Groups of cyclists taking to Britain’s country lanes have a powerful new ally. Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday that he’s a “big fan” of the upsurge in cycling and urged motorists to “think carefully” about how they deal with groups of riders.
Popular riding areas such as Surrey and the New Forest have been a source of complaints from locals and motorists in recent years, as club and group cycling has boomed in popularity. But the PM says local drivers should learn to live with it.
On BBC Radio Surrey & Sussex’s Danny Pike programme yesterday, Mr Cameron was asked if he welcomed the influx of cycling on to Surrey’s roads. (The interview starts at about 2:36:00 and gets to cycling topics at about 2:41:00.)
He replied: “I’m a big fan of this cycling revolution taking place in Britain. In my constituency in Oxfordshire at the weekend you just see swarms of people in lycra on their bikes. We need to be a fitter, healthier country.”
And the PM seemed as pleased - and surprised - as many long-time cycling fans that British riders have won the Tour de France.
He said: “We need to encourage sport and competitive sport and cycling’s a great sport, and we’re very good at it. When I was little the idea of British people winning the Tour de France was unthinkable and now not only are we winning the Tour de France but we’re actually going to be hosting the start of it in Yorkshire in the coming year. I think it’s very exciting.”
The Prime Minister acknowledged that some drivers struggled to know what to do when they encounter a group of cyclists on the road.
He said: “Now look, it can be challenging for drivers when you have these pelotons weaving through the roads of Sussex and Surrey but I think we should be encouraging cycling and motorists have to think carefully about how to deal with a peloton.”
The increased popularity of sportive rides in Surrey and in particular the closed-road RideLondon 100 has led to a petition calling on Surrey County Council to restrict cycling events. That petition has reached 2,958 signatures. A later counter-petition in favour of riding in the county is now at 2,547.
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.