New word needed for cyclists, says Paralympian Dame Sarah Storey

The multiple Paralympic champion suggested a change of language may help encourage more cycling

Dame Sarah Storey has been appointed active travel commissioner for Sheffield (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A change of language is needed to stop all cyclists being grouped together, according to multiple Paralympic champion Dame Sarah Storey.

The 14-time gold medallist said “a cyclist isn’t just a Lycra-clad yob” and that the term refers to anyone who rides a bike.

Her comments follow a university study which found more than half of car drivers think cyclists are “not completely human.”

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Storey, 41, told The Guardian: “We need to realise that a cyclist isn’t just a Lycra-clad yob, as per the stereotype, and that cyclists are just people on bikes moving around on a mode of transport.”

She added that the English language should follow terminology from other nations, where different words are used for different kinds of cyclist.

In Dutch, an everyday cyclist is a ‘fietser’ while a racing cyclist is a 'wielrenner'.

Last month, researchers published their findings that more than half of car drivers think cyclists are not completely human.

Co-author of the paper Narelle Haworth said using the phrase ‘people who ride bikes’ rather than ‘cyclist’ could help reduce animosity.

Storey has been announced as the new active travel commissioner for Sheffield, making her a champion of cycling and walking in the city.

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She said: “I believe active travel is a less stressful way of moving about, and helps to create the foundation of a happier workforce and a happier population.

“Not everyone is going to be an elite athlete, but we can all enjoy being more active. I'm looking forward to seeing how, together, we can make real changes to the way people travel in the Sheffield city region."

Storey, a Paralympic swimmer until 2005 when she switched to cycling, said she has been inspired by the work of Chris Boardman in Manchester.

Her appointment has been welcomed by charity Cycling UK.

Campaigns manager Duncan Dollimore said: “She’s such a fantastic inspiration for so many people, and Cycling UK hopes her amazing achievements continue as she makes the Sheffield region a cycling and walking success.”

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.