TV quiz show presenter Nick Knowles can dish it out, but he can’t take it. On Twitter he took potshots at cyclists – we all wear Lycra, apparently, we all run red lights and we don’t pay road tax – and was surprised when Twitter users replied, robustly. He’s now blocking Twitter users who point out his views on cyclists might not be terribly factual, helpful or fair. “Yawn,” he says when “cycling loonies” bore him “to death” with “rabid” views.
“Damn if another cyclist explains road tax being abolished in the 30’s – it’s like you’ve all got together to say the same thing,” he wrote when yet another “cyclist bore” pointed out that use of the phrase “you don’t pay road tax” is used by some motorists as a stick to beat cyclists with.
Sometimes it’s a verbal stick, sometimes it’s a car-shaped stick. On the same day I was pointed to Knowles’ diatribes against road users without engines, I was CC’ed in on a letter to Cambridgeshire County Council. @CyclingDadUK wished to lodge a complaint against a taxi driver who nudged him with his heavy vehicle. “Cyclists don’t own the road,” said the taxi driver after he’d tried to run the cyclist off the road.
Celebs who use their Twitter accounts – and newspaper columns – to rant about “cyclists not paying road tax” are helping to perpetuate this sort of anti-social behaviour from a minority of motorists, who often believe roads are for motor vehicles only and are under the misapprehension that the tax disc in the windscreen is a fee to use roads. (Yet, oddly enough, mouthy motorists don’t tend to shout “you don’t pay road tax” at owners of Band A vehicles which pay £0 for their vehicle excise duty).
Perhaps Mr Knowles thinks cyclists shouldn’t be on roads he seems to think motorists pay for? (We all pay for roads, roads are paid for by general and local taxation). Perhaps he thinks cyclists who get “nudged” by motorists are “Lycra bores” and should “get a hobby” rather than reply to his inaccurate, hate-inspiring Tweets?
@CyclingDadUK’s letter to Cambridgeshire County Council said the taxi number was 15 and that the driver ought to be given cycle awareness training at the very least:
“At around five past nine on the morning of the 19th of December I was cycling into town along Histon Road. Following a slower cycle in the cycle lane approaching the turn for Gilbert Road. I waited for a safe gap in the traffic, indicated and moved out into the main lane to safely pass the other bike. Before I had moved back into the cycle lane ahead of the other bike this taxi had started to overtake me. Realising there wasn’t room between me and the car I was following rather than wait for me to move back to the lane, or slow to move in behind me he decided to use the front of his vehicle to force me back over.
“He had no regard for my safety, the safety of the rider I was passing or the child passenger of the bike I was passing. I do not believe that this was anything other than an intentional attempt to – at best – scare me as he wound down his window to inform me that cyclists do not own the road. This is a bigoted reference to the commonly held misconception that the money paid on VED (based on CO2 emissions) for his vehicle gives him more rights on the road than a bike.”
Perhaps Mr Knowles thinks cyclists reply to “road tax” tweets from celebs because they are part of a Lycra-clad cabal? @lee_carson joked:
“Yes! All the cyclists in the UK get together in secret meetings and learn facts, mwaah ha ha haaaaaaa!”
Knowles’ got into the Twitter spat because he dissed Bradley Wiggins’ chances in BBC’s SPOTY. Does he not realise dissing Wiggo, now officially a national treasure, is a criminal offence? Nobody is allowed to talk up sports men and women who don’t ride bikes.
However, failing to comprehend that spouting off about a disparate group of road users – united only by their eschewing of engines to propel themselves – is not against the law.
Nor do you have to pass any intelligence tests to become a TV quiz show presenter (the answers are on the cards, not in the presenter’s head) but when writing tweets sure to offend a growing proportion of your followers it might help to be factual, and when your statements are shown to be fallacies – fallacies that can lead to violence – it would be good if you walked away from the keyboard before throwing in a ton more lazy canards.
Canards, it has to be said, that some motorists use to intimidate cyclists off the road. Another example from yesterday can be found on Ralph Dadswell’s Facebook page:
“I was riding through High Wycombe, and had just thoughtfully moved to the right-hand lane outside the Law Courts. I was overtaken by a Transit van, which rather oddly pulled back across in front of me after passing. He then slowed up, in what I now realise was a way of checking that I was actually turning right.
“I overtook him at the fire-station roundabout, with a slightly flashy bit of slaloming, but nothing worth going on about.
“He overtook me on the flyover. I overtook him at the bus-station. He overtook me again as he took his place in the queue for the lights at The Pastures. I passed him again, and after about a minute he was behind me on the West Wycombe Road.
“He overtook noisily, jammed his brakes on, and skidded to a halt across the carriageway. He was quickly out of the van, and he was angry. He unloaded a lot of random abuse at me. Eventually, he told me that I’d cut him up in town. He told me that cyclists were scum. He gave me quite a lot of advice, and I thanked him profusely.
“Then he told me that cyclists should pay Road Tax. I laughed at him, and (geekily) told him that Road Tax was abolished in the 1930s, and that if I had to pay something like Car Tax for my bike, I’d happily pay the Zero Pounds Zero Pence that would be the fee. He wasn’t happy, but continued to shout at me that I should get insurance. Hmmm, okay, but I’ve got plenty of insurance.
“I then picked up a whole load of sweeping generalisations about cyclists, and he informed me that I and my bike were just pathetic, and that if he could be bothered, he could easily out ride me. Yes, honestly.
“His next little idea almost made me shout “Bingo!”, as he produced yet another favourite. Cyclists should be registered and show number plates. His final tirade was based around the notion that cyclists have caused numerous accidents in London, and that they were a menace on the streets. He then repeatedly informed me where he felt I fitted in the food chain. I smiled sweetly, and (repeatedly) thanked him very much for his kind words.
“There was by now a substantial queue of traffic waiting to pass, and he finally got back in his van. When he drove away, he soon turned around and as he was still blaring away at me, I tipped my hat in his direction and continued on my merry way.
“Although it was a bit worrying at times, it was also strangely interesting to hear a Live Broadcast of all those views that seem to be inside some people’s heads.”
Road tax doesn’t exist. It’s car tax, a tax on cars and other vehicles, not a tax on roads or a fee to use them. Motorists do not pay directly for the roads. Roads are paid for via general and local taxation. In 1926, Winston Churchill started the process to abolish road tax. It was finally culled in 1937.
The ironically-named iPayRoadTax.com helps spread this message on cycle jerseys. Car tax is based on amount of CO2 emitted so, if a fee had to be paid, cyclists – who are sometimes branded as ‘tax dodgers’ – would pay the same as ‘tax-dodgers’ such as disabled drivers, police cars, the Royal family, and band A motorists, ie £0. Most cyclists are also car-owners, too, so pay VED.