Saturday 26 October 2013

Surrey, or why do the home counties hate cyclists?

Last week a debate, broadcast on the radio, about cycling in Surrey.

Reviews by Big Blue Meanie and Surrey MTBer. give a view from the cyclists perspective

  1. Claims that cyclists (lycra louts, MAMILs -leisure cyclists explicitly) are bringing the county to its knees by locking the hard-pressed-motorists in their houses on the hundreds of road closures every year.
  2. Claims that the narrow country lanes are too narrow for bicycles and cars, with the implication being: no cyclists.
  3. Claims the cyclists are a threat to horses.
These are all: bollocks.

But they get their airing, they get their national press

The key protester, Ian Huggins,  who puts a sports car on his page, complains about cyclists stopping him getting to work, at his pigeon shooting business. Yes, thats right: The man who wants to keep cyclists out of surrey makes a living by encouraging leisure uses of surrey. Can he not see how hypocritical it is that he complains about leisure cyclists when his own business model is based on people playing at weekends? No, he can't because he's blinded by his own arrogance: that surrey is for cars

Selected comments from the petition, showing that a recurrent theme is not "the road closures", it is the presence of cyclists holding up traffic, cycling too fast (this is on roads where cars are going faster) and generally coming in from outside.

  • The volume of cyclists riding 2-4 abreast now on our roads is ridiculous & dangerous
  • The bike riders come flying down the lanes, often 3 or 4 abreast at great speed, alternatively, they ride in long lines making it impossible to pass them.
  • "This madness must stop; the roads and public spaces are for everybody, and the needs of some should not outweigh the needs of others. "
  • It's not only the closing of roads that infuriates me, it's the fact that EVERY Sunday we get swarms of these idiots on their precious bikes riding in packs...GET THEM OFF OUR ROADS.
  • Cyclists hav become a pest.
  • Hugely congested roads made worse by cyclists, who pay no road taxes and continually break the law.
  • The numbers of cyclists on our roads, which are not designed for use by cyclists and motor vehicles at the same time:- IS NOW BECOMING DANGEROUS
  • Why should the cyclists completely take over our local roads whilst paying not a penny in insurance or road fund licence.
  • Fed up of lycra clad louts on the local roads
  • kettled in their own homes, unable to pursue their own activities in order to facilitate the amusement of cyclists who neither live nor pay tax here
  • Spoiling the quality of our life in Surrey.
  • We are all suffering owing to the huge increase in the number of cyclists practising for the various events especially at weekends
  • Surrey's narrow lanes cannot accommodate cycles & cars. 
  • This is a problem emerging all over England, not just Surrey. 
  • The cyclists are dangerous and abusive need to be stopped
  • I have moved my horses away from Surrey as it became too dangerous to ride out in the countryside.
  • Monday to Sunday, on most days cyclists are training in this area. The roads are not suitable and during rush hour they cause a major hazard.
  • yet again the cyclists take over the roads
  • County residents are being bullied off the roads byt he rampant fad for cycling
  • I drive daily on the minor roads blighted by groups of inconsiderate cyclists
  • Cyclists present a road hazard and should stick to off road routes
  • They are a serious menace and should be kept inside the M25 
  • Every weekend we already have aspiring Bradleys hogging our roads 
  • Impose a fine for the large groups of cyclists blocking up roads 'practising'
  • The roads are not a recreational facility, we pay for their up-keep so we can drive on them not close them, 
  • We are already plagued by convoys of cyclists riding two or three abreast
  • We have since been plagued all year round by uncaring and unwelcome cyclists 
  • We are inundated with cyclists every weekend
  • groups of cyclists who have no consideration for motorists...Our country lanes used to be such a pleasure to walk or drive along.
The signers view cyclists as outsiders coming in "training" for the big event. They can't understand that the cyclists may be coming out for fun, and that killing the one-day closure events isn't going to make them go away. They also can't seem to recognise that if a road is too narrow for cars and bicycles -maybe the cars shouldn't be there?

All these signatures are a sign of a problem: residents of the home counties who have seen a rise in road cycling emanating from London, one that goes head to head with the residents expectations of their right to drive a crossover-SUV round country lanes at 60 mph. But it is precisely their habits of racing round so fast that has killed everyday cycling in the area, that and the fact that a key role of the home counties is to be extended commuter country for London. They may complain about people from "inside the M25" coming out with their bicycles, but these same people will drive into London -even if now they feel too threatened by cyclists to drive round Richmond Park,.

Anyone who wants to ban cyclists from London from cycling in their county has just lost the right to drive their car in London or any other city. Why should London care that people from Surrey want to drive to work? They've chosen to live out of town -tough. As for people coming out from London at weekends -that's why you have businesses like golf and shooting alongside farming. You can't start being selective about what Londoners do when you come to your area.

This petition goes way beyond Surrey -and as the comments show, it goes way beyond one or two closures. No, it is a sign of conflict between the rural commuters -those who choose to live in the countryside for a quality of life that depends on fast journeys by car, and those who want to cycle round the countryside. Sportives may be the flashpoint, but its clear that cyclists in general are unwelcome.

This is where the BBC's article "Power to regulate Surrey cyclists 'limited'" comes into the mix. It sounds like the residents do want some restriction on cycling, but  as the police say, "we are limited about how much we can regulate cycling which is not part of a race."

Are the police really responding to the petitioners saying "our hands are tied?" That's not a good start.  Because if this Surrey attempt to ban cycling -which is what it boils down to- keeps going on, it's going to get more press, and more of the other home counties joining in. 

The New Forest is clearly another flash point, along with the Chilterns. Near Bristol, it's less inflammatory: there's more space to the south of the city, the cotswolds and then Wales nearby. But even here, the haters will be hearing about Surrey and thinking "we need to regulate them here too"


  1. Because they all look like this:

    You can't see their eyes, they never smile, they look threatening and they don't say a word. Frankly, they give people on bicycles a bad name.

  2. "they look threatening" you know what I find threatening? A 2-ton vehicle being driven at speed towards me. The idea that motorists feel "intimidated" by cyclists is risible in the extreme. Bloody hell on the few occasions I drive my Megane around I feel threatened regularly by SUV drivers, never by cyclists.