The mayor of London Boris Johnson has apologised for giving his barrister wife Marina Wheeler a ‘backie’ reports the BBC. Johnson says he didn’t know the practice was against the law, but cycling campaigners have said he should have known better.
Footage of Boris and Wheeler cycling along Barlby Road in North Kensington at around midnight last Thursday was published by The Sun. Wheeler is seen perched on the back of a bike being cycled by Johnson while three men in a car heckle them. “You’re not allowed to do that, mate,” says one.
According to Section 24 of the Road Traffic Act 1998: “Not more than one person may be carried on a road on a bicycle not propelled by mechanical power unless it is constructed or adapted for the carriage of more than one person.”
Johnson – who once shared a bike with Jeremy Paxman without breaking the law – says he was not aware of this. However, Sam Jones from CTC, the national cycling charity, described his actions as being "very naughty," adding: "We wouldn't encourage other cyclists to carry passengers in such a fashion. We would never encourage cyclists to break the law."
Mr Johnson's official spokesman said:
"The mayor wishes to apologise for offering his wife a short-lived lift on the back of his bike. He was unaware that he was apparently in contravention of the Road and Traffic Act. He wasn't intending to ride all the way home from North Kensington to North London with Marina on the back; rather he was attempting to transport his wife to a main road, from where they hailed a black cab for her.
"As everyone knows the mayor is a huge supporter of cycling, and an even bigger fan of the black cab trade, hence his desire to combine the two."
This was only the latest of Johnson’s cycling exploits. In May 2009, CCTV footage caught what he himself described as a "near death experience" while out riding a prospective cycling superhighway route. As Johnson was overtaken by a lorry, one of its rear doors swung open hitting a parked car, hooking the vehicle and flinging it across the road into the path of Johnson and two other cyclists.
Later that year, he was hailed as a “knight on a shining bicycle” after coming to the aid of a woman was being attacked by a gang of girls. Film-maker Franny Armstrong was pushed against a car by a gang of girls, one of whom was brandishing an iron bar. The mayor stopped and asked the girls what they were doing. When they ran off, he picked up the iron bar and rode after them, calling them “oiks” before returning to walk Armstrong home.
Last month, Johnson was filmed trading four-letter insults with one of the capital’s black-cab drivers while riding through the city. A source close to the mayor told BBC News that Johnson “was giving as good as he got to a guy who heckles him regularly."