Sir Bradley Wiggins says that London’s cyclists need to stick to the rules of the road or face the authorities enforcing the law, and that those who ignore the Highway Code have no right to complain about the behaviour of other road users.
Speaking to the London Evening Standard last week, the four-time Olympic champion and 2012 Tour de France winner said that with the launch of his range of children’s bikes, “I have a responsibility and duty to help educate people.”
He took aim at bike riders who flout the law, saying: “We are seeing a boom in cycling but it’s how we all coexist that is important. Cyclists have to help themselves by behaving.
"With traffic volumes and emissions going up, people are starting to use cycling as a means of transport more but we won’t see the full cycling legacy of the Olympics for 10 years and we have to ask; what will London look like in the future?
“This might be the beginnings of an Amsterdam or Copenhagen but everyone abiding by the rules and co-existing is key. New cycle lanes are great but you always get cyclists who give a bad name to the rest; people who jump the kerbs, jump red lights and ride around with iPods so you can’t hear the rest of the traffic. You would not do that in a car so why would you on a bike?
“You do not have a right to complain how you’re being treated on the road unless you apply the rules yourself,” he continued.
“Traffic lights are there for a reason. Jumping traffic lights ... you get run over by traffic coming the other way. The next morning that’s another cyclist that’s died. They are termed under the phrase ‘cyclist’ but they’re not cyclists as such, they are not membership holders of British Cycling.
“The roads are free to cyclists and that right should never be taken away, one of the reasons for the boom in participation is that it’s so accessible and free.
"If cycling continues growing and people continue [with the bad behaviour] there will have to be rules put in place to control people. Cycling is a free activity that is accessible and with very little effort - in terms of adhering to the rules – the rewards are great,” he added.
Wiggins’ words are bound to prove contentious.
Some would point out that motorists do commonly drive through red lights or mount the footway, and that the potential consequences of doing so are much more serious than when a cyclist commits a similar offence.
Yet a lifetime ban from driving is rarely imposed, one recent example being a Belfast motorist who had been convicted of drink-driving 17 times, among 276 previous convictions.
There are of course already rules in place to govern cyclists’ behaviour, set out in the Highway Code with the applicable legislation highlighted in the excellent Cycling and the Law article on the BikeHub website – and most adult cyclists do hold a driving licence and are shown consistently in surveys to be more likely than the average person to have one.
It’s not the first time that Wiggins, who in late 2012 was knocked off his bike by a van driver while on a training ride near his home in Lancashire, has spoken out on legal issues relating to cyclists on Britain’s roads.
In 2013, he said that cycle helmets should be made compulsory – although earlier this year, he was photographed riding a Boris Bike in London without one.
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.