Cambridge police target anti-social 'bike rage' cyclists

Week-long campaign coincides with news of alleged "bike rage" attack in university city

by Simon_MacMichael   October 27, 2009  

cambridge bikes.jpg

Cambridgeshire Police yesterday launched a clampdown on anti-social cycling in the university city, issuing on-the-spot fines to people riding without lights, jumping red lights or riding on the pavement. In Cambridge as in other university towns and cities this is pretty much an annual event at this time of year. However, this year's clampdown has attracted extra attention after a so-called 'bike rage' attack in the city centre.

While police campaigns against cyclists riding without lights, particularly in university cities, are as sure a sign of Autumn’s arrival as the clocks going back, it does appear that the relationship between cyclists and the authorities in Cambridge is particularly strained right now.

And that situation won’t be helped by news of a so-called “bike rage” incident that took place on the city’s Garlick Row last week in which a cyclist allegedly rammed a car containing a mother and her child, reported in the Cambridge Evening News.

The newspaper quoted a police spokesperson who said that last Wednesday’s incident occurred when the driver “was going to turn left but had to stop to give way to other cars when she heard a loud bang,” adding “a cyclist had deliberately rammed his bike into her car causing damage. She looked in her mirror and saw the cyclist speed off back along Garlic Row. He was angry because he had to stop and cycle around her car."

If that’s what did happen, then no responsible cyclist would condone it. However, police are appealing for witnesses to the incident – the statement doesn’t clarify whether anyone actually saw what happened – and from the spokesperson’s comments it does appear that a rather rigid interpretation of events may have been applied; the "loud bang" the driver heard after she stopped could just as easily be caused by the cyclist being taken by surprise by the car stopping as by a deliberate attack. That’s ignoring the question of how much damage one could do to a car with a bike and then ride off on it.

Police Sergeant Gordon Morganthaler told the newspaper: "We will not tolerate people acting that way whether cyclists or motorists. There are collisions but that is no excuse for causing damage or attacking people. They need to be calm and aware of what is going on around them. Getting angry can lead to serious consequences."

Meanwhile, the annual police blitz against anti-social cycling will last for seven days, with officers out in force to issue £30 fixed penalty notices to transgressors, who will also be offered free cycling lessons or lights.

And tomorrow night, they will be joined by TV cameras from ITV1’s Tonight show, which is filming a documentary regarding bike rage. Hopefully it’s not expecting to much that the finished programme will include footage of pedestrians stepping out without looking, aggressive bus and van drivers, cars stopping suddenly or turning without warning or any of the other regular incidents that can cause cyclists’ temperatures to rise in the first place.

Cambridge has among the highest levels of cycling of any town or city in Britain, but cyclists there have come increasingly under the spotlight in recent weeks as the police and council target those who flout the law, with the local Conservative party getting in on the act too, as reported on last week.

The issue of perceived anti-social cycling has also been on the national news agenda this month, following the publication of a House of Commons committee’s response to a National Audit Office report on pedestrian and road safety that contained an anti-cyclist tirade by MP David Curry.


19 user comments

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Why would you be stupid enough to ram your bike into the back of a car?

Surely it would cause more damage to your bike? Thinking

jobysp's picture

posted by jobysp [145 posts]
27th October 2009 - 11:14


Sounds like she cut him up- I've lost count of the cars that try to pass me just before a junction, don't get clear, and turn left across my path.

posted by wild man [295 posts]
27th October 2009 - 11:26

1 Like

Exactly, ramming your bike into a car would surely cause more damage than it would do a car. The only mainstream media I have found that stands up for cyclists seems to be the guardian

posted by londoncyclist [13 posts]
27th October 2009 - 12:16


Yep, sounds like she cut him up and then he slammed his hand against the bodywork of the car. Err, so why is she not being interviewed over her driving skills (or lack of them)?


posted by OldRidgeback [2577 posts]
27th October 2009 - 15:03

1 Like

This is beyond the ridiculous!!! What damage can you do to a car with a bike, except scratching it? Just the slight expression of anger will be illegal in this country if we keep going on like this!

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
27th October 2009 - 15:58


She cut him badly, no doubt. But I've recently seen some nasty rage when a woman cut myself and a fellow commuter of on the very busy Clerkenwell Road in London. We both skidded to a halt before the other bloke walked across to the car, kicked her headlights, and slammed his bike into her bonnet. He went, to put it lightly, completely mental.

I fled the scene, as I've had some issues with the police pointing fingers where they shouldn't in the past and had no desire for a repeat. I'm sure that this sort of thing happens more often than we realise. Just because someone rides a bike, doesn't mean that they are any less of an idiot than someone in a car.

mr-andrew's picture

posted by mr-andrew [303 posts]
27th October 2009 - 18:32


I think part of it is that with we cyclists being among the more vulnerable road users, and almost certainly more aware of a near-miss with a car than the person driving it, adrenaline does kick in sometimes - one person's "bike rage" is another person's "I could have been killed right there".

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [9498 posts]
27th October 2009 - 18:44


Even so, let's not pretend that there aren't any idiots on bikes… i've seen plenty, and I know what you mean about the adrenaline pumping but that doesn't excuse totally losing it, we wouldn't excuse any other road user who acted like that.

I'm sure there's plenty of bike rage out there, the ridiculous thing about the Cambridge 'incident' is that it was more likely a case of the poor cyclist running in to the side of the car because the driver cut him up.

Tony Farrelly's picture

posted by Tony Farrelly [4201 posts]
27th October 2009 - 20:04


>one person's "bike rage" is another person's "I could have been killed right there"

Thats pretty much exactly it!

Once clamly asked some block in a van not to pass cyclists so close next time (mirror under elbow close) and he just shrugged and said "i didn't hit you did i".
I'm ashamed to say I went mental on him....scared myself at the things I did.

posted by mrchrispy [412 posts]
27th October 2009 - 20:20


Thinking I personally belive if your confident enough then you should make your point.You might just save someones life by shocking some unobservant motorist into taking a little more notice of other road users.A lot of motorists sterotype us cyclists into being some sort of puny geeks and get one massive shock when confronted by 6ft and 13 stone of adrenaline fulled abuse and seem to calm down and be more appoligetic then their driving might have suggested.


chatty31's picture

posted by chatty31 [79 posts]
27th October 2009 - 20:58

1 Like

yes, but there's a line between adrenaline fuelled abuse and going completely mental like the bloke mr-andrew was talking about.

Even abusing people is a bit dodgy in my opinion. Most people have just made a mistake, they aren't deliberately trying to hurt anyone. Can you be sure violently abusing someone is going to make them drive more carefully… if they are that shocked it might actually make them less careful for the rest of that particular journey, or indeed provoke a malevolent dislike of cyclists.

Is it okay to take it out on anyone, women with kids in the car, little old ladies, or do you only pick on people your own size. By the same token is it okay for pedestrians or drivers to dish it out to cyclists that run red lights or ride on the pavement?

I'm not trying to be [that] provocative but I would like to know why it is all right for us to behave like arseholes when we have a near miss, if drivers did the same the roads would be gridlocked with people having a go at each other venting their righteous anger.

Denzil Dexter's picture

posted by Denzil Dexter [141 posts]
27th October 2009 - 21:35


I have to say that I lost it with a driver the other week, I was riding about a metre from the curb, coming up to a busy roundabout and travelling at over 25mph in a 30 limit. This guy in a big estate car clearly wanted to just push past me into the roundabout, and when I stuck to my lane, he sat inches from my rear tyre and blasted the horn.

I looked round at him, and he was laughing and pointing for me to get out of his way. I carried on over the roundabout, and was keeping up with the flow of traffic, but he continued to sit inches off my rear tyre and keep pushing up along side me and then when he couldn't get round he would drop back and blast the horn again!

He kept pointing to the kerb, and I thought he wanted to pull over and sort it out mano e mano, so as I slowed and pulled over, he shot past shouting and gesticulating.

As I took off after him, a set of pedestrian lights caused him to stop up the road, and I caught him up, and I was raging to say the least. He wound down his window and told me how I was taking up too much lane and should be in the gutter and I better get out of his way next time, and then went to poke me with his finger...well, I can say that I think he will always wear a seatbelt in future, as that was all that prevented me from fully dragging him out of his window, he seemed to get the idea that I wasn't the best person to poke in that situation, and sped off once he got himself back inside his car.

I must admit I am not proud of this reaction, but the cold blooded bullying by a man using several tons of steel to make himself feel tough, made me very much want to show that on equal terms, he was just a pitiful little weasel... Christ, here I go again, it still incenses me to think of it.

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [693 posts]
28th October 2009 - 10:38


DaSy - I remember having a bloke come charging up behind me in a bus lane. He wasa beeping his horn and trying to get past, so I slowed down until I was in first gear on my 21 gear mountainbike and we were then being overtaken by the queue of cars. I rode over a Bus Lane sign painted on the roadway, stopped, reached into my backpack and took a photo of him and his car in the bus lane with the sign clearly visible. By this point he was bright red in the face and he shot past, nearly bashing into a car in the lane next to him, then swerved back into the bus lane and accelerated. As he roared past an entrance, a cop in a high vis jacket stepped out and gestured to the driver and he stopped. I rode past a moment later and looked at the car driver and his face was a picture. I saw him a few times afterwards on my commute and I remember one time he looked at me and shook his head. I'd made my point without losing my temper and I doubt he ever intimidated a cyclist again.

In your case I'm sure it would've been tempting to reach inside his car, take the ignition keys and drop them down a drain but the problem is, that could've ended up with youo being charged.


posted by OldRidgeback [2577 posts]
28th October 2009 - 10:47


What i want to know is where the mystery cyclist gets his wheels built.

Surly the driver is in the wrong by stopping when turning left. I nearly ran into the back of a car last week when the same thing happened, they raced past me and then stopped to let half a dozen cars pull out before turning into a carpark. Only a dive down the inside saved me as my brakes wouldnt have been enough as I was going at least 25mph.

posted by miffed [169 posts]
28th October 2009 - 12:03


After years of commuting across London by bicycle and, I'm afraid to say, losing my temper a few times at rubbish driving standards from car drivers I learned that the best way to confront a car driver is not to be aggressive or to swear. It's simple psychology. If you're calm you can get your point across. Aggression often just fuels aggression, while giving the offender good reason to ignore what you're telling them. Sarcasm can work too. You can be as curt as you like and make it clear the extent of your displeasure, without having to be threatening as I believe aggression to be totally counter-productive.

Being calm but curt (or sarcastic) turns things back on the offender and is far more effective. Believe me, it also works on big beefy blokes in white vans too. If someone cuts you up without indicating you can tap on the window and say, "You know you're indicators don't work," and when they respond, "Oh but they do," you say, "Maybe you should learn to use them then." - point made, no-one is angry and the driver may feel slightly embarassed and will remember next time. This was certainly the case with one white van man I said it to, as his two passengers immediately started making fun of him. If you shout at a bad driver, they'll just complain about aggressive cyclists and forget about their rubbish driving that triggered the incident. I bet white van man endured days of ribbing from his passengers and I'm sure he's more careful about using his indicators now.

Whatever the case in Cambridge, a sarcastic comment would've been less confrontational and would not have resulted in the police looking for aggressive cyclists. Perhaps the woman would have also questioned her own driving and how her actions may be at least inconvenient and possibly dangerous for other road users.

Being calm also means you don't run the risk of being charged with threatening behaviour. Police don't look kindly on males who threaten women with children and neither does society as a whole. And last time I checked, sarcasm wasn't an offence.


posted by OldRidgeback [2577 posts]
28th October 2009 - 17:46


Dasy - perfectly sane reaction and something I would have probably done too.

I was given some terribly agressive hand signals from a passenger and driver a couple of weeks ago, telling me that I was a w****r and telling me to move over to the other side of the road.

I pulled behind the car and gave the "what did I do" signal and the driver gave me the V...

I flipped and screeched after him and caught up with him at the lights, un-clipped myself and threw my bike in front of his car so he couldn't move.

He immediately locked his door and wound his windows up and proceeded to tell me that it wasn't me they where gesticulating at, but another cyclist behind...

Funny that as they crapped themselves as the cyclist pulled up along side me - he was riding with me Smile

I have calmed down since I got a helmet camera.

jobysp's picture

posted by jobysp [145 posts]
29th October 2009 - 14:07


My only problem with it is that I try really hard to be a model cyclist. I always stop at red lights, even on country roads when all alone, ride as per the highway code, never on the path etc.

I then feel like letting myself lose my temper in such a way kind of undoes all of this. The other drivers that passed just see a maniac cyclist trying to part a car driver from his breath, not aware of the incident that preceded it.

I long since learned to laugh off car drivers poor driving standards when I'm in a car, and usually just smile and wave if cut up, etc, when I'm driving.

The incredible feeling of vulnerability when pushed around by a car, when cycling, unfortunately seems to bypass these coping skills. I am working on it though...

Complicating matters since 1965

DaSy's picture

posted by DaSy [693 posts]
29th October 2009 - 14:24

1 Like

Since my 1st post on this issue I have read and agree with both ways of dealing with these situations and must point out that I do do the calm wind up responce as well, but every situation is different and a "You could have killed me" warrants a different response to a "read your highway code" incident. Thinking


chatty31's picture

posted by chatty31 [79 posts]
29th October 2009 - 21:10


I try to obey all of the highway code too, stopping at red lights etc... (especially as the people of Chiswick have told the police that Bad Cyclists should be their highest priority in the borough)

Then again I have found a palm slapped against a body panel will wake up drivers very quickly.
There is a notorious roundabout in Chiswick where on my exit every single car takes the racing line which happens to cut straight through the clearly marked cycle lane. Now as a 6ft 6inch fat bloke with pink tyres and lights attached to bike and helmet I think I am pretty visible but day or night I get cut up here. Spanking a large panel before I get caught between car and curb seems like a very reasonable defense and I know I have never damaged a car, then again as a big biker no one ever seems to stop to discuss my actions.

And remember Fear the Prius - they sneak up on you so quietly...

posted by guidob [57 posts]
30th October 2009 - 14:42