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“The PM and the Government have given you the okay to drive”

It’s okay to drive to the shops, workplace and locations that are important to you. It’s allowed. Boris, your Leader, says so

How’s this for an extraordinary, but productive, sequence of events? In the first week of May, this card-carrying public transport user, pedestrian, cyclist and motorist wrote to a respected, elected pair of ruling politicians at HM Government. Both were – still are – more than just MPs.

One I know quite well (well enough to once lend him my car – which he complained was German, not British). The other, younger chap is a rising star I had to reach out to because of his Ministerial status, which, together with his power and influence, earns him a place in the Cabinet. Long story short – I reminded these political heavyweights of a few home truths that some folk aren’t even prepared to acknowledge, never mind admit.

1) When it comes to the all-important, life-saving matter of social distancing, public transport is too often dangerously and tragically useless. Sad but true.

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2) Although walking and cycling are better options than buses, coaches, trains and planes right now, our narrow pavements and skinny bike lanes are hardly conducive to staying apart. Besides, can people make medium or long journeys on foot or bicycle while carrying shopping, work tools, luggage and other gear?

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3) Private motor cars (not to be confused with taxis/mini cabs) with closed windows are the ultimate social-distancing devices/quarantine capsules for individuals or families needing to embark on important journeys. There can be no doubt about that. 

By the second week of May, lo and behold, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had listened to his trusted fellow Cabinet members and other advisers; thus he told citizens returning to work. “You should AVOID public transport.” Walk or cycle instead, he advised. Fair enough.

But with millions of commuters and their vehicles in mind, he had this to say, too: “When you do go to work, if possible do so by car,” and “you can [also] drive to other destinations.” There you have it – permission for motorists and their passengers, direct from the mouth of the PM. He and the Government have given you the okay to drive to the shops, workplace and locations that are important to you. A day or two later, in the House of Commons, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also got in on the pro-motorist act by stating: “We urge people to use this [the car] before considering public transport.”

It’s hard to imagine that car-hating councils in places such as London and Bristol will ever acknowledge what clean, green cars can do for Britain. But at least it appears that the UK Government has seen the light. For this we should be grateful. I mean it in the nicest possible way when I suggest you to take up Rihanna’s advice from one of her 2007 songs: Shut Up and Drive.

It’s okay. It’s allowed. Boris, your Leader, says so.

Do you agree with Mike? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section…

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Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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