Last night an article in the Evening Standard, London's main newspaper, carried an interview with Edmund King, the president of the Automobile Association. This interview quickly went viral on Twitter and Facebook, with cyclists delighted at the aggressively pro-cycling stance of the motoring organisation's president. King is well-known for his 'no more them and us' views on cyclists and drivers - his view is coloured by the fact he's both a cyclist and a motorist - but in the interview he revealed that other AA execs are also cyclists.
The Evening Standard headline - 'AA boss says cyclist-hating drivers are absolute idiots' - was popular with cyclists and many started to call for a boycott of the RAC, which rarely has a good word to say about cyclists. The great majority of cyclists are also car-owning motorists.
London-based campaigner citycyclists wrote: "As a cyclist with a car, I'm renewing with the AA next year. Sod RAC who seem to think cyclists don't exist."
That tweet was quickly shared around on social media sites, with cyclists agreeing to boycott the RAC in favour of the AA. [For balance, it must be said that AA and RAC are not the only motoring organisations car-owning cyclists could be members of, the Environmental Transport Association is a cycle-friendly roadside rescue operation.]
In the Evening Standard, King said of cyclist-haters: “They’re absolute idiots. There are some motoring groups who are talking absolute nonsense and who wind up cyclists. That is pathetic.”
While some motorists claim 'all cyclists' jump red lights, King said criticism cut both ways:
“A lot of drivers have to look at their own habits first,” he said, singling out use of mobile devices while driving. “It’s appalling,” said the AA president. “We’ve got to get through to drivers that they’re killing people.”
In a nod to the 'one less car' mantra, Kind said motorists should welcome more cyclists on the roads: “We should encourage the explosion in cycling rather than resent it.”
The Evening Standard piece ended thus:
"Then there’s the favourite complaint that cyclists don’t pay “road tax” — a misconception, since vehicle tax linked to road spending was abolished in the Thirties. Now roads are paid for out of general taxation: anyone who pays income or any other taxes is funding roads, prompting one wag to produce “I pay road tax” cycling kit, emblazoned with tax discs.
The AA was founded in 1905 as a speed-trap spotting organisation and paid cyclists to be the speed-trap spotters. The organisation later became part of the establishment. The AA has a page on its website advising how cyclists and motorists can share the road safely. The advice includes Highway Code rule 163 which illustrates that motorists have to give a full car's width when overtaking cyclists.