British Cycling and Cycling UK call for end of 'deeply upsetting' abuse aimed at riders

Cycling clubs and groups have helped support their local communities – but still riders are being targeted

(Image credit: In Pictures via Getty Images)

Cyclists continue to face abuse and harassment during the coronavirus crisis, prompting a response from British Cycling and charity Cycling UK.

Despite the government’s guidance that cycling is a great way to stay physically active during the Covid-19 lockdown, there have been numerous reports of non-cyclists showing hostility towards riders in recent weeks.

Cycling Weekly has reported on anti-cyclist graffiti sprayed on the road in Somerset, while there have also been reports of unofficial ‘Strava police’ complaining to British Cycling over the time or distance of some rides.

In response to the on-going hostility towards cycling, British Cycling and Cycling UK have published an open letter calling for “tolerance, warmth and care” towards cyclists to replace the awful behaviour some riders have seen.

The joint letter, signed by British Cycling CEO Julie Harrington and interim Cycling UK chief executive Pete Fitzboydon, said: “Far from being the villains in this story, we have been inundated with examples of clubs and groups who have gone above and beyond to support their communities during the crisis – whether that’s delivering prescriptions in Banbury, raising money for hospices in Crawley or helping to feed families in Inverness. It is deeply upsetting that these same cyclists are being met with such hostility in the process.

“The government’s guidance since the beginning of the lockdown has continued to encourage cycling for daily exercise, in recognition of the substantial physical and mental health benefits it provides to the many millions of people taking part.”

The letter adds that there is no evidence to suggest cyclists are more likely to spread coronavirus than runners or walkers while following social distancing guidelines.

British Cycling and Cycling UK say they have received an increased number of reports of cyclists and cycling clubs being “targeted and vilified.”

Abuse has included “go home” signs being erected, drawing pins being left on the road and even drivers aggressively close passing riders.

In their letter, the organisations said: “This is clearly dangerous and deplorable, but the logic behind it is also misplaced.”

Meanwhile, British Cycling and Cycling UK have been issuing regular, helpful guidance for cyclists on how to stay safe and  how to reduce the risk of transmission of viruses.

Cycling Weekly has also researched the guidance on how far and how long we should be cycling.

Encouragingly, a British Cycling poll of 5,000 members found that three quarters feel their cycling experience has improved since lockdown measures were introduced on March 23.

Despite the fewer cars on the road, some cyclists have reported an increase in driver speeds, while perceptions of the spread of coronavirus have led to riders feeling threatened and unwelcome.

>>> ‘Like the first day of school’: Pros react as they’re allowed to ride outside for first time in seven weeks 

Professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, Jonathan Ball, said: “Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and there is no compelling scientific evidence that cycling poses any more risk for transmission of the virus provided social distancing measures are applied sensibly.”

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