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North Yorkshire Councillor Patmore in anti-cyclist tirade

18th July 2018

An extraordinary anti-cyclist tirade by North Yorkshire Councillor Caroline Patmore was reported in the Telegraph yesterday. The newspaper says signs asking riders to cycle in single file are being put up on narrow routes in the Yorkshire Dales, and the councillor's comments were made in that context.

Although it is not clear from the Telegraph report, Councillor Patmore's remarks were made at a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council's Transport, Economy and Environment scrutiny committe. She said of people riding bikes in North Yorkshire, 'All they do is speed and it's not just two abreast - sometimes it's three or four on very narrow roads. It is not good for motorists following them up a hill. When you do overtake them you get a rude gesture.'

The Councillor continued, 'It is called road rage. We have very wide lorries and farm vehicles, and there really is not room on the roads for cyclists and these wide vehicles.'

North Yorkshire councillor Patmore in anti-cyclist tirade: an opinion

'All they do is speed...'

It's quite silly to accuse cyclists of speeding, and in the next breath talk about overtaking them. It is a truth universally acknowledged, that in order to overtake someone, you have to be going faster than them.

The way Councillor speaks about 'cyclists' and says 'they' do this and 'they' do that, is classic othering - treating a person or a group of people as intrinsically different from and alien to oneself. In truth, the people she sees riding bikes also sometimes drive cars, take the train, and walk; they have family and friends, and many of them will have responsible jobs and lots of interests.

It's not helpful to speak about 'them' as if 'they' were a different species.

The Highway Code's rules on riding two abreast are adequate. It's fine unless it's a narrow or busy road, or when riding round a bend. I'm sure lots of people don't know the rules - particularly the people who get steamed up about it. If Councillor Patmore sees people riding next to each other, the chances are they having a nice chat.

'It's not good for motorists following them up a hill.'

Here, we get to the heart of it. It sounds as though Councillor Patmore gets angry and frustrated that she is occasionally held up slightly when she is in her car.

'When you do overtake them, you get a rude gesture.'

If that's really the case, then you're definitely doing it wrong. In the Telegraph article, Councillor Patmore comes across as hostile to anyone riding a bike, and very impatient. I really hope that doesn't manifest itself in the way she drives.

I sometimes ride a bike and I sometimes drive a car. When driving, I've never, ever had a problem with anyone cycling, so maybe I can help.

I think the key to it is to realise and accept in advance that you might not be able to get past immediately. Don't have the MGIF ('must get in front') attitude. If you have to drive more slowly for 20 seconds, or even 2 minutes, it really doesn't matter. Consider that small delay, and compare it with the awful consequences if you did injure or kill a vulnerable road user.

If you come across one person or several people cycling, slow down and don't drive too close behind them - if they were to fall, you wouldn't want to be so near to them that you can't stop in time.

If there's oncoming traffic, a blind bend, a blind rise, or just not enough space to get past, wait.

When it is safe to pass, do so, following rule 163 of the Highway Code, and leaving plenty of room. Bear in mind that the greater the speed differential, the more intimidating it can be for the person you're overtaking, so the more space you should leave.

Follow these suggestions, and you really won't have any problems.

'It's called road rage.'

I suggest road rage is aggressive or angry behaviour by the driver of a vehicle, caused by being impatient and getting frustrated.

On a bike, you don't experience the same frustrations of being stuck, as you can when driving. You do sometimes get a sudden burst of adrenaline when your physical safety is put at risk by someone driving dangerously. Often the dangerous driving is due to pure ignorance of the Highway Code and how to drive safely and considerately around cyclists.

Again, if you're getting angry or rude gestures, you're doing it wrong.

'We have very wide lorries and farm vehicles and there really is not room on the roads for cyclists and these wide vehicles.'

Come on. You can't pretend that all this visceral dislike of cyclists, and selfishness, is really acute concern for farmers.

And bicycles are narrower than cars. So if space is really at that much of a premium, we'll need to ban cars first.

But in truth, the country roads of North Yorkshire absolutely are good places to go cycling. The Councillor's comment that 'there really is not room on the roads for cyclists' makes it quite clear that she wants anyone on a bike to get out of her way. She wants the road for herself (and other car drivers) - which doesn't show much generosity of spirit.

Bear in mind that most people seek out quieter country roads because the traffic has frightened them off busier roads. Vehicles do drive everything else off busy roads. Quiet, country roads are the only option left, and people shouldn't stop cycling on them just because the Councillor feels it would be more convenient for her.

To share the country roads in North Yorkshire, all it needs is a moderate amount of patience and respect. If you're driving, you're in control of machinery that can kill people, so the primary and most important responsibility falls on you.

The comments made by the Councillor are extremely unfortunate. People in a position of responsibility should be responsible - and better-informed and nicer than in this case.

We often fear and dislike what we don't understand, in this case people riding bikes, but it may not be a lost cause. I suggest as a start, the Councillor might talk to people who do cycle, and find out what it's like from their point of view. Greater understanding of the considerations for a person on a bike might help her make more rational comments in future, and drive more considerately around cyclists. Then, the only gesture she is likely to see is a friendly wave.

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