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Intimidating driving and even physical assaults have left some too scared to ride bike to school

Parents who cycle with their children to a school in Exeter have spoken of the abuse – at times physical – they suffer at the hand of motorists, leaving some too scared to continue to do the school run by bike.

In a report on Devon Live, some described how they had been targeted by vehicle occupants throwing objects at them, with one mother adding that a friend who was preganant had been punched as she rode to Steiner Academy.

The school, whose students are aged from four to 16 years, is located on the busy Cowley Bridge Road which was singled out in the report as particularly problematic for cyclists due to the number of motorists using it.

One parent, Arabella Greatorex, said: "Mums and dads just feel scared.

"There are so many people who have been scared off the road that had abuse thrown at them, they had been hit, people that have been knocked off their bikes.

"We do have some real issues with driver behaviour around here and a lot of people who would like to cycle to school are too scared to cycle to school,” she continued.

"Frequently we get doored on the road so people opening their car doors without looking behind.”

She added that a passenger in a white van had slapped her on her bottom as she rode along the city’s New North Road on her way to a work meeting.

"He obviously thought it was a joke but I went flying over the handlebars," she said.

Other parents revealed that they had been deterred from undertaking the school run by bike because of the behaviour of some drivers and used other means instead.

Beacon Heath resident Laura Casey revealed that she made the trip by bus, from which she could see the danger cyclists were exposed to.

"Me and my friend come on the bus and normally there are cyclists in front and cars are getting so frustrated they are beeping, almost nudging into them," she explained.

"You can see the riders are looking back really frustrated and scared so obviously that’s put me off."

Another  mother, Jane Rae, said: "We have had an experience with a tanker behind me, beeping for just being on the road and I have got a four-year-old on the back

"I have seen it from all perspectives, being a driver, a pedestrian and a cyclist. Cyclists are not an alien species. We are just like anyone else trying to get our kids to school."

The school’s office and systems manager Alice Knight, whose biography on its website reveals that she studied planning and urban design, said it wanted to encourage parents and their children to cycle but acknowledged the problem.

"Obviously we have a big problem because Cowley Bridge Road is so busy," she said.

"Cyclists have a lot of issues with car and van drivers feeling they are holding them up. As a school we really want to encourage them, we have got cycle parking and we are in discussions with the cyclists to improve conditions as much as we can but our hands are tied with Cowley Bridge Road," she added.

Do you accompany your children to school by bike, and if so, what is your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

55 comments

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Jimmy Ray Will [791 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes

I would say that road sees a lot of frsutrated drivers every day. If they are heading out or coming back from Crediton, then drivers will already be well and truly fed up with queuing behind slower moving traffic... its a horrible piece of town to negotiate. 

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Morgoth985 [96 posts] 1 month ago
17 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I would say that road sees a lot of frsutrated drivers every day. If they are heading out or coming back from Crediton, then drivers will already be well and truly fed up with queuing behind slower moving traffic... its a horrible piece of town to negotiate. 

Maybe so, still no excuse though

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oldstrath [894 posts] 1 month ago
22 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I would say that road sees a lot of frsutrated drivers every day. If they are heading out or coming back from Crediton, then drivers will already be well and truly fed up with queuing behind slower moving traffic... its a horrible piece of town to negotiate. 

What a shame. I'd hope the police would make them even more frustrated by arresting them. But hey, evil fixie riders.

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ChrisB200SX [550 posts] 1 month ago
7 likes
Morgoth985 wrote:
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I would say that road sees a lot of frsutrated drivers every day. If they are heading out or coming back from Crediton, then drivers will already be well and truly fed up with queuing behind slower moving traffic... its a horrible piece of town to negotiate. 

Maybe so, still no excuse though

More accurately, there is no excuse.

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SteppenHerring [348 posts] 1 month ago
11 likes

There seem to be a lot of horrible people about these days.

 

Maybe the parents should organise for one day/one week to drop their kids off by car. See how much havoc that causes.

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carytb [114 posts] 1 month ago
14 likes
SteppenHerring wrote:

There seem to be a lot of horrible people about these days.

 

Maybe the parents should organise for one day/one week to drop their kids off by car. See how much havoc that causes.

And drive REALLY slowly

 

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kil0ran [548 posts] 1 month ago
20 likes

I've done it a handful of times, both with him riding on his own and now on a tagalong. 

School is in a residential dead-end road with narrow pavements. Whole area is 30mph limit.

We've got two right turns to make on the journey which is less than a mile. Parked cars everywhere, dreadful sight lines, narrow roads.

School Head is constantly sending out letters/emails regarding near misses and there's a voluntary code not to drive within 300 yards of the gates which everyone ignores because there are a handful of disabled kids who get dropped off at the gate. The usual "well if they can do it so can I" attitude.

Driving standards are appalling. Speeding, driving on pavements, dooring etc. And then once out of the immediate area and on to narrow rural roads I feel completely unsafe - moreso than when mixing with HGVs on my work commute.

Last time son rode on his own bike with me he was heading downhill on a potholed country lane with a blind right-hand bend at the bottom and this cockwomble close-passed him in his chelsea tractor only to have to haul on the brakes because something came round the corner. My son shot up the inside of him (nowhere else to go) and the kid in the front seat of the 4x4 I'm pretty sure learnt a whole bunch of new words from me. Jumped out of his skin when I thumped the window. And yep - he'd just been picked up from the same school.

Thing was the bloke had plenty of room but was choosing to keep his 4x4 away from potholes and hedges. General gist was "Its a lease car, if I scratch it I have to pay for the damage" (whereas if he'd killed my son he'd have probably got away with it)

On the walk to school I see drivers tailgating CHILD cyclists and boxing them in so they can't filter and when I drive if I drive at 20mph I'll get tailgated and beeped. Its like some insanity descends upon them - I think they're actually worse than WVM and boy racers. I know its a stressful time getting kids to school and then yourself to work but it's a complete recipe for disaster. Distracted harrassed drivers mixed with infant and junior school kids on scooters on narrow pavements with limited street lighting.

Oh and for a rural area I would estimate maybe 5% of junior school kids are cycling to school based on the size of the bike shed. Most of the catchment area would be within 20 mins walk so maybe not worthwhile cycling but I think part of it is also that the parents don't cycle. When I pick him up on a Friday I think I've seen at most two other parents on bikes out of a school of 240 kids. Concerted effort required to get more of them cycling so they can accompany their kids but its a Catch-22 due to safety fears.

 

Avatar
kil0ran [548 posts] 1 month ago
6 likes

To add balance to my comments its worth pointing out its a Steiner school with parents called Arabella. Bunch of weirdy-beardy hippy vegan green party voters in crochet cardigans if ever there was  4

(Which is why they're cycling  4

 

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Morgoth985 [96 posts] 1 month ago
5 likes
ChrisB200SX wrote:
Morgoth985 wrote:

Maybe so, still no excuse though

More accurately, there is no excuse.

[/quote]

Isn't that what I said?  I think we can safely assume that we're in agreement on this one.

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Christopher TR1 [151 posts] 1 month ago
13 likes

Ban cars. Obvious solution given that it's proved multiple times every single day that a considerable number of motorists are fcukwitted morons. 

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Morgoth985 [96 posts] 1 month ago
11 likes
Christopher TR1 wrote:

Ban cars. Obvious solution given that it's proved multiple times every single day that a considerable number of motorists are fcukwitted morons. 

Or, more directly, ban fcukwitted morons.

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rollotommasi [38 posts] 1 month ago
10 likes

For all I've been commenting that the idiot Alliston got the right sentence for wanton and furious cycling, stories like this are proof that most cyclists are more sinned against than sinning.

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BehindTheBikesheds [857 posts] 1 month ago
6 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

I would say that road sees a lot of frsutrated drivers every day. If they are heading out or coming back from Crediton, then drivers will already be well and truly fed up with queuing behind slower moving traffic... its a horrible piece of town to negotiate. 

I remember having to drive two hours for 42 miles (each way) when i was sojounred to one of our contracts in Wimbledon (from n.herts), so A1/A41/A406/Kew Br/S.circular/A306 

Didn't mean by the time I got back home after working with a load of numpties all day and 2 hours in gridlock through much of London I could vent my anger/frustration out on anyone along the final part of my journey in my local area (or anywhere for that matter). That you even give some 'out' for these people is a tad worrying.

Simple solution is to make the road one way only and to give up the whole of one side of the carriageway for people on bikes, actually make the whol road system like that in towns and cities, that'll fuck the vast majority up and those doing 3 miles or less will virtually be forced to use a bike or walk.

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A2Bcyclist [5 posts] 1 month ago
15 likes

In Germany and many other countries, the speed limit is 30km/h to 40km/h (20mph-25mph) around schools and residential areas. Enforceable with hefty fines (and licences revoked for repeat offenders). But Britain is "different", people don't need policing, we're told.

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ChrisB200SX [550 posts] 1 month ago
9 likes
Morgoth985 wrote:
ChrisB200SX wrote:
Morgoth985 wrote:

Maybe so, still no excuse though

More accurately, there is no excuse.

Isn't that what I said?  I think we can safely assume that we're in agreement on this one.

Yeah, sorry, I thought I was adding to your comment rather than disagreeing with it.
I was assaulted by a chimp in a Porsche last week, after I said he needs to give more room when overtaking (twice, on blind bends) he deliberately drove his car into me, then got out and tried to wrestle my bike off me to damage it, making loads of threats while trying to push me over.
And the 10 minutes of vitriolic abuse, swearing and namecalling I received from a nutjob in a Mini on Sunday morning after I dared to be in the right hand lane, in traffic. Appararently he's a cyclist and has got a more expensive bike than mine so he knows that cyclists must stay on the left (even if they are turning right??).
I'm really starting to feel that anti-cyclist hatred is at an all-time high after the media's "reporting" of the Alliston trial  2

Avatar
timb27 [139 posts] 1 month ago
6 likes

Exeter is growing with no easy way to add more arterial routes in, and I for one can't wait until the city is properly broken as far as driving  cars is concerned. It's just a shame we've got to put up with this kind of shit while we wait for that unavoidable eventuality.

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a1white [64 posts] 1 month ago
7 likes

Surely all it takes is a couple of police officers on bikes to patrol the streets on the school run? Attitudes can only change through education.

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Jitensha Oni [92 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
kil0ran wrote:

I've done it a handful of times, both with him riding on his own and now on a tagalong. 

School is in a residential dead-end road with narrow pavements. Whole area is 30mph limit.

We've got two right turns to make on the journey which is less than a mile. Parked cars everywhere, dreadful sight lines, narrow roads.

School Head is constantly sending out letters/emails regarding near misses and there's a voluntary code not to drive within 300 yards of the gates which everyone ignores because there are a handful of disabled kids who get dropped off at the gate. The usual "well if they can do it so can I" attitude.

Driving standards are appalling. Speeding, driving on pavements, dooring etc. And then once out of the immediate area and on to narrow rural roads I feel completely unsafe - moreso than when mixing with HGVs on my work commute.

Last time son rode on his own bike with me he was heading downhill on a potholed country lane with a blind right-hand bend at the bottom and this cockwomble close-passed him in his chelsea tractor only to have to haul on the brakes because something came round the corner. My son shot up the inside of him (nowhere else to go) and the kid in the front seat of the 4x4 I'm pretty sure learnt a whole bunch of new words from me. Jumped out of his skin when I thumped the window. And yep - he'd just been picked up from the same school.

Thing was the bloke had plenty of room but was choosing to keep his 4x4 away from potholes and hedges. General gist was "Its a lease car, if I scratch it I have to pay for the damage" (whereas if he'd killed my son he'd have probably got away with it)

On the walk to school I see drivers tailgating CHILD cyclists and boxing them in so they can't filter and when I drive if I drive at 20mph I'll get tailgated and beeped. Its like some insanity descends upon them - I think they're actually worse than WVM and boy racers. I know its a stressful time getting kids to school and then yourself to work but it's a complete recipe for disaster. Distracted harrassed drivers mixed with infant and junior school kids on scooters on narrow pavements with limited street lighting.

Oh and for a rural area I would estimate maybe 5% of junior school kids are cycling to school based on the size of the bike shed. Most of the catchment area would be within 20 mins walk so maybe not worthwhile cycling but I think part of it is also that the parents don't cycle. When I pick him up on a Friday I think I've seen at most two other parents on bikes out of a school of 240 kids. Concerted effort required to get more of them cycling so they can accompany their kids but its a Catch-22 due to safety fears.

 

 

3 of you? Or 12 (x2 including parents) if 5%, and that's the cause of all the grief?  What a bunch of twats the locals must be.

Avatar
Another David [29 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

It sounds like an unsuitable place to ride a bike, let alone encourage a child to be there on one. Sometimes it's wise to accept there are just bad roads for cycling and are best avoided.

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ConcordeCX [468 posts] 1 month ago
14 likes
Another David wrote:

It sounds like an unsuitable place to ride a bike, let alone encourage a child to be there on one. Sometimes it's wise to accept there are just bad roads for cycling and are best avoided.

schoolkids not obese and polluted enough already for you?

Here's a radical idea: do something about the road so that it is a suitable place for children to cycle to school without their parents.

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burtthebike [1183 posts] 1 month ago
9 likes
Another David wrote:

It sounds like an unsuitable place to ride a bike, let alone encourage a child to be there on one. Sometimes it's wise to accept there are just bad roads for cycling and are best avoided.

There's no such thing as an unsuitable road to cycle on in this country, but there are plenty that are unsuitable to drive on.

Accepting bad driving is effectively condoning it, and I for one, will never do that.

Why aren't you condemning the drivers for their failure to consider other road users and to drive to the conditions?

Avatar
shay cycles [401 posts] 1 month ago
4 likes
kil0ran wrote:

To add balance to my comments its worth pointing out its a Steiner school with parents called Arabella. Bunch of weirdy-beardy hippy vegan green party voters in crochet cardigans if ever there was  4

(Which is why they're cycling  4

 

No it isn't.

It is worth pointing out that all children are children and that everyone has a right to safely use the public highway in accordance with the law.

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shay cycles [401 posts] 1 month ago
8 likes
Another David wrote:

It sounds like an unsuitable place to ride a bike, let alone encourage a child to be there on one. Sometimes it's wise to accept there are just bad roads for cycling and are best avoided.

Bollocks!

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BrokenBootneck [227 posts] 1 month ago
1 like

"If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others ?"

Avatar
dog_film [25 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
kil0ran wrote:

I've done it a handful of times, both with him riding on his own and now on a tagalong. 

School is in a residential dead-end road with narrow pavements. Whole area is 30mph limit.

We've got two right turns to make on the journey which is less than a mile. Parked cars everywhere, dreadful sight lines, narrow roads.

School Head is constantly sending out letters/emails regarding near misses and there's a voluntary code not to drive within 300 yards of the gates which everyone ignores because there are a handful of disabled kids who get dropped off at the gate. The usual "well if they can do it so can I" attitude.

Driving standards are appalling. Speeding, driving on pavements, dooring etc. And then once out of the immediate area and on to narrow rural roads I feel completely unsafe - moreso than when mixing with HGVs on my work commute.

Last time son rode on his own bike with me he was heading downhill on a potholed country lane with a blind right-hand bend at the bottom and this cockwomble close-passed him in his chelsea tractor only to have to haul on the brakes because something came round the corner. My son shot up the inside of him (nowhere else to go) and the kid in the front seat of the 4x4 I'm pretty sure learnt a whole bunch of new words from me. Jumped out of his skin when I thumped the window. And yep - he'd just been picked up from the same school.

Thing was the bloke had plenty of room but was choosing to keep his 4x4 away from potholes and hedges. General gist was "Its a lease car, if I scratch it I have to pay for the damage" (whereas if he'd killed my son he'd have probably got away with it)

On the walk to school I see drivers tailgating CHILD cyclists and boxing them in so they can't filter and when I drive if I drive at 20mph I'll get tailgated and beeped. Its like some insanity descends upon them - I think they're actually worse than WVM and boy racers. I know its a stressful time getting kids to school and then yourself to work but it's a complete recipe for disaster. Distracted harrassed drivers mixed with infant and junior school kids on scooters on narrow pavements with limited street lighting.

Oh and for a rural area I would estimate maybe 5% of junior school kids are cycling to school based on the size of the bike shed. Most of the catchment area would be within 20 mins walk so maybe not worthwhile cycling but I think part of it is also that the parents don't cycle. When I pick him up on a Friday I think I've seen at most two other parents on bikes out of a school of 240 kids. Concerted effort required to get more of them cycling so they can accompany their kids but its a Catch-22 due to safety fears.

 

Now that is how to encapsulate the problems. Beautifully written.

Avatar
Morgoth985 [96 posts] 1 month ago
9 likes
timb27 wrote:

Exeter is growing with no easy way to add more arterial routes in, and I for one can't wait until the city is properly broken as far as driving  cars is concerned. It's just a shame we've got to put up with this kind of shit while we wait for that unavoidable eventuality.

And this, I fear, will be the only solution for towns and cities across the country.  People are just too wedded to their cars.  Not that I'm advocating giving up, you understand, and maybe it's just a grey morning and I'm miserable or something, but I just can't see any political momentum to fix this.  It will only be when every city and town permanently chokes on congestion and pollution so nobody can even leave their driveways before the average driver would even vaguely think about any kind of alternative.  And possibly not even then.

Avatar
brooksby [2637 posts] 1 month ago
4 likes
kil0ran wrote:

...Thing was the bloke had plenty of room but was choosing to keep his 4x4 away from potholes and hedges. General gist was "Its a lease car, if I scratch it I have to pay for the damage"...

That's become an increasingly common thing, and I hadn't previously considered that as the reason. 

There's a lane, just an access way from a 'real' road to a car park and a couple of houses, that's on my way home, and if I meet a car coming along there they really don't want to move up closer to the hedge and seem to expect me to. 

Previously, I'd just got angry that they thought my t-shirt provided better protection from brambles than their tonne of metal box, but now I wonder if you're right and it's that they dare not get a scratch on their precious...

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kitsunegari [306 posts] 1 month ago
9 likes
Another David wrote:

It sounds like an unsuitable place to ride a bike, let alone encourage a child to be there on one. Sometimes it's wise to accept there are just bad roads for cycling and are best avoided.

No, this is the absolute worst solution, and your acceptance of it is both sad and worrying.

The solution is to remove the dangerous cars from the equation. Perhaps ban motorised traffic from the road between school hours. Perhaps have police patrol the road at busy times and look out for the more vulnerable road users, but of course the Police don't give a shit about cyclists and would rather make sure they get locked up than protected.

Avatar
ROOTminus1 [15 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
A2Bcyclist wrote:

In Germany and many other countries, the speed limit is 30km/h to 40km/h (20mph-25mph) around schools and residential areas. Enforceable with hefty fines (and licences revoked for repeat offenders). But Britain is "different", people don't need policing, we're told.

 

UK schools are usually in 30 or 20mph limited zones and typically have speed cameras nearby. However cameras are only going to catch speeders, not the dangerous and aggressive driving as Mumsy needs to safely deliver little Tarquin and Shaznay to the gates, and she's damn well going to use the off-road capability of her new RangeRover to drive over obstacles like cyclists, cars parked on zig-zags, that pesky idiot in the hi-vis with the lollipop...

 

...sorry, got a little side-tracked.

The school opposite where I used to live had to have a PCSO stationed to support the crossing lady for one term, who was getting death-threat abuse from certain parents. It's a shame that Police presence was required, but proper policing is the only way to get through to some of those idiots

Avatar
peted76 [764 posts] 1 month ago
1 like
kitsunegari wrote:
Another David wrote:

It sounds like an unsuitable place to ride a bike, let alone encourage a child to be there on one. Sometimes it's wise to accept there are just bad roads for cycling and are best avoided.

No, this is the absolute worst solution, and your acceptance of it is both sad and worrying.

The solution is to remove the dangerous cars from the equation. Perhaps ban motorised traffic from the road between school hours. Perhaps have police patrol the road at busy times and look out for the more vulnerable road users, but of course the Police don't give a shit about cyclists and would rather make sure they get locked up than protected.

But until they do transplant wings onto a pig, just keep safe out there, read the road situations and judge the best safe course of action.  If that means not cycling on certain roads, then so be it. 

It's a shame that in Exeter the general car driving public seem like knuckle draggers (the Exeter stereotype proves itself), personally I'd be tempted to fill up a household cleaning spray bottle up with brake fluid and any close passes or numpty drivers would get a squirt or two. 

 

 

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