Roofer and first year cyclist Tony Barrett, 59, the victim of a serious assault in Shire Road, Keston, in Kent in October is now unable to work and suffering financial hardship.
He was shoved off his bike by the occupant of a car who leaned out of the vehicle to do so. Police say the person if caught will be charged with the criminal offence of causing grievous bodily harm. Barrett suffered neck and spinal injuries.
Now released from hospital, he has to wear a steel splint about his head. This rests on his shoulders and is held firm by rods drilled into his skull!
Barrett has been cycling only about one year, after being introduced to the sport by former racing cyclist Bob Bragginton. He considered it safer than playing rugby.
The pair and their respective families became friends. Barrett loved cycling, a late convert who discovered the thrill of getting about under his own steam. And he was cautious on descents, mindful of potholes, of junctions, of others on the road.
He sensed a car draw up alongside. Then felt the firm grip of two hands on his shoulders, and a mighty push. He went down and the car drove off. Barrett is concerned that other cyclists in the area may be at risk. That there may be other attacks. ?It was a deliberate attack, with the full intention of pushing me off my bike,? said Barrett.
?The photographer who took my picture in hospital said that it was attempted murder.
It?s like there?s a predator out there. I could have been paralysed for life, like Christopher Reeve. It was close.?
Bragginton, who was on the ride with Barrett, but a little way in front at the time of the attack, said: ?The area we ride in, and I?ve been riding for years, it?s definitely got a lot worse. You know, drivers blatantly trying to get close.
?I go out a lot. I need to go out because I used to do a lot of competition and I still need to go out to keep my mind focused. And I don?t want to pack it in, not because of all this business, but naturally it has caused me a lot of stress.
?And it seems as if, in this particular area, Knockholt, Down, all round there, it seems things appear to be getting worse. I mean, you can get knocked off by a car and it?s an accident. But then we go back to this; this has been deliberately done to this man. I think this should be pursued. I don?t think this should be allowed to lie??
Barrett: ?I was about to join the Catford club.
Braggington: ?I know of a couple of guys in the Catford and they?d invited us to come out with them, with riders of a similar age. When Tony started coming out with me, he was so keen, he was as keen as mustard, he loved it to bits. And now all this has happened, imagine how he must feel.”
Barrett: ?I wish to God I?d taken some kind of insurance out. But I didn?t think you?d need insurance to be on the road. I said to Bob, I?m going to ride carefully.
?I can?t afford to have any accidents. I?m nearly 60. I?m doing trying to get leisure fit. Some of these guys are 70, 80 years old and I thought I want to be active at that time of age. Cycling seems to be a good thing. It keeps you nice and active. It?s green, it?s friendly. The government is trying to encourage it, we?ve got cycle lanes, and you think it?s a lovely wonderful thing to do. Cycling has always been nice thing to do.
?And when you get this kind of behaviour, how can we be expected to send out our children when people might come up behind us like that.?
Barrett: ?When I was taken to Farnborough Hospital, the photographer (a woman) told me that her landlady got pushed off of her bike. When I was wheeled into the Op theatre, one of the doctors or technicians in a green gown said he knew of a lady got pushed off of her bike.
?So this we?re not talking about just club cyclists in Lycra (being targets) we?re talking about anybody on a bike. Will a child be next, an infant. When will it stop??
Bragginton says the police have told they?ve had reports of other incidents like this. He has also heard from cyclists who report similar incidents, but don?t report them to the police. They don?t come forward.
If this is a growing problem, Tony and Bob ask, what can Government do to safeguard cyclists from this menace. If cycling is to be encouraged for fitness and environmental reasons, they feel a much higher profile should be given to safeguarding cyclists right to ride without fear of intimidation from criminally minded individuals, of the sort who wickedly pushed Tony off his bike.
?We?re not talking about accidents, we are talking about deliberate acts of violence against the cyclist.?
Bromley police are appealing for witnesses to call investigating officer Detective Sergeant James Herron on 020 8284 8844.
Bragginton told of a guy in Geoffrey Butlers shop in Croydon who told them he got attacked in the same area. This was Steve Gaskell, who confirmed the story to Cycling Weekly. ?It was a couple of years back. Happened in the same area Tony was attacked. A car came up alongside me, and I heard a voice say, ?ello, mate?. Then I was hit with a stick across my back.?
The car sped off. Gaskell didn?t fall. But when he got home he discovered that the blow had broken skin across his lower vertebrae. ?I?ve been cycling into Croydon 20 years. Never used to be like this. But there?s lots of intimidation, cars switching you, abuse.?
He said club riders talk of threatening behaviour towards them. Dodgy area is around Biggin Hill, towards Orpington. ?Lots of youngsters driving 205s, small scooters.?
There was a similar attack against a lone cyclist in Essex earlier this year, reported in Essex papers. The rider is back on his bike and didn?t want to go through recalling all the details again.