Labour MP Kate Hoey says she would like to see more people cycling and supports segregated bike lanes – but she also says that bicycles should be registered and that riders should pay road tax and carry insurance.
The fine imposed on Hoey provoked widespread derision not to mention schadenfreude among cyclists, whom she had branded in a 2003 Daily Mail article as “law-breaking Lycra louts.”
Hoey told Walker that with the benefit of hindsight, that article had appeared more extreme than she’d intended, and revealed that she backed Mayor of London Boris Johnson’s intention to introduce more cycle lanes in the capital – although it could be argued that her prime motivation for that appears to be to clear the roads for cars.
“I would love to see cycling separated, because I think it would help everybody,” she explained. “If it means more people cycling, great, especially if it makes it easier for me on the road. You're never going to get it everywhere, but it's going to have to happen because there's so many more people cycling.”
“But,” she added, “if we're going to do that don't you think they should have to pay something, as a road tax? Why should I pay a hundred and whatever pounds for my little Mini and they don't?”
Walker explained to her the difference between “road tax,” abolished in the 1930s, and Vehicle Excise Duty, and said she did subsequently email him to say: “By the way I do know that VED is based on size etc of car but the principle is that surely everyone using the road should be licenced and insured.”
Hoey, elected to Parliament in the safe Labour seat of Vauxhall in 1989, also called for bicycles to be fitted with number plates, saying: “What I do genuinely think, and the cycling lobby should argue for it too, is that everyone who rides a bicycle, particularly as a form of transport to work, should be registered, so their bike has a registration number.
“At the moment if someone does knock down an old lady and ride off no one can trace that person.”
While perceived cyclist and pedestrian conflict is a regular hobby-horse for some national and local media outlets and an issue often raised with the police by local residents, thankfully reported injuries are relatively rare.
Last year, according to the Department for Transport’s Reported Road Casualties Great Britain Annual Report 2012, there were 389 reported incidents in which a pedestrian was injured in a collision with a bicycle, of which 97 were serious and two fatal.
By comparison, 212 pedestrians were killed and 3,907 seriously injured following collisions with private cars alone.
As for registration, opponents point out that the bureaucracy – and presumably expense – involved would make such a scheme unworkable and deter people from cycling.
Hoey acknowledged, “I can see why cyclists feel they have to stand up against people,” adding, “but I never see cyclists criticising themselves. Cyclists don't seem to see to do anything about.”
It’s unclear whether Hoey is advocating some form of self-policing, but certainly cycling organisations such as CTC reinforce that cyclists must obey applicable laws, and a road.cc poll in February 2010 found that among site users, it was law-breaking that annoyed them most about other riders’ behaviour.
Walker pointed out to Hoey that speeding or driving through red lights – as she herself did – was common among motorists, and that the potential consequences were much more serious than in the case of a bicycle.
She countered his argument, saying: “But that is a sort of cop out, isn' it? It's like me saying, I'm only driving this little old Mini, why can't just slip through a light as well if there's nothing coming?”
Towards the end of his article, Walker gives his impression of the MP, reflecting that “I don’t think Hoey has any genuine malice towards cyclists, and in many ways she means well. But she has, to my mind, some curious notions” – not least, given she represents a constituency with low levels of car ownership and higher than average levels of cycling, she should be advocating measures that might deter the latter.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.