Sajid Javid has become the latest Conservative politician to weigh in on the viral video – discussed during Tuesday’s episode of Jeremy Vine’s Channel 5 show and viewed almost 2.5 million times on Twitter – which shows a motorist failing to stop before narrowly passing a five-year-old cyclist.
The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has also served as the Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care during his time in government, joined Tory peer Baroness Foster and Conservative London Assembly leader Susan Hall in pointing the finger at the child’s father for letting him cycle on the road in the first place.
Responding to a tweet from the Jeremy Vine on 5 Twitter account, which asked viewers who they thought was “in the wrong”, Bromsgrove MP Javid – who unsuccessfully stood to replace Boris Johnson in the first of this year’s Conservative leadership contests, before later endorsing Liz Truss – replied: “The 5-year-old’s father”.
The 5-year old's father. https://t.co/nMfncye03d
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) November 10, 2022
Javid (whose driver, incidentally, was filmed stopped in a bike box outside Westminster earlier this year) has been heavily criticised for his comments by other Twitter users, who ridiculed the MP’s apparent ‘car is king’ attitude and advised him to review the Highway Code:
You might want to review the highway code:https://t.co/yjnUlHzeCq
— Chris Parker (@HyperHydr0) November 10, 2022
Car is king, eh, Sajid? I expect better from you, as the current health secretary and a former secretary for sport.
— Felix Lowe (@saddleblaze) November 10, 2022
The pavement would be safer:https://t.co/j3B3rUVAf9
— Sustainable us - moving at 25km/h (@Havant_Enviro) November 10, 2022
Nevertheless, the MP’s comments echoed those made earlier this week by some of his Tory colleagues, including Susan Hall, the chair of the Police and Crime Committee in the London Assembly.
Replying to a tweet – this time from Vine himself – which suggested that anyone who does not think “the driver must go dead slow, or stop” should “cut up their driving licence and send the pieces back to the DVLA”, Hall argued: “Surely the issue here is that a 5-year-old should not be on the public highway riding a bike!”
Hall then claimed that the child should only cycle “slowly on the footway, or preferably in the park” and that she was “amazed that given road behaviour by all that you find it acceptable for a five-year-old to be on a bike in the road.”
Conservative peer Baroness Foster – appointed to the House of Lords by then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson in December 2020 – also took to Twitter to castigate the child’s father, writing: “A child that small should not be cycling on a road! A completely irresponsible decision along with your comments that put the entire onus on the car drivers if/when something goes horribly wrong!”
The widespread argument shared by the Conservative politicians, that the five-year-old should have been cycling on the footpath instead of the road, was today countered by his father, who posted the below video of his school run:
"just ride your bikes on the pavement, no one will mind. It'll be safer, no cars on the pavement are there?!"
The pavements next to a school pic.twitter.com/tq45IcW1m0
— AZB (@azb2019) November 10, 2022
On Tuesday, after the contentious video went viral, the child’s father Ashley also appeared on Vine’s Channel 5 show, where the noted cycling advocate criticised the driving on display.
Ashley told the show that “the facts are clear on this one: the driver was wrong and my son has every right to ride on the road.”
Panel guest and journalist Mike Parry agreed, dismissing the debate about whether the child should have been cycling on the road as “utterly irrelevant”.
“Surely human compassion, surely human nature says that if you’re driving a car at speed and there’s a little child coming the other way your instinct should be the protective nature of an adult in a car over a child,” he told Vine.
Meanwhile, on the same day that the video was discussed on Channel 5, road safety expert Tim Shallcross of IAM Roadsmart told the Sunday Times Driving: “There is no minimum age limit for cycling on a road; the lad is a little younger than most cycling organisations recommend to be on a road, but he’s certainly riding competently and with confidence and under supervision, so no problem there.”
Shallcross also pointed to Rule H3 of the Highway Code, referencing the ‘hierarchy of road users’, which tells drivers to “stop and wait for a safe gap in the flow of cyclists if necessary”.
“Highway Code guidance is for cars to give 1.5m clearance to cyclists in 30mph limit, and since the cyclist was already passing parked vehicles and there was clearly not room for 1.5m clearance, the car should have waited until the cyclist was clear before carrying on,” he concluded.
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.