Appearing at the trial for disrupting the 2023 UCI men's road race World Championships, one of the climate activists accused the "wider cycling community" of being complicit in climate change and ignorant about the oil and gas companies sponsoring the races.
This year's UCI men's road race from Edinburgh to Glasgow, eventually won by the Dutch ciclisimo star Mathieu van der Poel, was halted for almost an hour when four activists from the Scottish climate action group This is Rigged glued their hands to the road on the B818 road near the Carron Valley Reservoir in Stirlingshire, right before the peloton approached.
The riders were brought to a standstill between Bonnybridge and Lennoxtown, as officials and police authorities tried to negotiate with the protestors and then subsequently used a debonding chemical to free their hands.
Appearing in court in August, the four activists pleaded not guilty to causing a breach of the peace and said that they had taken the steps to draw attention to the ongoing global climate crisis.
Now on trial at the Falkirk Sheriff Court on Wednesday, the activists reiterated their reasonings and tried to explain why they were forced to take the steps they took.
21-year-old student Catriona Roberts said: "If your house is on fire and you run into the road, rooted in fear, and you block the traffic, it is not a breach of the peace."
Romane Moulin, a renewable energy software developer said that she had acted for the "greater good, being disruptive to prevent disruption to millions".
The four were eventually let off after being admonished, with 29-year-old carer Ben Taylor the only recipient of a fine of £250, reports The Telegraph.
During the proceedings, Taylor, at one point, said that the cycling race "was in itself causing rolling disruption across Scotland", adding that "the wider cycling community was complicit and ignorant about oil and gas companies sponsoring their races".
He said the climate change crisis was “now very serious” and world leaders were not acting.
Sheriff McCulloch interjected: “Some people might say if it’s the leaders you claim don’t act properly, it’s to them you should be directing your ire, not towards the UCI and the cyclists in the race.”
The course of the men's road race, starting from Edinburgh before crossing River Forth and heading south-west to Glasgow, took the riders along some of Scotland's biggest polluting plants, one of them owned by Shell and two owned by Ineos.
Shell, that has been accused of attempting to suppress the evidence of global warming, besides holding its own internal discussions about climate change for decades and even making a film on the subject in 1991*, is the main sponsor for British Cycling, with cyclists from Team GB riding the race in Scotland with the company's logo on their shoulders.
Meanwhile, Ineos sponsors the UK-based men's cycling team Ineos Grenadiers, formerly Team Sky — the wildly successful team which saw the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and even Mark Cavendish (albeit only for a year), dominate the cycling world for years.
Ineos itself is a British chemicals company founded by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, and also manufacturers the 4x4 SUV Ineos Grenadier, which the likes of former Scottish pro cyclist David Millar and Welsh Tour de France winner and Ineos rider Geraint Thomas have recently come under fire for owning.
In fact, in a statement released by This Is Rigged in the immediate aftermath of the protest, one of the four activists, Cat Roberts, said: "The fact that Ineos has been allowed to sponsor a team in the race around the Campsie Fells – which were engulfed in wildfires last month – is a disgrace and an insult to both the cycling community and the people of Scotland.
"We cannot continue with business as usual while our country burns and our futures are ruined. Time is of the essence and we need to act like it. The Scottish government must stand up to Westminster and oppose all new oil and gas, and implement a fair transition now."
The Sheriff said he accepted that all the four activists in question firmly "held views and beliefs", but protests must be "proportionate and peaceful". In his opinion, their actions were peaceful, but bringing the riders to a halt in a world championship cycling race was not a proportionate measure.
While the presence of oil and gas magnates in the world of cycling is undeniable, do you think the claim that the wider cycling community is ignorant and complicit in the global climate crisis true? Let us know in the comments...
* Regarding Shell's position on climate change and global warming, a Shell spokesperson has contacted road.cc since the first publication of this article, and supplied this statement:
The Shell Group did not have unique knowledge about climate change. The issue of climate change and how to tackle it has long been part of public discussion and ongoing scientific research for many decades; the vast public record of media articles, scientific journals and government reports over the last 50 years makes this clear.
"Shell’s position on climate change has been publicly documented for more than 30 years, including in publications such as our Annual Reports and Sustainability Reports.
The paragraph in the original article has been edited to note that Shell has been 'accused of' suppressing evidence of global warming.
Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.