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London Taxi Chief Compares Cyclists To Islamic State Militants

An artist's conception of the two-way cycle track on Tower Hill. The track is part of London's new plan to boost its bicycle infrastructure.
/ Transport for London
Transport for London
An artist's conception of the two-way cycle track on Tower Hill. The track is part of London's new plan to boost its bicycle infrastructure.

Add this to the list of evidence about, shall we call it, the rivalry between motorists and cyclists: The head of London's taxi drivers' association has compared cyclists to members of the self-described Islamic State.

Steve McNamara's comments come just days after London cleared the way for the spread of segregated bike lanes and dedicated traffic signals.

"The loonies out there in the cycling world, they're almost the sort of ISIS of London," McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, told LBC Radio. "Their views and their politics — if you are not with them — and we are with the majority of it — then nothing is too bad for you. These people are unreal."

ISIS — for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — is another name for the Islamic State.

McNamara added: "We have had cyberattacks on our websites. They are all over us like a cheap suit on Twitter and social media. We have had physical threats of violence. You name it, we have had it."

McNamara later walked back the comments that were made in the live interview.

"Perhaps I would accept that was a bit strong," he told the Evening Standard. "It was a live interview. I have had death threats."

He said: "They say, 'I hope people you know die screaming of cancer.' I'm convinced that if 99 percent of cyclists knew some of the stuff we had received after expressing legitimate concerns, they would be horrified."

And he added: "Perhaps that was a bit strong [to compare them to the Islamic State] but I can't think of a single other movement in the world at the moment that behaves in such a vitriolic and aggressive manner."

As NPR's Bill Chappell reported this week, London's planned network for cyclists would rival the city's transit system. Bill wrote:

"The mayor's plan will change some of London's busiest roads and intersections, in a few cases banning all traffic except cyclists from making turns that are currently legal.

"After the changes were announced in September, the plans faced criticism from groups that include taxi drivers and land developers. But the mayor says that a new plan submitted last month reduces traffic delays by 60 percent, compared with earlier versions."

The cycling superhighway is the brainchild of London Mayor Boris Johnson — and the plan is popular. According to some estimates, cyclists now make up more than half the rush-hour traffic. But the preponderance of cyclists has also led to a spate of crashes, injuries and fatalities.

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Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.