Sir Malcolm Rifkind, MP for Kensington & Chelsea
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Conservative MP for Kensington, provides this week's Constituency Matters political column.
When the producers of radio phone-in shows are in need of a contentious subject that is guaranteed to generate a heated discussion, one trusty stalwart they can always depend upon is the ‘cyclists vs drivers’ debate.
Without fail, calls come in from angry cyclists whose lives have been endangered by reckless drivers, and from angry drivers whose paintwork has been endangered by reckless cyclists.
We rarely learn much from these debates, other than the fact that bad cyclists and drivers have more in common with each other than they do with other cyclists and drivers.
But although a significant part of the tension comes from reckless driving and riding by individuals who should know better, it is also fair to say that a long-term paucity of proper cycling infrastructure has forced many cyclists onto busy roads, where they are bound to come into conflict with drivers of cars.
The rise in popularity of cycling, both as a sport and a means of transport, has been a tremendously positive development in British society.
This was illustrated most clearly in 2008, when British cyclists dominated the Beijing Velodrome, and the newly-elected Mayor of London implemented the hugely successful cycle-hire scheme across London, and confirmed in 2012 with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France and the Mayor continuing to support the development of cycling infrastructure throughout London.
Cycling should be encouraged as a healthier, cheaper way of getting around that can serve our city’s wellbeing and provide relief to our public transport infrastructure.
But support for cycling should also be complemented by a shift in behaviour of a minority of cyclists who flout the rules of the road. Only then will the phone-in shows have to find something else for us to discuss.