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Assault last month came as Cambridge Cycling Campaign called for hatred of cyclists to be treated as a crime

Police in Cambridge have appealed to road users to keep their calm after a road rage incident that left a cyclist needing 13 stiches in a head wound, and are asking for help to try and trace the driver involved. Last month, Cambridge Cycling Campaign called for hatred of cyclists to be treated in a similar way to offences involving discrimination against specific groups.

Dr Ernest Turro, aged 29 and a researcher at Cambridge University, believes that the driver who assaulted him has a grudge against bike riders, although from his description of what happened, another interpretation could be that the driver took exception at a gesture made at him. The incident, which happened on the evening of 7 February, has left Dr Turro suffering form headaches, reports Cambridge News.

“I was in the cycle lane and was overtaking another cyclist,” he explained. “They were overtaking another rider so I had to pull into the carriageway. This car came out of nowhere at quite a speed and started honking his horn violently.

“I did give him the finger, as you do. He was very upset I was cycling on the carriageway. I think he had something against cyclists.

“He stopped the car and got out to wait for me so I tried to cycle away from him and went onto the pavement. He started driving again and stopped and got out. He grabbed me and ripped my coat and shoved me hard. I went over the handlebars when I hit a green electricity box and smashed my head.

“He ran off and drove away and I rode to Addenbrooke’s [Hospital]. I got 13 stitches in my head.

“I think he got scared and ran off because there were so many witnesses. I am still getting headaches every day,” he added.

The victim was able to inform police of part of the vehicle’s registration number, and Detective Constable Tom Taylor commented: “This was a nasty road rage incident and the cyclist was seriously injured.

“I am carrying out local enquiries, viewing CCTV and speaking to witnesses, but I would urge anyone who has any information to contact me.”

Cambridgeshire Police have issued an appeal for road users to remain calm, with a spokesman saying: “Road rage incidents resulting in someone becoming injured are rare.
“We would urge all road users to remain calm and if someone is in this situation to contact police when it is safe and legal to do so.”

Dr Julian Huppert, MP for Cambridge and co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, which holds the final session of its Get Britain Cycling inquiry at Westminster today, said: “This is a very worrying incident and I am sure extremely frightening for Dr Turro. My thoughts are with him and I wish him a speedy recovery.

“This incident serves to reinforce the need for all road users to do so responsibly and courteously so that they don’t put others in danger. I would urge anyone who has any information about this accident to contact the police immediately.” 

Last month, Cambridge Cycling Campaign urged that abuse of cyclists should be treated in the same way as that of other groups that have protection under the law. The appeal echoed comments made by AA president Edmund King to The Times newspaper last year, in which he said the attitude of some motorists towards cyclists “is almost like racial discrimination.”

As part of a detailed, 18-page written submission ahead of giving evidence to the fifth session of the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary inquiry last week, Cambridge Cycling Campaign said: “Hatred towards people who use a bicycle, as exemplified by the @cyclehatred Twitter feed, should be treated as a crime, in the same way discrimination of other groups is managed.”

It should be noted that the appeal was only a very small part of what was a comprehensive submission, and was not actually highlighted when members of the campiagn gave evidence last week. The points they did make appear at the end of this article.

Back in November, AA president Mr King, himself a keen cyclist, had also highlighted the @cyclehatred feed, which was set up by a cyclist to highlight examples of posts from other Twitter users that abuse or even threaten cyclists.

Mr King quoted some of those posts in an address to the Road Safety GB Annual Conference 2012 in London the same week, in which he called for an end to the “two tribes mentality” that pervades much of the road safety debate when it comes to conflict between cyclists and drivers, pointing out that most use both forms of transport.

Among those retweeted by @cyclehatred just this morning are:

‏‪@chloegthomas1
Cyclist just ask to be run over sometimes

@jimbo_04
Cyclists that take up the whole road, I hope you hit a pot hole and go straight over your handlebars

‪@LaurenMcdonnell
Why do cyclists feel the need to ride there bike in the middle of the road! Lucky there's laws against running people over ‪#knob ‪#roadrage

‪@EtiennePerkins
Don't know why cyclists in london complain about getting hit, they all drive like pricks.

Dr Huppert told Cambridge News last week that while such views were regrettable, he did not believe they represented the majority of motorists and that it was not an issue for law enforcement.

"Hatred of cyclists is not just extremely unpleasant and unnecessary it is dangerous because it causes conflict which can cause accidents,” he said.

"Fortunately, I think that this type of behaviour comes from a minority of motorists.

"As cyclists are not a defined group like ethnic minorities and these are generalised tweets, I think it is more of a safety issue rather than something the police could deal with."

The Crown Prosecution Service website outlines various categories of hate crime and the legislation that governs it, including discrimination against members of religious or ethnic groups, as well as abuse against people due to their disability or sexual orientation.

Cambridge Cycling Campaign - evidence to Parliamantary Inquiry

We need very high quality infrastructure which sells itself, and which does not need to be "promoted" by local authorities, including high quality cycle paths with proper treatment at junctions.

There should be slower speeds in urban areas, including 20mph zones. These need to be enforced and the police should be incentivized to do this. Clear guidance is needed from the DfT.

Local authorities should be empowered. In particular, the Traffic Management Act 2004 Section 6 should be activated to allow Local Authorities to enforce cycle lanes and pavement parking. There was an improvement in enforcement when Cambridgeshire took over responsibility for parking enforcement from the police, and we would like to see this extended.

There should be a consistent funding stream. In addition there should be a body at the heart of government which will push local authorities to provide high quality facilities and infrastructure. Previously we had Cycling England and its knowledgeable and enthusiastic professionals. In Cambridge, the Gilbert Road scheme happened only because local politicians saw it as part of a citywide plan which was in turn part of a national scheme. Cycling England and the knowledge it embodied are sorely missed.

In the Netherlands, the cycling network is so complete and well signed that one rarely needs a map. Signs often include a journey time to the city centre etc, which is a powerful incentive to people in cars. By contrast, the cycling network in the UK is often interrupted, for instance by major junctions, and one is often forced to use hard-to-follow back streets.

Schools require proper cycle parking. The local cycle network should provide routes directly to the school from within its catchment area. It was reported recently that one school had reduced its cycle parking to provide extra car parking for staff. This sends the wrong message; rather, local authorities should be encouraged to improve cycle paths. Furthermore, there is a health and safety culture which regards cycling as intrinsically dangerous. This is not the case - requiring students to use e.g. helmets and high visibility gear simply puts people off cycling. For many local authorities, the default picture of a cyclist is one in high vis. Cycling should be presented as a normal activity in normal clothes, backed up by work to provide proper cycling infrastructure.

The DfT should continue to fund Bikeability. In Cambridge, 70-80% of children do this, and enjoy it. It reduces parents' fears about the safety of their children. Cycling to school should be encouraged - it builds children's independence and allows them to develop road skills at an early age.

The Cambridge Cycling Campaign probably spends more than half its time dealing with planning (as opposed to transport) applications. Cambridgeshire County Council has been successful at obtaining Section 106 money from developers - this is a good way to fix problems; for instance, a new building can fund fixes on an adjacent junction. A key problem is that DfT guidance deals mainly with retrofitting cycling infrastructure onto existing roads. There is little on what to do when there is a 'blank sheet of paper'. Cambridge Cycling Campaign has written a guide on 'Cycling in New Developments' which argues that local authorities should think in terms of three networks, for walking, cycling and driving.

In Cambridge, the local authority cycling officers are hard-working and in some respects represent an 'internal lobby' within the council. However, people higher up still need to be influenced. Of course, in Cambridge many senior people cycle too.

Cambridge has a long culture of cycling. This is not just due to the presence of the university, but also to the presence of many green spaces through which one can cycle. Cycling is not just safer and quicker than alternatives, but it is also more reliable - one can get up at a certain time and still have confidence of reaching one's destination on time.

Cycling demonstration towns have been useful because they concentrated resources and enabled things to be done well.

Source: Cambridge Cycling Campaign

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.