Kevin Mayne, the director of Britain's national cycling organisation CTC, has explained on CTC's website why he defended Conservative leader David Cameron's apparent law-breaking when cycling in London. (A week ago, the Daily Mirror published pictures of Cameron cycling the wrong way down a one way street.) As Mayne says:
"I checked out the Mirror’s coverage in some detail and I was furious. After 3 days of trailing Cameron they ended up with just four photos that they said was either illegal or dangerous riding, plus some footage on line. I am not condoning illegal or dangerous cycling but this was plain daft.
"I know most of that route, I use it regularly. In most of the photos he was doing exactly what we all do – he crossed a toucan on red because there were no cars coming, he moved to the front of the queue at traffic lights and the so called roundabout he went round the wrong way is a bollard in the Mall.
"Going up a one way street the wrong way was the one really illegal act, but we have shown the Department for Transport on many occasions that much of Europe allows cyclists to go against the flow in designated one way streets."
Mayne's comments have caused quite a stir, with commentators contrasting his views with those of safety campaigners, who condemned Cameron.
I can understand why Mayne took his stance. Cameron has become one of Britain's most high profile cyclists. There's little doubt that the country's transport system would be in rather better shape if politicians actually had to cycle or use trains and tubes rather than chauffeur driven cars. But I think Cameron and Mayne have both blundered. We cyclists win few friends by ignoring the rules - and we should be trying to win friends and influence people. Kevin's argument that the Tory leader was simply doing what we all do was not convincing.
There's also a lingering doubt whether Cameron is a genuine cyclist rather than a politician creating some useful photo-opportunities. (We all remember the story of his driver following by car with his brief case.) How odd that a savvy and image conscious politician has scored two PR own goals with his cycling.