Top Gear's James May hits out at "complete bollocks" bike lanes and the myth of 'road tax'

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.

Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

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