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Top motoring journo supports segregated bike paths, calls for tolerance on roads

In an interview giving his support for The Times Cities fit for cycling campaign, Top Gear presenter James May has slammed the poor quality of many bike lanes, demolished the idea that 'road tax' gives drivers more rights on the streets and called for an end to "road sectarianism".

“I’m all for bicycles in cities,” May told The Times' Kaya Burgess. “We use bicycles to go around locally and also for fun occasionally. Typically, our bike rides would be three or four miles. I go to the shops on it.”

May owns three bikes, and has been riding since the age of three. He said he supported the Commons transport committee recent call for the government to spend £600 million a year on cycling.

"I think that is fair enough,” he said

He added, however, that many cycle lanes found on roads were “complete bollocks” and created confusion rather than improved safety. Urban planners should spend more time riding bikes to understand what was needed, he said.

May also came out in support of segregated cycle lanes on roads.

He said: “That would take a lot of brains and thought, but it is an essentially good idea.

“Cycling is becoming more popular in London, there are a lot of bikes and people are starting to recognise that they need to be accommodated.

“There are so many more bicycles now than there were, say, a decade ago, that people notice them and subconsciously we are modifying the way we drive around town.

“There are people who talk about wanting to make safety clothing mandatory, road tax for bicycles, registering them and insuring them,” he added. “I think all that stuff is utter nonsense. The whole point of the bike is that you get on it and you ride it and you can ride it when you’re a kid or when you’re absolutely flat broke and it’s so agile.”

And speaking of road tax, May clearly understands that it doesn't afford drivers any extra rights, and, indeed, isn't a road tax at all.

"The roads belong to everybody,” he said. “That old argument that ‘I pay road tax and the bicycle doesn’t’ often isn’t true. In any case, roads are funded centrally so the tax [from Vehicle Excise Duty] doesn’t actually go on roads, so no one has a greater right to the road than anybody else, that’s nonsense.”

While he supports better cycling facilities, May thinks the curent situation could be helped if we all just got along better.

“We need to get rid of road sectarianism,” he said. “Car drivers supposedly hate cyclists, cyclists hate taxi drivers, taxi drivers hate motorcyclists, bus drivers hate lorries. I just think if everybody was a little bit more pragmatic, that would do more for safety.”

He added that cyclists should look for quiet backstreet routes to avoid dangerous roads and suggested that it was reasonable for cyclists to ride “slowly and carefully” on wide pavements.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.