Cyclist-dooring Transport Secretary compounds road-law ignorance

Last month Transport Secretary Chris Grayling was caught on camera dooring a cyclist; today when challenged about this in parliament he showed his ignorance over the legal definitions of road users. 

In a December interview with the Evening Standard, the Minister of State for Transport seemed to deny that cyclists were road users.

“I don’t think all the cycle lanes in London have been designed as well as they should have been," said Grayling.

“There are places where they perhaps cause too much of a problem for road users …"

He should have said "motorists" not "road users". And his ignorance was again highlighted this morning when, in the House of Commons, he said: “Where you have cycle lanes, cyclists are the users of cycle lanes, and there is a road alongside, motorists are the users of the roads."

He compounded his ignorance by smirking: "It’s fairly straightforword to be honest."

According to the Road Traffic Act, a road "means any highway … to which the public has access." The public highway includes footways, cycle tracks as well as the carriageways.

British Cycling’s policy adviser Chris Boardman said Grayling’s comments demonstrate an “astonishing lack of knowledge about how seven million people regularly use the roads in this country. If he truly thinks the roads are not for cyclists then what am I paying my taxes for?"

Boardman added: “The Secretary of State should also know that segregated cycle lanes of sufficient quality are incredibly rare in Britain. In fact, it’s going to be impossible to meet government targets on a diminishing budget of less than £1 per head. This is in stark contrast to the Netherlands and Denmark where more than £20 per head is spent. If there was ever anyone who needed to actually get on a bike and hear about the true state of cycling infrastructure, it is Chris Grayling and I’d be delighted to go on a ride with him.”

Grayling was responding to questions posted by Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner. As well as teasing oout that Grayling has a poor grasp of highway law Zeichner made the Secretary of State reveal that the long-awaited Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy will be published soon: "If he is waiting in eager anticipation for our Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy he really doesn’t have long to wait."

As a Cambridge history graduate Grayling would no doubt be interested in how cyclists have equal legal status on the roads as motorists. The legal definition of bicycles as legitimate highway users was solidified in 1888. The Local Government Bill of that year created County Councils. The Cyclists’ Touring Club formed a committee to oversee the progress of this bill through parliament. It was feared that if County Councils were given powers to create their own bye-laws such bye-laws would be used to prohibit bicycles. The CTC had political clout: it asked one of its members – who just so happened to be an MP – to lodge an amendment to the Bill. Sir John Donnington “won a brilliant victory for the Club,” wrote James Lightwood, the author of a 1928 history of the CTC.

When the Act – with the critical amendment – was duly passed, a writer in the Law Journal said the Local Government Act of 1888 was the “Magna Carta de Bicyclis.”

Lightwood said:

“As a result there disappeared … every enactment which gave to Courts of Sessions, Municipal Corporations and similar bodies in England and Wales power to resist and hamper the movements of cyclists as they might think fit. The new order of things established once and for all the status of the cycle.”

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