Welsh Cycling president says cyclists need to be more aggressive and claim the road

Call comes as Simon Richardson reported to be in good spirits, though his London 2012 dream appears over

by Simon_MacMichael   August 19, 2011  

Broken bike (CC licensed image by garryknight, www.flickr.com)

The president of Welsh Cycling has called on cyclists to be more aggressive when riding on the road. Bill Owen’s comments followed the hit-and-run incident that left Paralympic champion Simon Richardson in a critical condition in hospital, which the Welsh cyclist’s sponsor believes has ended any hope of his defending his two titles at London 2012.

Richardson suffered multiple injuries after being hit by a van while out training on the A48 near Bridgend on Wednesday morning. The van did not stop, although South Wales Police later arrested an unnamed 59-year-old man in connection with the incident. He has been bailed to return to Bridgend police station on October 13.

"We are up against it with car drivers," said Mr Owen, quoted on the BBC News website. "The more cyclists that are out there, the more accidents are increasing. These accidents are getting noticed more.

"It's about making car drivers more aware of the cyclists out there,” he continued. “The majority of motorists are tolerant but there are some yobs out there who make it tough for cyclists.

"Yes, there are awareness campaigns going on but it needs more than cycling organisations to do this.

"At the end of the day the authorities and Welsh Government need to act.

"There's even one side to it that cyclists aren't aggressive enough. It's safer to ride away from the kerb where there are cars parked and gutters," Mr Owen insisted.

Enda Smyth, a friend of Richardson and cyclist on the Irish Paralympic team, agreed that it was becoming more dangerous to ride on the road, saying: "I think it's shocking the way it's gone with the roads. I think they are more dangerous now.

"Motorists are aware of what's going on and I think it's just the acceptance on the road.

"The altercations are getting closer and closer. I hear about it each week about people being run off the road and a lot of close calls," he added.

The BBC says that British Cycling has handled 40 claims on behalf of its members following accidents during the past two years, and that the national governing body is concerned about the number of incidents.

"It's a huge issue,” confirmed Martin Gibbs, British Cycling’s policy affairs and legal director.

"We are currently going through a process of surveying our members to see what they think is the most important issue.

"The general feeling is varied but that it's about awareness and mutual respect between cyclists and motorists.

"There's a lot that can be done from the UK government perspective.

"If we and the government are encouraging more people to get on their bikes, it's our responsibility to make sure the roads are as safe as they can be."

Among measures called for by members who have already responded to British Cycling’s survey are including cyclist awareness as part of the driving test, and addressing what are seen as lenient penalties handed down to drivers convicted of causing accidents involving bike riders. Road layouts are also seen as an issue.

The Welsh Government told the BBC that it made funding available to local councils throughout the principality to make the roads safer for vulnerable users such as cyclists and pedestrians.

"It will continue to work with local authorities and organisations such as Sustrans to reduce casualties amongst these groups," a spokesperson for the Welsh Government stated.

Meanwhile, Richardson himself was described as being in “good spirits” despite his injuries, which include his back being broken in two places and a broken breastbone. He also has lacerations to his legs and only one of his lungs is functioning.

Richardson’s condition at the University of Wales Hospital, Cardiff, remains critical but stable, and the cyclist has been able to speak with his wife, Amanda, who said in a statement quoted on the website Wales Online: “I’d like to thank everyone in the cycling community and other well-wishers for their messages of support for Simon.

“He will be heartened to know that people are extending their positive thoughts and encouragement to him during this difficult time,” she continued.

The website also quoted John Morgan, executive director of Disability Sport Wales, who commented: “He wants to know what is going on. He is aware of what has happened, he is aware of his surroundings, and he is talking and trying to be as upbeat as possible.”

Mr Morgan added: “He has shown great courage and determination in the past and he will meet this latest challenge head-on. Amanda is incredibly resilient and she has been at his bedside throughout.”

It was the injuries received in another horrific crash when he was hit by a car that eventually led to Richardson, who comes from Porthcawl, pursuing a career as a paracyclist.

In 2001, the 44-year-old was hit by a car while riding on a club run, the accident leaving him with no feeling on his left-hand side.

He began riding again in 2005 on an adapted bike on the advice of doctors to help with his rehabilitation, and in Beijing three years later he won gold in the LC 3–4 class kilo with a world record time of 1 minute 14.936 seconds. He subsequently added a second gold medal in the LC3–4 3km individual pursuit, and also took silver in the LC3 class road time trial.

However, his sponsor and friend Phil Jones confirmed that this week’s accident has almost certainly ended Richardson’s hopes of defending those titles in London next year.

“Although Simon wasn’t currently within the GB Paralympics performance programme, the times and training that he had been putting in up until now were certainly making him a very top contender to be considered for the London 2012 Paralympics,” he said.
Gareth Sheppard, performance manager for British Cycling’s paracycling team, added:

“All our thoughts are with Simon and his family.

“It’s really sad that someone’s life could be threatened by someone not taking care and attention on the road.”

Sheppard joined others in calling for drivers to be encouraged to become more aware of cyclists.

“You’ve got little protection as a cyclist because you are so exposed. We very much want to make sure racing and cycling in general on the road is safe and there does need to be a Government-backed campaign on the issue.”

The South Wales Police roads policing unit continues to seek witnesses to the crash, or who saw a white van heading towards Cowbridge after the incident at 9.40am on Wednesday morning, and they can be contacted on 029 2063 3438 or through Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.


25 user comments

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Agressive was the wrong word to use. Mr. Owen: you're not helping. Sad

Conscientious Objector in the War on Vulnerable Road Users

t1mmyb's picture

posted by t1mmyb [87 posts]
19th August 2011 - 13:36


"The president of Welsh Cycling has called on cyclists to be more aggressive when riding on the road."

If that's what he really said then he needs to rethink it. What cyclists need to do is ride more defensively, claiming the road just as the IAM said earlier. That's not the same as being aggressive. The image I have of him is swinging a d-lock at some numpty in a BMW who has driven too close and has subsequently stopped to release a stream of invective at the not-to-be-cowed pres.


posted by OldRidgeback [2580 posts]
19th August 2011 - 13:39


"made funding available to local

That's your problem right there. There are national campaigns for motorbikes, drink-driving and so on. Why are the most vulnerable left to local councils that can't even keep the roads reasonably flat?

posted by a.jumper [833 posts]
19th August 2011 - 14:02


Neither aggressively nor defensively: assertively and confidently is the way to do it.

cavasta's picture

posted by cavasta [220 posts]
19th August 2011 - 14:17


"Defensively" in this context is all about being assertive and confident in your road positioning - it's exactly how the police driving manual tells you to drive safely so I don't see why it shouldn't work for cycling too.

AdamML's picture

posted by AdamML [72 posts]
19th August 2011 - 14:38


Why are cyclists sharing space with cars driving 60-70mph?

Is that how the Dutch got 25% of their journeys made by bike?

No, of course it isn't. They have high-quality dedicated bike lanes between major towns and cities.

No amount of skilled cycling will prevent you being killed if an irresponsible motorist is speeding, talking on their phone, or simply not bothering to pay attention.

Nor will it make roads feel safe, a necessary condition to get kids and families riding on our roads.

While the terms of the discussion are limited to how assertive one should be, we will NEVER make bike journeys a normal part of British life.

posted by fluffy_mike [94 posts]
19th August 2011 - 15:22


a.jumper wrote:
There are national campaigns for motorbikes, drink-driving and so on. Why are the most vulnerable left to local councils that can't even keep the roads reasonably flat?

You'll just get told to wear a helmet, like the ones the AA were giving away, otherwise you are asking for it.

Councils don't care for cyclists or cycling as a mode of transport. They just want to keep drivers happy(ish), or at least moving and able to park on pavements, cycle lanes, double-yellows and so on. They can't see beyond the dumb idea of 'optimising traffic flow', as if getting more cars along the roads and streets more quickly is the only goal worth chasing.

I'm pleased to hear that Simon is in good spirits. I'll stop ranting now and try sending more positive thoughts his way.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2415 posts]
19th August 2011 - 15:44


Defensively is good word, when riding 1. wear a helmet 2. always look over your shoulder before making any major movement , left of right etc... If you feel intimidated then look the motorist in the eye get their attention to what you are doing... 3. DON'T use an MP3/ipod player when cycling , you need to be aware of whats going on around you.

I've had lots of accidents when cycling but only really when racing... although got knocked off by a spooked horse, ended up crashing into a field gate and a skateboard going through the middle of the pack when out on a training ride (2 clubs together about 40 riders), you could do that back in the 80's

ashy_2002's picture

posted by ashy_2002 [56 posts]
19th August 2011 - 16:25


fluffy_mike wrote:
Why are cyclists sharing space with cars driving 60-70mph?

Is that how the Dutch got 25% of their journeys made by bike?

No, of course it isn't. They have high-quality dedicated bike lanes between major towns and cities.

Regardless of the infrastructure in the Netherlands, cycling there is an accepted form of transport. Sadly here in the UK the bicycle is no longer that.

The cyclist is perceived as 'poor' ( ironic as some kit out there is worth more than some cars being driven around), an inconvenience because they dare to delay the motorist by a couple of seconds in their race to jump the lights.

To provide an infrastructure to get the cyclist from A to B is pointless as they will, at some stage need to share roads with motorists. And this is where we have the problems. There is a greater need to educate motorists. As cyclists we know the drill, be visible, cycle assertively, eye contact with the driver etc. Meanwhile the motorist is not expecting to see a vunerable road user sharing the highway as they are to busy watching for other vehicles with them which is why we see so many tragic accidents and hear that classic line "SMIDSY".

Until the motorist comes to terms that they share our roads with others, it is only then will our roads become safer for all!

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1185 posts]
19th August 2011 - 16:46


There seems little point in comparing UK with the Netherlands. We are where we are.

Agree with British Cycling that greater driver awareness is the key to reducing fear of traffic and encouraging more people to saddle up.

You can support the only national campaign dedicated to making cycling part of the driving test here http://bikeaware.org.uk

iDavid's picture

posted by iDavid [47 posts]
19th August 2011 - 18:22


Message duplicated in error.

iDavid's picture

posted by iDavid [47 posts]
19th August 2011 - 18:24


Otherwise yo,u were asking for it"

Yes - this guy's opinions remind me of those people who say "she was asking for it, she was wearing a short skirt"

Top tip for avoiding rape - don't rape people

Top tip for avoiding cyclists being hit by vehicles - don't drive into cyclists

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [602 posts]
19th August 2011 - 18:50


And people wonder why cyclists are using video cameras and posting footage online.

posted by gaz545 [12 posts]
19th August 2011 - 18:55


Trouble is how many motorists are talking on their mobiles and not concentrating on the task ahead? Driving safely and within the speed limit. Hope Simon makes a full and speedily recovery!

onlyonediane's picture

posted by onlyonediane [167 posts]
19th August 2011 - 21:39


Cycle assertively. But that in itself can provoke. Here's what happened to me this very evening. I'm in the middle of my lane (primary position), as the tarmac to the left is all beaten up. Doing 20-odd mph in a 30 zone. So the car behind me goes round a traffic island in the centre of the road to overtake me on the right-hand side.

I suppose you could say he was being considerate and giving me plenty of space.

Noli porcum linguere

captain_slog's picture

posted by captain_slog [310 posts]
19th August 2011 - 21:44


Assertive riding is defensive riding - as someone else said, it's what motorbike cops do, and I learned it when I took my motorcycle test decades ago.

What Mr Welsh Cycling should have said is that cyclists can save some (but not all, as Captain_slog can attest) grief by sometimes taking the lane to make sure they're visible and can not be overtaken without a lane change, especially when roads narrow or have pinch points, and that motorists should expect that sort of riding.

Riding assertively means being confident and behaving as though you're driving a small car; making it plain that you're in charge of your destiny, and not some idiot in a car who would put your health at risk by overtaking at a dangerous point.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
20th August 2011 - 11:53


"Assertive" is the word he is looking for (just the mistake Jon Snow made about 2 years ago).

Cyclists DO have to make an effort, but not just on the road also involving campaigning. Each and every cyclist needs to write the letters and get the point across, put pressure on Government, the DfT, your Council, letters to the press at national and local levels.

You also need to arm yourself with the facts. Don't assume something because you've heard someone say it in person or on facebook, get on the government websites and look at data, look at serious studies.. Also, sign the petitions (Gov's epetitions, etc) and join the campaigns and cycling groups. You will add to the cyclists' voice

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
20th August 2011 - 14:15


Sadly any amount of campaigning for safety and riding aggressively, assertively or defensively isn't going to do much as the IQ in our country continues to dwindle Wink

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [237 posts]
21st August 2011 - 8:51


British Cycling, CTC and Sustrans should stand together on this issue of turning the blame toward the motorist (instead of insisting helmets, high viz etc are required) - but they are all so tied up with government funding streams they dare not bite the hand that feeds them (well not bite hard enough to make a real difference) Surprise

for me - The ride is about adventure, camaraderie and the sense of accomplishment that comes after a long day in the saddle.

Mountain-Nic's picture

posted by Mountain-Nic [119 posts]
21st August 2011 - 13:48


Thanks for the link to the Bikeaware petition - I've signed it. One can live in hope that something might happen to improve things.

posted by RuthF28 [99 posts]
21st August 2011 - 15:26


He is right about the need to ride in a certain manner. Like others have said, "defensive" is probably a better word. However, often this is even more likely to provoke road rage from aggressive drivers.

Bad road design is often more at fault, particularly with ill thought out cycle lanes where you're forced in and out of the traffic every 100 metres.

Here's a prime example, while touring over the summer holidays I got into an altercation with a boy racer in Cambridge. The provision of cycling lanes there is an example for the rest of the country, however they have this feature at some traffic islands where there is a bollard in between the kerb and the traffic island, with the cycle lane going to the left of the bollard and the road going to the right.

The trouble is that the space for the cycle lane is literally about 12 inches wide. With my big panniers my bike was too wide to go through the gap safely, so I was riding on the road section, and cycling well out to the right to make it clear to the traffic this is what I was doing, but I still copped a load of abuse from a passing nutjob who believed I should be in the "effing cycle lane" and pulled over to threaten me. If I hadn't been about a foot taller than him and pumped full of adrenalin I might have been physically attacked.

This is the sort of thing we're up against.

posted by sporran [43 posts]
22nd August 2011 - 13:17


captain_slog wrote:
I'm in the middle of my lane (primary position), as the tarmac to the left is all beaten up. Doing 20-odd mph in a 30 zone. So the car behind me goes round a traffic island in the centre of the road to overtake me on the right-hand side.

Someone did this to me on my street a few months ago whilst I was cycling at 20+mph. Too impatient to wait as I went through the artificially width restricted part of the road he passed onto the right handside. He probably accelerated to nearly 35mph in a 30mph limit.

Unfortunately there was a woman on the other side of the road who was a split second away from crossing into the pedestrian refuge. She had only looked right as she was only intending to cross half the road, which whilst not recommended, is hardly bad. If she had gone half a second earlier she would have almost certainly been killed.

I hate pedestrian refuges and traffic calming, I feel like I'm being used by the council as a moving traffic blocker.

posted by jackh [117 posts]
22nd August 2011 - 14:27

1 Like

@Sporran: "defensive" is probably a better word. However, often this is even more likely to provoke road rage from aggressive drivers.

I find that most drivers appreciate what you're doing, as long as you don't take the piss by continuing in "primary" position when there's no need to do it, especially if you ostentatiously swerve nearer to the kerb when the road gets wider.

@Jackh: I feel like I'm being used by the council as a moving traffic blocker.

Me too. I don't want to be a mobile item of traffic calming.

posted by JohnS [198 posts]
23rd August 2011 - 11:38


Part of the problem is the disproportionate sense of entitlement a small minority of drivers have, i.e. "I'm in a car, you're on a bike - get out of the effing way - you're holding me up".

Chances are they wouldn't behave like that toward someone riding a horse ...

Maybe education is the answer.

posted by John G [53 posts]
23rd August 2011 - 12:30


Aggression is the very last thing a cyclist needs to show. A cyclist needs to be assertive and ride in a defensive manner at all times. This is so very different from an aggressive style of riding. I wonder what the Police feel about this statement. I am imagining situations where cyclists are deliberately holding cars up and causing unnecessary road chaos only to then tell the Police "I was just doing what Bill Owen's told me to do". I wonder if he will pay the legal fees as well?

Angelfishsolo's picture

posted by Angelfishsolo [130 posts]
25th September 2011 - 19:08