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Andrew Marr aims bizarre ‘testosterone and Lycra’ dig at cyclists; “My front wheel hit the pothole and exploded instantly”; Anti-LTN MP criticised for banging on about bike lights and helmets; Mr Loophole finds another loophole + more on the live blog

It’s Tuesday and Ryan Mallon’s back with your daily dose of cycling news and views on the live blog
24 January 2023, 14:11
Andrew Marr takes up anti-cycling bingo

Welcome to the live blog, Mr Marr…

24 January 2023, 16:05
“Now do drivers”: Cyclists respond to Andrew Marr’s bizarre “too much testosterone” and “too little Lycra” tweet

 It seems that Andrew Marr’s completely unprovoked, and frankly bizarre, dig at cyclists on Twitter hasn’t gone down too well with other bird app users.

Replying to Daily Telegraph columnist Nick Timothy’s claim that “pumped-up angry cycling man is the worst of London”, the broadcaster and former host of the long-running Andrew Marr show on BBC One tweeted: “Agree. Too much testosterone squeezed into slightly too little Lycra tends to prove explosive.”

Needless to say, many Twitter users aren’t impressed with Marr’s attempt at anti-cycling bingo:

While many of those responding to Marr’s tweet expressed their shock at the broadcaster’s apparent anti-cycling attitude, he has voiced similar opinions in the past – especially when it comes to the implementation of active travel measures in London.

While interviewing the city’s mayor Sadiq Khan on LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr show in March last year, the former BBC host responded to Khan’s aim to encourage people to use bikes instead of cars for shorter journeys by saying: “All very well if you can cycle.”

“If you can't cycle it's really hard to get around London,” Marr continued.

“Bit by bit you’re trying to get ordinary car users out of London, and it seems to a lot of people that there is an underlying, secretive plan to get cars out of London.”

Hmmm, that tweet is starting to make some sense now…

24 January 2023, 16:54
But cyclists…
Live blog comments 24 Jan 23

 

24 January 2023, 15:24
Protesters who blocked Tour de France stage receive suspended €500 fine

The six climate activists who brought the Tour de France to a stop on stage 19 from Castelnau-Magnoac to Cahors – the third and final environmental protest of the 2022 Tour – have received a €500 fine, suspended, from a court in Auch, La Depeche reports.

The Dernière Rénovation campaigners could have faced two years in prison for disrupting the race by blocking the road, but in November prosecutor Jacques-Edouard Andrault requested a €500 fine, €300 of which would be suspended, as the activists’ “unexpected action could have been dangerous for cyclists and motorcyclists”.

> “They’re protesting about a good thing”: Tour de France riders, organisers and journalists react to climate protest

Speaking in court, one of the defendants, a student named Nicolas, justified the group’s actions by pointing to the current climate emergency.

“Nobody wants to do this,” he told the court. “But the situation is so catastrophic. I don’t can’t project myself into a world that continues like this.”

24 January 2023, 14:48
Ah, I really wish the half bike had caught on…
24 January 2023, 13:33
Patrick-Lefevere
Soudal Quick-Step boss questions Mark Cavendish’s decision to carry on racing and accuses Julian Alaphilippe of “hiding behind” injury and illness

Soudal Quick-Step’s notoriously outspoken boss Patrick Lefevere has continued his annual tradition of aiming parting shots at outgoing riders while lambasting his current stars with a few well-prepared snipes in the press.

After all, this is the man who once claimed that his green jersey winning sprinter Sam Bennett represented the “pinnacle of mental weakness” and that the Irish rider’s return to Bora-Hansgrohe was “like women who return home after domestic abuse” – so we shouldn’t be too surprised when he crops up with yet another self-manufactured controversy in the Belgian media.

This year’s victims of Lefevere’s publicity-hungry remarks are Mark Cavendish and, surprisingly, two-time world champion Julian Alaphilippe.

2023 Mark Cavendish Wilier Filante Astana - 20.jpeg

Cavendish in his new Astana colours after leaving Quick-Step

Speaking to Het Laatste Nieuws at the weekend, the Soudal Quick-Step manager seemed sceptical about Cavendish’s chances of success at his new Astana team, and revealed that he warned the British champion about continuing his career after leaving the Belgian outfit.

“Some people listen, others don’t. Cavendish’s story is that he still can’t do without the racing bike. That's his right. But I don't know if that's wise”, he said.

Julian Alaphilippe (Copyright A.S.O. Gautier Demouveaux)

Credit: A.S.O./Gautier Demouveaux

In another interview published today, this time with Sporza, Lefevere also claimed that he held crunch talks with one of his star riders, Alaphilippe, following the 30-year-old’s difficult 2022.

The usually dazzling French star endured a torrid season in the rainbow jersey, punctuated by high-speed crashes at Strade Bianche, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and the Vuelta a España, as well as a bout of Covid-19.

However, Lefevere seems to have dismissed what he regards as Alaphilippe’s “excuses” in a face-to-face meeting held over the winter, though the Frenchman has recently denied that any such encounter took place.

“He says we didn't have that conversation, I say we did. His wife and his manager were there,” Lefevere told Sporza.

“I told him I was not happy at all. I understand his illnesses and falls, but you can’t keep hiding behind that. It was the cool truth.

“Everyone knows that I do not attack injured riders, but if there is a high price tag attached to it, then I can respond.

“Last year he won two times, the years before three and four times. I didn’t take him into the team for that.”

24 January 2023, 12:44
Basel red light study (picture credit VDB)
“It would not be on my list of things that would make cycling safer”: Readers divided over calls to allow cyclists to ride through red lights

Yesterday – just in case you missed it – we reported on a discussion currently ongoing between Scotland’s cycling campaigners concerning the  road safety implications of potentially allowing cyclists to ride through red lights.

> Should cyclists be allowed to ride through red lights? Campaigners split on safety benefits

Well, judging by the reaction to the story, it seems that the possibility of allowing cyclists to continue through red lights (after giving way to pedestrians) has not only divided Scotland’s cycling groups, but our readers as well.

Here’s a selection of some of your thoughts on Twitter:

And finally, after all that hypothetical discussion, someone bumps us back down to earth:

24 January 2023, 12:13
Mr Loophole finds another loophole

Another example from yesterday’s Daily Mail of everyone’s favourite road safety lawyer (and snazzy jumper wearer) Nick Freeman fighting the good fight:

So basically: ‘We’re definitely not saying do this – in fact it’s terrible the government hasn’t done anything about this seemingly quite easy way to avoid a ticket. We really need to close this loophole that people like, I don’t know, our readers could use themselves...’

> Mr Loophole tells drivers to make giving cyclists more room their New Year's resolution

24 January 2023, 11:46
Drivers: ‘You’re blinding us with your helmet light!’ Also drivers:
24 January 2023, 10:35
“It’s the job of local authorities to create roads that are safe for these children to cycle on”: Anti-LTN MP criticised for banging on about bike lights and helmets in parliament

Independent MP and prominent anti-LTN campaigner Rupa Huq has been criticised by local councillors and cyclists for – once again – bringing up bike lights and helmets in parliament.

Yesterday in the House of Commons, the MP for Ealing Central and Acton – who in 2021 used viral footage of a tree falling over in a London suburb to call for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods to be scrapped – asked the Secretary of State for Transport “whether he has taken recent steps to help encourage cyclists to (a) wear helmets and (b) turn on bicycle lights when cycling in the dark”.

Avid readers of the live blog will recall that this is not the first time that Huq has spoken out about cyclists not using lights.

In January 2021, she responded to a Twitter user pointing out how many people had been out cycling, walking, and scooting in an LTN in Ealing by bizarrely tweeting “Bully for you! Hope they all had lights – been pitch black other [sic] there for a good couple of hours”.

> Anti-LTN MP criticised for directing hate with bizarre cyclists need lights tweet

The MP (who is currently suspended from the Labour party after referring to then-Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng in September as “superficially black”) has long been a vocal critic of LTNs – which she claimed should require a referendum – and other active travel schemes, and once described the “Lycra brigade” as “surprisingly vicious”.

Responding to Huq’s question, Jesse Norman, a minister in the Department for Transport, said: “The THINK! road safety campaign promotes best practice in cycling, including wearing helmets and the correct use of bicycle lights.

“The THINK! website also provides educational resources for children, such as Tales of the Road, which encourages helmet-wearing and reinforces the importance of using bicycle lights from a young age.”

According to Labour councillor, and active travel activist, Jo Rigby, Norman’s response should be the end of the matter.

“It’s the answer not the question that is important here,” the Balham councillor tweeted. “The government is clearly stating that it supports children cycling on roads in the UK. They have created a website. 

“It’s the job of local authorities to create roads that are safe for these children to cycle on.”

While Rigby argues that Norman’s response is more important than Huq’s rather predictable question, the suspended Labour MP’s “out of touch” stance on active travel still came in for some criticism:

24 January 2023, 09:53
Speaking of potholes that need urgently sorted…
24 January 2023, 09:31
“My front wheel hit the pothole and exploded instantly,” says junior European champion, as calls intensify for urgent improvements to roads

Another day, another ‘cyclists crash due to the awful state of the UK’s roads’ story…

While this winter has proven that there is indeed a ‘pothole crisis’ sweeping the nation – with potentially serious, tragic consequences – the problem appears particularly acute in the New Forest, where cyclists have intensified their calls for urgent improvements to the area’s roads.

> Is there a pothole crisis on Britain's roads?

Last weekend, two cyclists enjoying a Sunday group ride – including current European junior points race champion Izzy Sharp – crashed after hitting a pothole just outside the Hampshire village of Pilley.

The pothole, which was several inches deep and obscured by a puddle, caused one of the riders, Oliver Berney, to suffer a broken wrist, as well as concussion and a chipped tooth, while Sharp sprained her wrist and wrecked her bike.

“My front wheel hit it and it just exploded instantly and indented my rim. It sent me on to the grass,” says 17-year-old Sharp, who – along with her European title – enjoyed a successful 2022, picking up worlds medals on the track, as well as a top five at the junior Gent-Wevelgem and tenth in the junior time trial at the road worlds in Wollongong.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @izzysharp__

Berney, who hit the pothole right after it sent Sharp sprawling, told the BBC: “I looked ahead and thought I recognised my friend sat by the side of the road and that’s the last thing I remember because I hit the same pothole she had done.

“The most significant thing is the concussion – I can’t look at screens and no exercise for a couple of weeks.”

Criticising the state of Hampshire’s roads, Berney continued: “I’ve raced all over the world – there is a noticeable difference in the quality of roads abroad to here, and a noticeable difference in the roads in the New Forest to the rest of the country.”

> Wife of “much loved” cyclist who died after wheel got stuck in nine-inch pothole says government must do more to repair “woefully inadequate” roads

While one thoughtful cyclist placed a cone over the pothole to prevent further injuries, Hampshire County Council said that the road would be fixed immediately.

The local authority claimed that the recent increase in road defects was the result of prolonged spells of heavy rain and freezing temperatures and that it was “prioritising the most urgent, including those that pose a safety risk”.

“We can confirm that repairs have been ordered and these should be completed by the end of the week,” a spokesperson said.

> "Same question every winter": Cyclists slam "disgraceful" state of Britain's pothole-covered roads

While the council’s response may appear immediate, cycling lawyer Rory McCarron pointed out on Twitter yesterday the defect on Pilley’s Bull Hill which caused the two riders to crash last week was actually first reported to the council way back in January 2021:

Ryan joined road.cc 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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