A leading British cyclist has warned women not to cycle alone in less busy areas, after she was recently attacked on two separate occasions while training on her own.
Jennifer George, a two-time Scottish road race champion who finished eleventh at last week’s British time trial championships, was intimidated by two men on a motorbike while riding alone near Oxted in April.
According to George, the men rode directly at her from the opposite side of the road in a game of ‘chicken’. After dodging them, she then sheltered in a nearby café car park.
After being left shaken by the incident, the 39-year-old avoided long solo rides for eight weeks, and cycled only with companions or for short distances.
However, on her first long training ride since the scare she was again threatened by two men on mopeds near Sevenoaks, Kent.
The cyclist told the Times that she thought to herself: “Oh God, it’s not going to happen again.” This time, the moped riders stared at George as they passed before returning five minutes later, slowing down beside the cyclist while continuing to eye her up and down.
Seeking help, George says she rang on a doorbell, and the two men scarpered. However, with no one home, she was forced to hide in the garden for half an hour, fearing that the moped riders were waiting to ambush her.
George rode for the Drops Cycling Team in 2016, when she finished fifth in the British road race championships and took seventh at the Tour de Yorkshire, and now works part-time as a DS at the AWOL O’Shea team.
She says that the back-to-back incidents, which both took place around noon, have changed her approach to cycling. She now intends to ride with a live camera after previously wearing a tracker, and says she feels unsafe while stopping to fix a puncture by the side of the road, and hides behind a hedge to avoid being seen.
“I’ve never been so scared in my life”, she admitted.
“I had a complete meltdown. I don’t feel safe anymore. Now I ride with one eye over my shoulder, one eye forward, not trusting anybody.
“It really should not be the case that women need to be with people to be secure. I think that, at the moment, when we are being targeted, it is going to be safer to ride with other people.”
She also noted that cyclists have been slow to realise that they can be targets for criminals.
She said: “A bicycle is seen as an expensive item, like wearing a really expensive watch, and if you’re not aware, there are bad people out there that will try and steal it from you.”
In April we reported that a woman was held down and had her bike stolen by two men in Surrey, two weeks before George’s first incident near Oxted, as multiple reports emerged of a moped gang seemingly targeting lone female cyclists.
The cyclist was sat on Beddlestead Lane, near Warlingham in Surrey, when she was approached by two men on a scooter.
Surrey Police say the incident, which happened between 1.40pm and 2.15pm, saw the victim held to the ground while the offenders made off with her bike down Clarks Lane.
George, who admitted that she was worried whether the men on the motorbike near Oxted were “only after my bike”, was asked by the Times if she feared that the attackers intended to assault her.
“I don’t want to think about it,” she replied. “It seemed like a lifetime... but probably only took three or four minutes.”
The 39-year-old has reported both incidents to the police, but has yet to receive updates of any progress in finding the perpetrators. She has called on British Cycling to issue more alerts concerning potential threats from criminals.
Nick Chamberlin, policy manager at British Cycling, said: “We’re deeply concerned by reports of cyclists being targeted in this way and are working with police forces, local authorities and others to ensure that the issue is addressed and that the criminals responsible are brought to justice.
“While we will continue to alert our members to spikes in incidents in particular areas of the country, it is our view that no rider should ever need to fear for their personal safety or property when out on their bike and it is vital that our police forces are properly equipped and instructed to tackle the issue before any more riders experience such terrifying incidents.”
In October 2021, professional cyclist Alexandar Richardson – who finished third at Sunday’s British road race championships, won by Mark Cavendish – was knocked off his bike and threatened by a gang with a machete in Richmond Park, in southwest London.
The then-Alpecin Fenix rider said at the time that the attacks were “becoming a common occurrence in parts of London”, with the gang taking his team-issue Canyon Aeroad.
It was the second violent robbery in the park within 24 hours, after the owner of a 2021 Cannondale System Six was pushed off his bike by two balaclava-clad men on an electric scooter.
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.