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Opinion: it's perfectly OK to like 20mph zones *and* cars

Is the UK prime minister's support of motorists as simple as it sounds?

Published: 25 Sep 2023

Great news for Britain’s motorists, as our nation’s prime minister Rishi Sunak recently declared he was “on our side”. It’s good to have friends in high places.

“The vast majority of people [...] are dependent on their cars,” stated the PM. “I just want to make sure people know I’m on their side in supporting them.”

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As proof of his newfound appreciation for motor vehicles (or ‘ground helicopters’, as he calls them), the well-heeled head of government announced a review into Britain’s Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), and was reportedly considering a crackdown on 20mph zones in towns.

Now then. As motorists, we ought to be delighted by the news the head of state’s got our back. But here’s the issue. I know plenty of motorists who, as well as being motorists, also quite like 20mph zones. And LTNs. And that’s because motorists, as well as being motorists, can also be human beings who like their family, and riding bikes, and not being mown down by a knackered BMW 318i while popping to the shops to buy falafel.

Those are, like, a valid pair of thoughts to hold simultaneously, right? That a) cars are useful and important and often necessary, and also b) cars shouldn’t be allowed to do whatever the merry hell they want? As humans, we’re definitely capable of caring about two, sometimes even three different things at the same time.

Unless, apparently, you’re a motorist. Where did it come from, this weird idea that people who drive cars must hate literally everything apart from driving cars? I like cricket, and also puppies. If I buy a ticket to a test match at Lords, I don’t then expect a bloke to show up at my front door with a bag full of week-old Labradors, saying, “So we heard about the cricket thing. Just checking you’re fine with us chucking these lads into the canal now?”

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I fear that what Sunak’s committed here is the classic error of confusing ‘people who drive cars’ with ‘people who never want anything to change in the entire world, ever’. Don’t get me wrong, there’s definite overlap on that Venn diagram. Britain contains more than its share of puce-faced motoring diehards, usually suffering a problematic beef wellington habit, always harrumphing furiously at any change to the status quo, no matter how common sense. (Removing the lead from petrol? Unacceptable! Zebra crossings outside primary schools? An intolerable imposition on the long-suffering British driver!) But I’m fairly confident they don’t represent the majority, unless you’re in Berkshire. Not everyone who likes cars is a sociopath, though I guess that’s precisely what a devious sociopath would say.

So, anyhow, glad you’re looking out for the motorists, Rishi. Just for the record, we’re not all swivel-eyed narcissists. We can do nuance of opinion. Unless you’re talking about the Reva G-Wiz. We literally all hated that.

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