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‘It’s got worse since the Highway Code changes’: Essex cyclists bemoan ‘aggressive’ driving and increased ‘fear factor’; Roubaix reaction; Is London’s cycling infrastructure better than Paris?; Cycling helps you live longer + more on the live blog

It’s good to be back! After a delightful Easter weekend spent riding the bike, watching Paris-Roubaix and stockpiling mini eggs, Ryan Mallon is back at the helm for the first live blog of the week
19 April 2022, 16:50
“It’s not worse, but it’s certainly not better”: Readers react to Essex cyclists ‘fearing for their lives’

Before I head out for an evening spin in the sunshine, here’s a quick summary of our readers’ reactions to this morning’s story about cycling in Essex.

Speaking to BBC Essex this morning, one local club chairperson argued that driving in the county has deteriorated since the Highway Code changes and that some experienced cyclists have even moved to Suffolk because they ‘fear for their lives’ on Essex roads.

Here’s what you thought:

In semi-rural Hertfordshire, my experience these last few weeks has been generally of much more pleasant and relaxed cycle rides. More full across the road overtakes, more car drivers hanging back and giving more space where there is no prospect of a safe overtake. Not a single incident worth mentioning from hours of video. Maybe all the hysteria in the media actually got a significant number of drivers to refresh their understanding?

Agree, I feel the same on my rides around Somerset/Dorset. It's noticeable how many more cars are completely over onto the opposite lane when overtaking. Long may it continue.

I've not noticed it's gotten worse since the Highway code changes, but it’s certainly not gotten any better. I think any Essex based cycling club members moving to Suffolk might be disappointed that things aren't that different across the border for them.

I would never cycle anywhere in Essex south or west of a line from Harwich/Dovercourt to Colchester and across to Braintree and Bishop's Stortford. Essentially south of the A120.

South Tendring/Clacton etc crazy. Driving deteriorates the closer to London you get.

Generally agree; 8-10 miles North of the East West conurbations that run along the Thames from London to Southend can be good; south of that line and it is classic "commuter" mentality; overpopulated, too little time given for journeys, poor infrastructure and the general arrogance of some drivers makes it unpleasant.

I’ve ridden to Clacton & Harwich several times and across as far as Halstead, certainly below that A120 line though not much further south into Essex, and whilst there’s a definite “okay Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore” vibe to the roads and driving standard in Essex, and I’ve certainly been on the receiving end of some rotten overtakes & close passes there, it’s not felt that different really to some of the roads there are in Suffolk too.

So I don’t know where those Chelmer club cyclists have moved to but we’ve probably got just as many miles of roads, but even fewer police in the traffic team covering the area with the same mix of impatient drivers in some parts not willing to give cyclists an inch on narrow roads.

Others weren’t impressed with one BBC Essex listener’s assertion that cyclists were the “most selfish people on the road”:

I am not in Essex but I am one of the most selfish people on the road. I haven't bought a car despite being perfectly qualified to do so and I persist in riding in the road on a bike.

Does that make me entitled, a "failure in life" (thanks Maggie!), a MAMIL, a virtue-signalling eco-w*****, a pain in the backside for people just trying to get from A to B/doing their jobs or all of the above?

P.S. I'm not above using the cycling infrastructure if it's there/fit for purpose. Hint, hint.

Of all the stupid anti-cycling arguments/remarks, the “entitled/selfish cyclist” is the one that winds me up the most. If you really drill down to it and get drivers to explain what they mean by that, it’s usually something along the lines of “you held me up because you wouldn’t let me gamble with your life so that I could get to the next red light 10 seconds faster” or “My journey is more important than your journey because I’m in a motorised armchair and you’re on a toy”.

They genuinely don’t see the irony of them calling us selfish/entitled.

Pretty much every time a driver complains that cyclists are 'entitled' they are just revealing their own sense of entitlement.

19 April 2022, 16:24
Every Little Helps...
19 April 2022, 16:15
Poll result: Turns out it was the fan’s fault…
Poll result - Yves Lampaert Paris-Roubaix crash

Oh, you’re an unforgiving lot…

Though one of our readers pointed out that we ignored a possible fourth option for the poll: “The race organisers, for the half-assed 'barriered (not barriered)' approach they take on this stretch.”

I know we always say that placing barriers along the whole route to prevent encroaching fans having an influence on the race is beyond most, if not all, race organisers, but surely ASO has the resources to at least line that 1.4km sector with barriers?

19 April 2022, 15:43
Geraint Thomas get hitched… Ah, it’s the other one

In a wonderful moment for confusing Twitter handles everywhere, Geraint Thomas got married over the weekend.

No, not the currently married, father-of-one who rides for Ineos – the lecturer from South Wales who beat the 2018 Tour de France winner to Twitter by a year, thus securing the coveted no-numbers handle and 13 years of adoration from well-meaning but confused cycling fans.

How lovely. Reports that the ‘real’ G attended the ceremony have yet to be confirmed…

19 April 2022, 14:56
Roubaix reaction, part three: Jumbo-Visma and the curious case of the rapidly folding wheels, plus Asgreen loses part of his ear...

Last Roubaix reaction post, I promise…

But, as cycling writers Katy Madgwick and Sadhbh O’Shea say, it’s the gift that keeps on giving:

This afternoon’s latest instalment of ‘Dude, what exactly happened at Roubaix?’ features the reasons behind Wout van Aert’s troubles in the heart of the Arenberg forest, which before now were seemingly lost in the foggy, drunken haze of Roubaix Sunday.

While Van Aert looked impressively strong for a man who is just recovering from a bout of Covid last week, it briefly seemed – to us fans watching on TV – that the Belgian champion had bitten off more than he could chew as the race entered the foreboding, tree-lined stretch of hell known as the Trouée d'Arenberg.

However, as the Jumbo-Visma rider began to pick his way through the scattered remains of the peloton, emerging from the trench riding a bike clad in the Dutch tricolour, it was clear that bad legs weren’t the source of Van Aert’s woes.

New footage was shared this afternoon on Twitter of the reasons behind WVA’s Arenberg troubles, as his rear wheel folded into a banana over the rough, misshapen ‘baby’s head’ cobbles.

Fortunately, Timo Roosen was on hand with his bike to send his leader on his way to an eventual second place behind Dylan van Baarle.

Van Aert’s teammate Christophe Laporte also suffered a similar back wheel mishap, which forced him to expertly keep the bike under control like a junior Moto GP rider before ‘Froome-ing’ it up the road…

I’m not sure Jumbo’s wheel supplier Shimano will be too happy with these videos doing the rounds…

Although, if one of your wheels is going to collapse, it better be the back one.

And at least both riders emerged unscathed, unlike poor Kasper Asgreen, who reportedly lost part of his ear in a crash before the riders had even reached the cobbles.

Paris-Roubaix? Bloody hell.

19 April 2022, 14:44
Some in-depth analysis from Liam of Van Baarle's suitably epic Strava data from Sunday...
19 April 2022, 14:26
Omni Calculator Bike Life Gain tool
Who wants to live forever? Well, cycling can help

Filippo Ganna may have crudely predicted earlier today that racing Paris-Roubaix will take 40 years off a pro, but it turns out that riding your bike for just half an hour every day could add a whole year to your life.

That’s according to the calculator repository Omni Calculator, who came up with a ‘Biking Life Gain’ tool to “evaluate how much longer you’ll live on average if you cycle on a regular basis”.

The site’s equations are based on a study conducted by researchers at the University of Utrecht’s Healthy Urban Living programme, which gathered data about the transport choices of 50,000 people living in the Netherlands.

According to the study, people who rode a bike for around 75 minutes a week saw their life expectancy increase by six months compared to those who didn’t. Not too shabby.

Obviously, the results of the calculator – which can be accessed at this link – are only estimates based on the riding habits of Dutch commuter cyclists, but they may be handy to keep in the back of your mind next time you’re soaked to the skin while riding home from work in horrible traffic…

19 April 2022, 13:45
Hot take of the day: London has better cycling infrastructure than Paris
19 April 2022, 11:58
“Attitudes like this are how so many people die on the roads”
19 April 2022, 11:39
Just Like Wout’s Thumb’s Blues (and more Roubaix reaction)

They don’t call Paris-Roubaix the ‘Hell of the North’ for nothing, as Wout van Aert (and his battered hands) can attest:

Filippo Ganna, who was besieged by bad luck despite looking strong, appears to have only started to recover from Sunday’s epic, tweeting this morning: “Do you want to age 40 years in two days? Bones broken, cramps in arms and hands… I have what you need, for the modest sum of one Paris-Roubaix.”

Luckily for Top Ganna, his Ineos team was in electric form, with Dutchman Dylan van Baarle soloing to victory in the Vélodrome André-Pétrieux to crown a breakthrough spring campaign for the British team.

And check out Van Baarle’s mammoth numbers during what was the fastest ever edition of the Queen of the Classics. Those figures even include the neutralised zone…

Are Ineos the new Quick Step?

After years of drone-like domination at the Tour de France, the emergence of the Slovenian superstars Roglič and Pogačar has forced a rethink within the winning machine formerly known as Team Sky.

Far removed from the one-note grand tour mountain train of the Froome years, this latest iteration of the British squad is an enterprising, attacking outfit full of young, multi-talented and dynamic riders.

They took Roubaix by the scruff of the neck, blowing the race apart early on in the crosswinds and then making sure they were always on the front foot and had numbers as the race reached its climax.

Van Baarle’s win – his team’s first at Roubaix – capped off a sensational classics campaign (which included second place in Flanders for the Dutchman) and a remarkable eight-day run which also saw Michał Kwiatkowski dramatically take Amstel Gold and 19-year-old Magnus Sheffield win Brabantse Pijl.

And let’s not forget perhaps the breakout star of the spring, Ben Turner. The 22-year-old has been Ineos’ secret weapon throughout the cobbled races and looked assured all day during his first senior Paris-Roubaix, eventually finishing eleventh despite an unfortunate late crash.

I reckon it won’t be too long before the lad from Doncaster takes a monument of his own…

Is there a more deserving winner of Paris-Roubaix than Elisa Longo Borghini?

The 30-year-old Italian champion took the second women’s edition of the Hell of the North with a stunning and dogged 30-kilometre solo raid after another textbook display of teamwork and tactics by Trek-Segafredo (they’re pretty good at this Roubaix malarkey, aren’t they?).

One of the peloton’s most consistent riders, and one of the most entertaining too, Longo Borghini’s difficult spring was put to bed with her win at Roubaix, her cobblestone trophy now resting nicely alongside her career victories at Flanders, Stade Bianche and Trofeo Alfredo Binda.

Finally, chapeau to our man on the ground, Liam Cahill, who documented the whole Roubaix weekend, from the recces and all the latest tech to the velodrome, for (with a few beers thrown in for good measure).

Not that I’m jealous at all…

19 April 2022, 10:37
Should electric bikes be speed limited?

Another poll, from Twitter this time, on whether electric bikes – which for now can only provide assistance up to 15.5mph in the UK – should be speed limited:

> Should e-bike speeds be increased? Petition launched to raise assisted speed to 20mph in the UK

Here are a few of the responses so far:

All these polls, you’d think there were elections coming up…

19 April 2022, 09:54
POLL: Yves of Destruction – who was at fault for Lampaert crash?

Yes, I know it’s Tuesday, I know Flèche Wallonne is tomorrow… But since we didn’t have a live blog yesterday, I believe it’s only fair to include a post (or three) about that spectacular Easter weekend of drama and dust at Paris-Roubaix…

One moment that will certainly keep cycling tongues wagging long after that last chocolate egg is gone was Yves Lampaert’s collision with a spectator on the penultimate sector of cobbles at Hem.

The Quick Step-Alpha Vinyl rider was chasing eventual winner Dylan van Baarle alongside the indefatigable Matej Mohorič with eight kilometres to go when an applauding fan on the roadside, unaware that Lampaert was about to cut in on the smooth tarmac section, clipped his handlebars, causing the Belgian to spectacularly hit the deck.

Lampaert, who looked set to take a podium place at the time of his crash, was forced to ride a neutral service bike for a spell, eventually taking tenth in the Roubaix velodrome.

Visibly frustrated at the finish, Lampaert called the fan a “calf” and told the media: “If you don’t know anything about the race, then stay at home”.

The Belgian’s boss, Patrick Lefevere, who has overseen a torrid spring classics campaign for his usually dominant Quick Step outfit, was – rather predictably – even more forthright.

“The problem is that these people are not reasonable. These riders are suffering for 250km, living for weeks for this race, and one stupid guy blows it up. He sleeps well tonight, no worries but for Yves: this is a disaster,” Lefevere said of the clapping spectator, referencing the infamous ‘Opi-Omi’ incident at last year’s Tour de France, where a sign-waving fan took out Tony Martin, causing a massive crash in the peloton.

“What can you do? With my background from 30 to 40 years ago, I think I would have turned back, taken my bike and hit him on the head, but you can’t do that.

“He could have a fine of maybe €1,000. He might need a lawyer but that will be it. I hope he doesn’t sleep this evening.”

However, while most in the cycling world were quick to condemn the fan, an alternative view of the crash – captured by another spectator’s phone – adds some ambiguity and nuance to proceedings (hoodafunkit?).

From this other angle, Lampaert appears to quickly dive off the cobbles into the tarmac section, taking the fan, who tries to retreat, by surprise.

So, what do you think? Who is to blame (if anybody) for Yves’ unfortunate fall? Should fans be more aware of riders approaching and the dangers they pose from the roadside? Should riders – especially on the slightly barriered section at Hem – be more cautious about ducking and weaving on and off the cobbles? Or is it simply, to quote Abe Simpson, a little from column A and a little from column B?


19 April 2022, 09:01
Car parking in the middle of the road or cycle lanes? Quite the quandary…
19 April 2022, 08:24
‘It’s got worse since the Highway Code changes’: Essex cyclists bemoan ‘aggressive’ driving and increased cycling ‘fear factor’

The chairperson of an Essex cycling club has claimed that experienced club members have moved to Suffolk because they ‘feared for their lives’ while riding their bikes on the county’s roads.

Russell Tribley, a coach at Chelmer Cycling Club, also told BBC Essex that the recent revisions to the Highway Code have coincided with more instances of aggressive driving and close passes.

Tribley was speaking as part of a segment on cycling in the county on Sonia Watson’s BBC Essex radio programme this morning.

Watson also interviewed contributor Laura Laker, who in a series of articles for the site has noted the inherent dangers of cycling and lack of police numbers on what she calls “some of the country’s most dangerous roads”, as Essex gears up to host the RideLondon 100 leisure event this year, alongside the three-day women’s WorldTour race.

> RideLondon: Essex urged to focus on road safety ahead of revamped sportive

“I would love to cycle on Essex roads,” Laker told Watson, “and I’m sure Essex residents don’t necessarily want to take the car for every journey… but something does need to change.

“I think infrastructure is really important. We need safe streets, cycle lanes, but we also need education from the police. The police are just drastically under resourced in Essex. I spoke to the head of roads policing in Essex and he said there were seven police officers across the 5,000 miles of Essex roads on ‘a good day’, and it’s just not enough.

“There are people using their mobile phones at the wheel, and if you’re not caught, the standard just drops and drops, and that’s what we’ve seen in Essex unfortunately.”

Concurring with Laker’s view of the situation on Essex roads, Tribley argued that the recent revisions to the Highway Code, designed to protect the most vulnerable road users, have done little to help the county’s cyclists.

“Changes to the Highway Code haven’t helped,” he said. “In fact, this year we feel it’s gotten worse – the aggression of some drivers, not everybody obviously, has gotten worse.

“There is more close passing than ever; wing mirrors clipping the elbows of our club riders when riding single file. And oncoming riders on the Essex country lanes. The lanes are narrow – absolutely fantastic to cycle in, this weekend there were lots of cyclists out on the roads – but oncoming cars not slowing down, forcing you into the verges."

> Is Essex ready for RideLondon? Police defends silence over road safety issues

The coach also claimed that the levels of dangerous driving in Essex have forced experienced cyclists to move out of the county, as well as having a detrimental impact on those who took up cycling over the past decade.

He said: “We’ve had two members recently, experienced cyclists, who have actually sold up and moved to Suffolk because they’re just fed up with the driving standards and fearing for their safety on the Essex roads. They’ve moved to Suffolk primarily because they fear for their lives cycling.

“After the 2012 Olympics and the 2014 Tour de France coming to Essex, we saw a massive increase in cycling from that legacy, and our cycling club doubled in membership. But it’s not a coincidence that since that initial wave – and again, with the beginning of the pandemic – those numbers have tailed off. And again, I think it’s that fear factor.”

Unsurprisingly, quite a few listeners texted in to criticise the behaviour of cyclists in Essex, with one texter claiming that cyclists “are the most selfish people on the roads”.

However, one non-cyclist wrote in to point out that dangerous driving in the county not only affects cyclists, but horse riders and pedestrians as well, and argued that “we take our lives in our hands when we leave the front drive”.

Calling all Essex cyclists in the comments – what do you think? Do you agree with Russell? Have you noticed an increase in close passes and dangerous driving since the Highway Code changes? Let us know. 

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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