Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for Vauxhall, has pleaded guilty to running a red light in her car. She was fined £240 and will now be accused of hypocrisy for having once lambasted cyclists as "the real menace on our roads."
The former sports minister drove her Mini through the red signal while on the Victoria Embankment by the River Thames in central London last July.
In 2003, Hoey used a column in the Mail on Sunday to paint cyclists as "Lycra louts" who, you guessed it, run red lights. She described cyclists as “selfish, aggressive, law-breaking and infuriatingly smug."
Hoey wrote that she was in favour of making sure cyclists always ride in cycle lanes no matter how badly designed or maintained those lanes may be (and she admitted she beeps her horn at those cyclists who don’t ride in cycle lanes):
"Time after time I am stuck behind someone ignoring the cycle lane and holding up the traffic in the road," said the red-light running MP.
Compounding her ignorance of highway law, she added: "Too often the cyclist acts if he owns the road when in fact he has paid nothing to be there. They do not need a licence and they pay no road tax."
Road tax was abolished in 1937. If cyclists paid this long-dead tax (that motorists don’t pay) "maybe then the Lycra Louts…would gain some respect for the law," said the law-breaking MP.
"There’s a kind of innate moral superiority about cycling that assumes [cyclists] should be immune from the law and have the freedom to do as they please," added the fined ex-minister.
In October, Ms Hoey took to her Twitter account to talk about Transport for London’s plans for cycling improvements in the Waterloo area, just across the river from where she ran a red light. She said there would be "stricter enforcement at red lights."
At the time this tweet was thought to refer to cyclists. Given Ms Hoey’s conviction for red light running, perhaps, in fact, she was referring to drivers such as herself, who very much need such "stricter enforcement at red lights"?
In her 2003 article in the Mail on Sunday, the red-light running MP said cyclists could be fined "up to £2500…But it rarely occurs."
Her fine for driving her car through red lights consisted of £135 for the driving offence, £85 in court costs, and a £20 victim surcharge. Her driving license was also endorsed with three points.
THE REAL MENACE ON BRITAINS ROADS ARE SELFISH, AGGRESSIVE, LAW-BREAKING AND INFURIATINGLY SMUG LYCRA LOUTS
By Kate Hoey, Mail on Sunday 2003
I have nothing against cycling…However, I do have something against the Lycra Lout cyclist who seems to take pleasure in flouting the law and deliberately winding up motorists.
Since the introduction of Congestion Charging and the tinkering with London traffic lights, motorists in our capital city are already frustrated. The sense that there is one rule for them and another for cyclist merely feeds the resentment car users feel and risks bringing the law as a whole into disrepute. Lycra Louts dont just break the law; they often do so in an aggressive and threatening manner. How many times have you seen a cyclist deliberately riding in the middle of the road, preventing any car passing and screaming abuse at the poor driver who dares to try?
Another trick of theirs is to slip through on the inside just a you try turning left, or flying by so near that they knock against the wing mirror. The assumption is that drivers must always be in the wrong (there is a kind of innate moral superiority about cycling that assumes they should be immune from the law and have the freedom to do as they please).
The recent European Union proposal to make motorists involved in a collision with a bicycle automatically liable to pay compensation from their insurance, even if it was the rider who caused the accident, is grist to the mill of the cyclist rights activists.
Even in rural areas there are knock-on effects of anti-social behaviour. Farm Weekly reported a farmer in Devon complaining that cyclists caused cattle to stampede, and moving them on the roads from one field to an other was increasingly difficult.
And what of the poor pedestrians- the third-class citizens of the road? What protection is there for them against cyclists who have no compunction about mounting the pavements or riding over a zebra crossing when it is being used? The river walk on the South Bank of the Thames is a beautiful place to walk but it has been made quite intolerable for elderly pedestrians who struggle to avoid speeding bikes. Riding on the pavement has been illegal since 1835. Since 1999 police have been able to issue a fixed £20 fine, similar to a parking ticket, but it is a rare sight to see a policeman even warning an offender.
It is not as if Government and local authorities deny the cyclist funding. Millions of pounds have been poured into creating thousands of miles of cycle networks with lanes in every part of our large cities. The Millennium Commission allocated £43.5 million of Lottery funds, the second-largest grant after the Dome, to the National Cycle Network. I am not against this, even though in some parts of London the roads have been drastically narrowed to create them, but I do think the least those who cycle could do would be to use them.
Yet time after time I am stuck behind someone ignoring the cycle lane and holding up the traffic in the road. If I dare to blow, my horn l am subjected to a combination of sign language and verbal abuse worthy of an Oscar. I am sure that such tactics are as annoying and enraging to responsible cyclists as they are the law-abiding decent ones who then suffer the backlash from the frustrated motorist.
There are laws in place. The police tell me that a cyclist can be given a fine of up to £2,500 for jumping a red light and £1,000 for defective brakes. But it rarely occurs. Too often the cyclist acts as if he owns the road when in fact he has paid nothing to be there. They do not need a licence and they pay no road tax.
There should be room for every one on our roads. But I think it is time that those who cycle have to face up to their responsibilities and pay something for its upkeep like the rest of us. Maybe then the Lycra Louts who tarnish the image of all cyclists would gain some respect for the law.