James May says government should scrap HS2 and spend the money on cycling

‘All that cash could buy every adult in Britain a carbon-frame bike’

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It may have come as a surprise to some that motoring broadcaster James May is a lifelong cyclist, when he revealed his passion for the bike in an interview back in 2017.

May, former presenter of BBC’s Top Gear, revealed he has not been without a bike since the age of three and called the bike “the great liberator.”

But the 57-year-old has gone a step further and urged the government to scrap the controversial HS2 rail network, and instead spend the money on cycling.

In a column for The Times newspaper (opens in new tab) May, now a co-host of Amazon’s car show The Grand Tour (sadly nothing to do with cycling), spoke of the joy of riding through a quiet central London as fewer drivers are out on the roads during the coronavirus lockdown.

May said: “I made the six-mile journey on my bike, and that was an even odder experience; the capital at the quietest I’ve known it, and by a long, long way.

“It was utterly idyllic, the whole fabulous cityscape sluiced in sunlight, uncorrupted air and almost complete silence, seemingly there for the pleasure of the hundreds of cyclists exploiting an unprecedented and unrepeatable opportunity.”

May admitted there’s irony in his 25-year-career as a motoring journalist and his delight that there were fewer cars on the roads.

He has also recently invested in a new machine to stay active during the lockdown – a Giant TCR Advanced 2, bought after a recommendation from Cycling Weekly.

The renewed impetus to ride resulted in May declaring he “hasn’t felt so healthy in years.”

But he went on to welcome the government’s £2 billion investment in walking and cycling, the new bicycle repair vouchers, and even suggested the government go a step further and offer up a new bike to UK residents.

Cycling is key to the government's post-coronavirus lockdown transport plan, as people returning to work should avoid public transport to reduced risk of infection, which could see an increase in congestion in towns and cities. 

In response, councils across the country are introducing pop-up bicycle lanes to encourage more people to travel by two wheels instead of four.

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May concluded that the government should scrap the enormous HS2 rail project from London to Manchester and Leeds, which has been marred by overspend, and instead spend the £80 billion on buying every adult in the UK a new bike, maybe even carbon ones.

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.