BAD NEWS FOR LONDON BIKERS, AND WHY WE THINK BORIS IS WRONG
Some people think London mayor Boris Johnson is a "legend", and is the right man to run Britain one day. Others think him a buffoon and a double-crosser, and it will be a cold day in Hell when he gets a chance to run the country.
While we're based in the north of England, we don't get to see him a great deal, except when he's dangling from a rope waving Union flags in some sort of publicity stunt that feeds his legendary status.
However, if there's one London policy that effects everybody even hundreds of miles away, it's that of transport, especially congestion zones, low emission areas and greener travel. In this sense, he's got some great ideas, some awful ideas, and a fair few that local authorities are keeping a watching eye over in case they can be used in their own towns and cities. These days, the "Boris Bike" is a growing sight across the UK as bike hire schemes bloom.
However, the announcement that caught our attention is the latest addition to the London congestion charge, which some cities are eyeing as a way of raising cash while keeping unwanted traffic out of city centres.
And it's the news that any motorcycle registered before 2007 should pay the same as a car for London's congestion charge that alarmed us. Motorbikes and mopeds are currently free in the London congestion charge zone, and the predicted charge for older motorcycles (which assumes that "old" is the equivalent of "polluting") penalises bikers who cannot afford a newer machine.
It's what Boris himself would call a "poor show", and it's confusing, as bikes are far more fuel efficient and lower polluters than almost any petrol-driven car. If you want to be independent, but arrive cheaply with a vehicle that doesn't guzzle petrol, you can never go wrong with a moped or motorcycle.
The trouble is local authorities traditionally look to London for guidance, and this penalising of bike riders sends out all the wrong messages. Greener cars, greener bikes – yes. But don't hurt the very people that congestion charge was introduced to encourage in the first place.