The EU Fifth Motoring Directive aims to harmonise car insurance laws across Europe, and would mean UK drivers would be deemed to be at fault in any ‘accident’ involving cyclists or pedestrians. Bikebiz.co.uk carried a story on this important directive in June, when it was launched, but only now has the mainstream media caught up. The kneejerk reaction of the motoring lobby (and the government!) was the front cover story in yesterday’s Observer and a major inside story in The Sunday Times, and there’s further vitriolic incredulence in today’s Guardian and in most other newspapers. A Daily Mirror columnist said: "Bicycles are for children...[they are] like masturbation - something you should grow out of. There is something seriously sick and stunted about grown men who want to ride a bike."Back in June, this site said: [The EU Fifth Motoring Directive] “is an important development and one that is likely to be fought by the motoring lobby.”
And this has come true as you will see when you read the venomous statements from government ‘spokesmen’ and members of the motoring lobby as quoted in The Observer and today’s Guardian, and other newspapers.
The main gripe seems to be that motor insurance premiums could rise by £50 a year. So, the saving of many lives counts for nothing because those saved are “bicycle guerrillas” not worth a wee hike in insurance premiums. As it is, the EU said in its Directive that there is no evidence that premiums would rise.
A newspaper reviewer on BBC Breakfast Time on Sunday said this is a story that’s going to kick up a lot of dust over the next few months…
It's certainly enraged newspaper columnists.
As you would expect, motormouth Jeremy Clarkson had a pot-shot at cyclists in his column in today's Sun.
"Bicycle guerrillas? We’ve already got them. We don’t need this new loony idea to encourage them even more to shoot red lights and ignore the Highway Code.
"They have already taken over a third of the roads with their green tarmac cycle lanes.
"Now the Lycra Nazis want to take over the whole lot! And they still don’t pay a penny for going on the roads which the poor old motorists pay through the nose for.
"Traffic congestion is the fault of the Government — the very people who now want to penalise motorists more for being stuck in traffic.
"When will people understand that roads are for cars and that there is no danger at all from speeding motorists if walkers and cyclists steer clear?"
Amazingly, Tony Parsons in today's Daily Mirror, went even further:
"If we cared anything at all about road safety, then we would tear up all the bicycle lanes today. We would order traffic wardens to nick any cyclists who jumps a red lights - all of them in other words.
"And if we truly cared about safety on our roads, then we would make a bonfire of all those stupid hats, all that hideous Lycra and every bicycle in the land."
The Daily Telegraph had the most rounded coverage, with views aired on all sides.
Many newspapers quoted CTC director Kevin Mayne but he was only given a sentence or two. Here's a much longer statement: "We have long sought parity with our European colleagues and we support the Commission proposals.
"But they will only be effective if they are part of an overall package of measures that change drivers' behaviour. This measure is not controversial across much of Europe because it fits into a culture that enforces speed controls, provides for pedestrians and cyclists and expects roads to be shared public space where the more dangerous vehicle
has a duty of care to the vulnerable.
"The UK has the highest level of child pedestrian deaths in Europe and accident prevention is our ultimate goal. The reaction of motoring and insurance organisations is entirely predictable and uses the fear of increased motoring costs to attract headlines.
"In reality, if a package of measures including traffic constraint, speed control, the introduction of mobile phone bans and better training for all road users was introduced, the number of accidents would fall,the number of road deaths would be reduced and the cost of motor insurance would drop.
"Most cyclists are not hooligans in Lycra: in fact 85 per cent of CTC
members also drive and fully understand the issues from both sides. We
know that cycling as a transport choice is healthier reduces pollution
and in many cases is quicker than driving.
"We accept that a small minority of cyclists' behaviour gives all
cyclists a bad name and we are calling on the government to fund
effective cycle training for all children and young adults. Good
training makes cyclists safer, reduces bad behaviour and ultimately
leads to better educated motorists."
A PDF of the EU's Fifth Motoring Directive can be downloaded from