Nigel Farage, the career politician who has built a large part of that career on railing against career politicians, has found a new target for his rage – penning an article for the Mail on Sunday which drags out pretty much every tired, old and incorrect cliché brought to bear against cyclists, and then some.
From cyclists not being required to pay “road tax” – something no motorist has done since it was abolished in 1937 – through to calling for bike riders to be licensed (itself, together with mandatory third party liability insurance a UKIP policy in its 2010 general election manifesto), the former MEP’s tirade ticks pretty much every box on the anti-cycling bingo card.
“Cycling used to be an innocent childhood pastime,” but is now “an exploding craze, a macho, high-speed hobby bringing town-centre traffic to a stop and turning the roads near my home into a velodrome,” insists Farage, with country lanes “commandeered by self-righteous platoons of middle-aged men in tight-fitting costumes.”
Central London’s streets (where cyclists, of course, are more likely to be riding for transport or for work rather than as a “hobby”) are compared to those of “Peking or Amsterdam,” with Farage claiming that “When I stop at traffic lights, cyclists surround me like a strange swarm of insects.”
If you had cycling being suitable only for children, people on bikes causing congestion, country lanes being turned into velodromes, comparisons with cities abroad, and dehumanising language on your bingo card, you may well be halfway to completing it.
If you don’t, fear not – there’s plenty of other fallacies about cyclists and cycling in the Mail on Sunday article, all just as easy to refute with just a little research.
“Many completely ignore the rules of the road – that much is well established,” for example, even though research has shown that motorists are more likely to break the law, and with potentially much more harmful consequences.
“When they break the law, they should be prosecuted like the rest of us,” is another one, and yes, it does happen – but stretched police resources are focused on other, higher priority areas such as motorists, who are responsible for the vast majority of deaths or serious injuries on Britain’s roads.
In response to a trial of segregated cycle lanes in Southsea, “Shop owners, already struggling, believe it will kill business dead,” even though studies repeatedly show that people visiting high streets by bike (or on foot for that matter) use local shops more frequently than motorists do, and over time, spend more money there.
“For much of the day these new bike lanes with their endless lines of shiny white posts lie empty while traffic jams block what is left of the roads,” even though cycle lanes lying empty simply reflects that they are very efficient at transporting people, much more so than roads given over to congested motor traffic.
“What about those who, like the disabled, depend on vehicles to get about?” asks Farage, ignoring – or ignorant – of the fact that for many, a bicycle is a mobility aid.
And so it goes on, with an obligatory mention of a “war on motorists” that is “an affront to democracy, introduced without consultation or clarity for purposes which organisations like Transport for London are yet to disclose.”
Ah, yes. We were lacking a conspiracy theory.
Cyclists using cameras to film poor and all to often dangerous drivers are described as “pedalling policemen [who] wear helmet cameras to film their journeys, spying on cars in case their drivers dare to touch a mobile phone while sitting at a red light,” even though many police forces actively encourage road users – whether in the saddle or behind the wheel – to submit such footage.
You get the idea, although Farage does toss in one that we haven’t come across before, when describing the “looks of shock” he gets from cyclists when they see him walking near his home – “the vast majority,” he assures us, “are Remainers.”
“Perhaps this helps to explain my prejudice,” he adds. “I simply don't like them and wish they weren't here.”
Many would argue that Farage is best ignored, and of course it is tempting to do just that, in much the same way that on Friday, many US news networks cut away from his friend President Trump when he once again falsely claimed to have won re-election.
But as we’ve said before when reporting on anti-cyclist claims from the likes of motoring presenter Jeremy Clarkson, or the self-styled Mr Loophole lawyer Nick Freeman, we feel it’s important that they do get challenged on their claims – something that those media outlets given them an influential platform to express their views, which many accept without questioning them seem unable – or unwilling – to do.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.