Multi-millionaire plumber in London says cycle lanes and ‘bike fascists’ are making van journeys longer

Plumbing boss Charlie Mullins has challenged the installation of new cycle lanes in London.

“Motors have had a hard time,” he told me by phone on July 31, “and I don’t think [the cycleways] have been planned correctly.

He added: “If you go to Euston road or Park Lane you have all the blue [bike] empty lanes, and you have traffic chaos. I mean, it can take you an hour to drive from the corner of Hyde Park to Marble Arch.

His frustration boiled over on July 30 when he asked his social media team to write a blog and Twitter post describing people who ride bikes as “bike fascists”.

The blog is written in the first person as by Mullins himself.

“Our public relations people did that,” Mullins told me. “But it was my idea.”

A graphic used on the firm’s Twitter account and on its company blog features a helmet-wearing cyclist trying – but failing – to carry plumbing supplies.

“I’m sick of cycling fascists complaining about their precious road space when what they really want is to get all non-bikers off the road,” the blog claims.

“I’m also sick of the bike bureaucrats taking over TfL [Transport for London]and who, as we speak, are painting large swathes of central London roads blue, making it nearly impossible to run any kind of service business,” the entrepreneur continues.

“Businesses like mine,” adds Mullins, “can’t run on a bicycle. It’s a ridiculous proposition. Any fool can understand that it doesn’t work. And please don’t tell me to buy a cargo bike because unless they’re the size of a van or truck and can be secured they’re exactly as useful than a chocolate teapot.

London-based cargo bike company Pedalmeapp regularly hauls large loads on electric cargo bikes.

“The trade,” Mullins says on the blog, “cannot continue if we cede the roads to these heroes of the free charging helmet who believe they have a god-entitled roads at the expense of all other users.”

On July 31, the blog post was changed from “Cycle Fascists” to “Cycle Snoopers”. Other parts of the blog have also been toned down.

“What I was trying to make,” Mullins told me over the phone, “is that turning two lanes into one forces motorists into a one-lane situation, [this] causes traffic jams, causing pollution problems.

“I just don’t think the way TfL has dealt with this is the right way,” he added.

I asked if he felt his plumbers were taking longer to get to work?

“Oh shit, yeah. There’s no more fast travel. Journeys that used to take an hour to get somewhere in London now take half an hour longer.

“You know, if you go to Park Lane or Euston Road, or Embankment, nobody uses blue [bike] lane and yet you have huge traffic jams.

Mullins also believes the bus lanes are underutilized and should be opened up to commercial vehicles.

“[As a motorist] you are in a lane that is packed and yet you have this bus lane [next to you] and a bus only runs every five minutes.

But these are the bike paths on which he exercises the most:

“I have friends who are cyclists. I’m not against them, but I just don’t feel motorists are being treated with any consideration at the moment.

Most cyclists are fine, he says. “You have a few that are the hardcore lot. You know, they can’t be wrong. They must be right, must go their own way. Everyone on the road is a nuisance, a danger. You have this culture of people on bikes filming people and reporting things.

Cyclists, Mullins believes, should be required to carry license plates to identify them.

“It is normal that you can trace this person,” he said. “I also think they should have insurance and they should pay taxes, like a motorist, but I could be wrong. That’s just my opinion.”

(Many cyclists are third-party insured through their national housing policies or cycling club policies. Roads are paid for by general taxation, not a road user charge.)

“I think we all have to get along and share the roads,” Mullins said, “and be respectful to everyone else on the road.

“Like I say, 90% of cyclists are fine but 10% of them think they are gods, and no one can tell them what to do, they are going to do things their own way and everyone is wrong. .”

Cycle lanes have been installed in London and elsewhere in the UK to increase safety for those who choose to use bicycles to get around.

“I personally wouldn’t cycle to London,” Mullins pointed out, “because I think I would have died the same day. It’s too dangerous, if I’m being honest.

Mullins started his business in 1979. In 2018, he had an estimated net worth of £70million.

The original title of this story has been edited to remove the reference to Black Lives Matter after Pimlico Plumbing pointed out that the reference was to Transport for London “every journey counts”. The article was further edited on July 31 following a 40-minute phone interview with Charlie Mullins.

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