Police have issued an appeal after a group of teenagers pushed a cyclist into the Grand UnionCanal in west London last week. The rider concerned, who lives on a narrowboat, says he plans to move out of the capital because he believes some sections of towpath have become “no-go areas.”
The incident happened at around 6.30pm on Tuesday evening outside Brindley House, Alfred Road, W2, a short way west of Little Venice.
According to the Metropolitan Police, who said that no arrests had yet been made, the suspects are black males aged in their late teens or early 20s.
They added: ”Any witnesses that haven't already spoken to police, or anyone with any information about the suspects, is asked to contact the CID at Charing Cross Police Station via 101,” or the charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
The cyclist, Peter Bettell, aged 53, had been returning from his work in the West End to his houseboat which is moored at Kensal Rise gave the Evening Standard his description of what had happened.
“I was cycling home along the towpath and saw this group who looked really menacing. I thought of turning back but I guessed that these people fight other gangs and would not worry me.
"The next thing I knew I was in the water struggling to breathe. I was attached to the pedals of my bike with clips so struggled to release them. It was touch and go whether I could get out.
"Then a young girl hauled me out. I don’t know how she did it I am 13st and she was not that big - it was a superhuman effort. Thanks to her I was on the towpath and someone called an ambulance. The gang left me for dead. She probably saved my life.”
Mr Bettell, who was treated in hospital for cuts and bruises, now plans to move his boat away from London, recounting how a gang – the same one, he believes, that attacked him – stretched a rope across the towpath from his boat, causing a cyclist to crash.
“Enough is enough, I am leaving London,” he said. “It’s too dangerous. I had never argued with this group or had anything to do with them. They did not mug me, it was violence for the sake of violence.
"All my life I have lived in London, and now I will have to commute,” he added. “We should not have to live like this. There should not be no-go areas in London.”
The planned Westway section of the East-West Cycle Superhighway, currently under consultation, would enable many cyclists who may use the towpath as part of their commute to avoid the section where last week’s attack took place, depending on their final destination.
According to road.cc sources, there are concerns among residents of London’s waterways, many of whom use a bicycle to get around, that last week’s attack may have been part of a gang initiation ritual.
Last week, the Metropolitan Police received three separate reports on the same evening of riders who believed they had been the targets of attempted bike-jackings on the River Lea in East London.
In May last year, a gang of youths pushed a female cyclist into the Regent’s Canal in Limehouse, also in East London.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.