiming that it was aimed at “a very limited number of riders, as well as their close entourage”, and Quintana denied any wrongdoing after no illegal substances were found.

With the 32-year-old set to start the Vuelta on Friday, this week’s positive test will not, however, result in a ban, as tests for tramadol form part of the UCI’s medical checks and do not constitute an anti-doping rule violation.

Quintana’s results at the Tour, however, will be stripped, unless he successfully appeals.

(Think of the whole thing like the old haematocrit tests of the 1990s, used to ascertain whether a rider was taking EPO, but unable to prove much beyond the rider’s often ridiculous percentage of red blood cells. Marco Pantani most famously failed that test when he seemed poised to win the 1999 Giro d’Italia. While he had to leave the Cora Rosa, Il Pirata was only ‘banned’ from racing for two weeks and never – officially anyway – tested positive.)

Trek-Segafredo’s Toms Skujiņš tweeted his annoyance that Quintana’s positive test was once again bringing the sport into disrepute, but seemed happy with his belated elevation to the lofty GC heights of 60th at the Tour:

 Cycling author Peter Cossins was one of those questioning Quintana’s future at Arkéa–Samsic, despite his scheduled appearance in Utrecht on Friday:

One Twitter personality, however, is unsurprisingly sticking by Nairoman, through thick and thin:

17 August 2022, 13:55
I wanna know, have you ever seen the rain?
17 August 2022, 13:26
Cycling UK says Shapps’ proposals are “impractical and unworkable”

Cycling UK has labelled Grant Shapps’ latest proposals to implement speed limits for cyclists, mandatory cycling insurance, and (maybe, we’re not quite sure) potential number plates for riders as “impractical and unworkable”.

The charity says that the government should be doing more to help people get on their bikes, rather than fixating on policies abandoned by previous administrations.

“These latest proposals to regulate cycling are impractical and unworkable, and have been repeatedly dismissed by successive governments,” says Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s head of campaigns.

“They’re also a complete U-turn on current government policy as laid out last November when Baroness Vere said, ‘the costs of doing so would outweigh the benefits’. Every country which has tried to implement such ideas have soon realised their costly mistake.

“As cost of living ramps up, we’re seeing more people turning to cycling to meet their local transport needs. Rather than proposing expensive barriers to cycling more – both to the exchequer and the individual – we need this government to do more to help people cycle, not less.”

17 August 2022, 12:20
Cyprus introduces mandatory helmet law

From January 2023, cyclists in Cyprus will have to wear a helmet after the country’s parliament passed an amendment to the Bicycles Law last month.

According to the amendment, helmets will soon be mandatory for anyone cycling on the island’s roads, bike paths, cycle corridors and cycle lanes, as well for any passenger carried in a special bike seat.

Under the new law, offenders will face a €50 for failing to comply, while the Registrar of Motor Vehicles has been given the authority to approve or reject helmet types.

Chrysis Pantelides, the MP who initially proposed the amendment, argued that there has been an increase in road traffic collisions involving cyclists, and that a mandatory helmet law could potentially save riders from serious injury or death.

> Cyprus cyclists to be fined for taking hands off handlebars

The new law makes Cyprus only the fourth country in the world, after Argentina, Australia and New Zealand, to introduce a law which enforces helmet use by cyclists.

However, writing in the Cyprus Mail, Friends of the Earth Cyprus president and UCI-registered cycling coach Anastasia Korae opposed the new law and argued: “I myself wear a helmet every time I ride my bicycle in Cyprus or abroad but, considering the scientific evidence and all the examples from so many countries, I cannot defend an island-wide policy because it undermines the huge health, environmental, and social benefits of cycling.

“In reality, numbers show that the health benefits of riding a bicycle outweigh the risks of injury by a ratio ranging from 20:1 to 77:1, and this is a huge cost/benefit score.”

Korae continued: “This law was but a small example of how our parliament legislates by looking at poor or no evidence. A seemingly reasonable argument was all that was needed, and the relevant bill was passed without proper consultation and hardly any time for debate, giving most MPs no chance to shape an informed opinion.”

Cyprus’ new mandatory helmet law comes six years after a range of cycling offences were introduced by the republic’s parliament, including penalties for cycling without both hands on the handlebars unless indicating, cycling in pedestrian areas, towing objects by bike. holding a pet on a lead while cycling, and giving a passenger a lift on a bike.

17 August 2022, 11:32
‘But, but, but cyclists’, part two: Hi-vis edition

I sense a pattern emerging today…

17 August 2022, 10:59
‘But, but, but cyclists, number plates, road tax’: Near Miss of the Day, zebra crossing edition
17 August 2022, 10:50
And now for something completely different: F1 star opts for rim brakes

While we’re all engrossed in the latest episode of The Thick of It (satire truly is dead, isn’t it?), I think it’s time to move today’s live blog onto much more trivial terrain.

(Apologies to road.cc readers HarrogateSpa and SimoninSpalding, who were hoping for a more light-hearted, less angry blog today. I was too, I promise, but then the politicians got in the way…)

So, from one deep-seated and controversial cycling debate to another: rim brakes or disc brakes?

He may be obsessed with braking power and fast cornering in the wet at his day job, but it appears that Formula One star George Russell prefers the easy-to-maintain, cosy traditionalism of rim brakes when he’s out training on two wheels:

The Mercedes driver also seems to have accidentally clicked the ‘2’ option in the shopping basket when he was ordering his new bike from Cannondale…

17 August 2022, 10:30
Might as well be prepared…

Though Grant Shapps and the Department for Transport appear to be as confused as everyone else about the future of bike number plates, cycling author Simon Warren is already one step ahead of the curve:

17 August 2022, 10:06
Compare and contrast: Two stories, same day
17 August 2022, 09:52
Mail leads with number plates headline – But in the Times, Shapps says registration plates for cyclists “would go too far”

So, things have started to get confusing…

We all woke up this morning to a typically bombastic Daily Mail front page, which screamed, in all caps, “Cyclists may need number plates”.

However, in the Times, which also features an interview with Shapps on potential new laws for cyclists, things are a touch more nuanced, as the Guardian’s Peter Walker points out:

While Shapps alludes to the “question of… registration plates and insurance and that sort of thing” during his interview with the Mail, he has told the Times that he is “not attracted to the bureaucracy of registration plates. That would go too far.”

“There is definitely a hard core of cyclists who seem to think the laws of the road don’t apply to them,” he says in the interview. “I do think the Highway Code should be updated to recognise speed limits for cyclists.

“How can it be right that some people are able to break the speed limit and bomb through red lights? The time has come to have a look at a review and potentially update laws so they apply to cyclists as well.”

However, he notes, “I’m a keen cyclist, I’m very proud of the big expansion in the number of miles being cycled. I’m not attracted to the bureaucracy of registration plates. That would go too far.”

road.cc has contacted the Transport Secretary’s press office, who have told us that the statement in the Times is a more accurate reflection of Shapps’ views.

We will update this story when we receive a fuller statement.

17 August 2022, 09:26
Good point...
17 August 2022, 08:54
“Go, Grant, go!” An email from the other side of the bumper

In the interests of balance and impartiality – hey, it’s not the Mail at least – we thought we should share a view from the other side of the fence (or should that be the other side of the two-tonne box of metal?).

Something tells me that the author of this email, Ben, isn’t a regular road.cc reader, though he did feel the need to contact us this morning upon hearing about the Transport Secretary’s new pledge/distraction tactic.

So, here’s Ben’s view, in completely unedited form:

ABOUT BLOODY TIME.

The bleeding heart, woke comments make me puke. 

Sure you have a right to be on the road. But then, "Oh we don't have to follow road laws bcos we're bike riders." Elitist holier-than-though Cretans.  

( insurance)  Sure, why not? You hit someone then pedal off? 

(Presumably this will apply to my three year old daughter riding in our cul de sac?) Is she riding at 35mph on the public street? Social services need to speak to you.

(Downhill with a tail wind I might just break 32kph)  Well done. So no problem with 20 mph limit with you. I'll take that as a yes vote.

(Have the UK politicians just doubled down on being the worst, most out of touch and most incompetent in all time? )  And that's exactly the elitist, above the law attitude the new rules will counter for the safety of the rest of us. "I ride a bike. So I don't have to follow any f**** rules." 

Seems bike riding blows the neurons and gray matter straight out of your ears. Which is curious as some many riders have their ear bunged up with pods so they can't hear any round sounds around them, or pedestrians screaming as Tour de France Tony races across the zebra crossing while people crossing pull up. 

GO GRANT, GO!

17 August 2022, 08:01
“There is no war on cars. There is a war on bikes”: Cyclists react to Grant Shapps’ “hugely damaging” number plates and speed limits pledge

What’s that I hear, drifting out over Whitehall? Another anti-cycling dog whistle?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ latest attempt to not do his job properly/appeal to the 4x4 driving, perpetually angry about all this ‘woke’ stuff, section of the Tory electorate/distract us all from actual serious issues [delete as appropriate] has – rather predictably – gone down like a lead balloon.

In case you missed it late last night, Shapps – just over a week after repeating his pledge to introduce a ‘causing death by dangerous cycling law’ – has once again decided to shift the focus on road safety and infrastructure towards some of the most vulnerable road users, by arguing that cyclists should be insured, carry licence plates on their bikes, and be subject to the same speed limits as motorists.

Oh, and by making sure that position was splashed all over this morning's front page of the Daily Mail.

While Shapps’ latest cycling-related pledge may simply prove a rather desperate ploy to win the affections of the Mail’s readership, the fact that it’s made front page headlines – or even been mentioned at all – has been described as “hugely damaging” by those within the cycling community.

ITV’s cycling commentator Ned Boulting noted the sad irony of it all:

 The Guardian’s Peter Walker, meanwhile, described Shapps’ pledge – and the potential real-life effects of it – as “incredibly alarming”:

 Transport commentator Christian Wolmar argued that Shapps was “just playing to the base” and that the whole thing was “pathetic”:

 Other cyclists were as equally unimpressed:

Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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