How cycling has put us on the road to conflict | Letters

How cycling has put us on the road to conflict

From aggressive driving to unfavourable comments about Lycra, readers respond to Helen Pidd’s article about the abuse cyclists face on a daily basis

A female cyclist crossing a busy junction in Parliament Square, London.

In her article (Spat at, abused and run off the road: why do some people hate cyclists so much?, 30 August), Helen Pidd writes: “Given how few of us saddle up in Britain, it can be difficult to understand why we inspire such vitriol.” This is the crux of the problem – cycling is not normalised here and therefore the car-driving majority simply do not understand it. I have always cycled wherever I have lived and, apart from my time as a student in Edinburgh, have always been seen as unusual, no more so than in Bury St Edmunds, where I live now. I have been shouted at, driven at, and once even poked by an elderly woman with a stick.

Cycle rack provision has increased in the town centre, but safety bollards to protect cyclists have been removed after complaints from angry residents. The town centre is congested by ridiculous amounts of traffic, especially around the college where I teach, yet one of my students asked me, “Why do you go everywhere by bike?”, as if it is some kind of weird behaviour.

We desperately need to learn from the example set by many European towns and cities and normalise cycling, changing attitudes towards it.
Eleanor Rehahn
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk

It always bears repeating that cyclists are vulnerable road users and that motorist aggression is a real and serious issue. But the question remains why anti-cycling rhetoric can seemingly gain so much traction.

Running red lights, furiously riding on the pavement or riding at night without lights or reflectors is – like graffiti, litter and urinating in public – a form of antisocial behaviour. It offends against people’s sense of fair play, as does the lack of any visible enforcement. Perception is all. The cycling lobby would improve its standing with the public by speaking out to clearly condemn the actions of an irresponsible minority.
Iain Forbes

I confess that I have sworn at cyclists, blocked their way and commented unfavourably on Lycra and its link to brain power. I do not apologise, but then I am a pedestrian, past the first flush of youth and using a walking stick. Cyclists in our neck of the woods regularly cut across pedestrians, islands and pavements as a shortcut round the one-way system. They jump red lights as I try to cross the road, and ring their bells to move me aside because I am in their way on the pavement. At least I have my stick as a defence. I’ll gladly support cyclists against motorists when they stop regarding pedestrians as nuisances on the pavement.
Sandy Cowling
Wimbledon, London

Helen Pidd’s article was a welcome tour of the abuse that cyclists face from often highly irrational car drivers. My experience on the roads has improved considerably since I invested in a powerful front light for my bike, which I put on flash mode most of the time now. I get very little grief at road junctions these days as drivers coming in the opposite direction prefer to let me go than be irritated by the flashing light.

I was a bit nervous about using this strategy to begin with, but I’ve concluded that, psychologically speaking, I’m unsettling them from their comfort zone inside the armour-plated, airbag-insulated bubble of their chosen mode of transport, and this can only be a good thing. Manufacturers have put so much design energy into insulating drivers from other users and making them feel as if they were at home on the road. My flashing front light disrupts this comfortable illusion and makes them more aware and, surprisingly, not hostile but courteous.
Steve Brookes

Provided with camera evidence of bad or threatening driving towards cyclists, Avon and Somerset police will contact drivers to warn, fine or prosecute them. After a very frightening pass by a lorry three years ago, I fitted a camera under my handlebars. Since then, four drivers who passed me dangerously too close have been contacted by the police. When the camera was seen by a taxi driver, who for some reason seemed to want to crush me against the kerb, he pulled away. Perhaps drivers would be more careful if more cyclists had cameras, and also if more police forces had efficient websites where dangerous and threatening behaviour on the roads could be easily reported.
Michael Richards

As a female cyclist, I can rattle off countless examples of abuse that I’ve received on the road – all from male drivers. I was disappointed that Helen Pidd’s article didn’t go far enough to highlight just how gendered this aggression can be, and how dangerous and depressing that is for younger girls. The disgusting insults that I heard as a teenager and young adult still ring in my ears.
Name and address supplied

As a cyclist, I thought Helen Pidd’s article was great. But it did not mention bikes ridden by food couriers, particularly electric bikes. In my experience, the dangerous riding by some of these cyclists – running red lights, crossing pavements – is causing problems for us all. Clearly there is pressure on their earnings and they rush to deliver on time to make more money and avoid penalties. Isn’t it time for the companies they work for to take a more responsible approach? They trot out platitudes about responsible riding, but no one appears to be monitoring them and this puts their riders at risk.
Barbara Street

As a horse rider, cyclists terrify me. They pass at speed, often silently and too close. They overtake cars that have slowed for me; they almost touch the back of my horse rather than stop to wait for oncoming traffic to clear. They have their head down, often hellbent on speed and disregarding the risk of endangering riders and handlers by spooking horses.

There are also lovely cyclists and it is a pleasure to thank them for their care. The British Horse Society and Cycling UK have collaborated on excellent advice branded as “Be nice, say hi”, but those cyclists who disregard it bring opprobrium on the whole cycling community. So often I hear cyclists complain about other road users, but they never urge each other to ride responsibly.
Dr Harry Ziman
Tarvin, Cheshire

Helen Pidd omitted a new player in the already complicated sharing of streets by bicycles, cars and pedestrians: e-bikes. In Geneva they seem to be overtaking pedal bikes in number. They are faster, heavier and quieter, and a lot of their users display the same recklessness as some pedal cyclists: mounting pavements, speeding, careering through red lights and using pedestrian walkways as cycling paths, notably in city parks where cycling is not allowed.
Christopher Park
Geneva, Switzerland