I regret to inform you all, but Jake Wallis Simons has been at it again.
The Spectator columnist, and author of such classic anti-cycling hits as “I’m a cyclist, but…”, “Cyclists already own the roads”, “Cargo bikes are dangerous”, and “Jeremy Vine is the real problem on the roads, not drivers”, has returned to the keyboard for another crack at generating anger on the internet.
Long-time fans of his work will be pleased to learn that Wallis Simons has returned to his roots, penning yet another column on how he belongs to the more considerate, driver-friendly breed of cyclist (and that he’s super quick too, just in case you weren’t aware), and that last year’s changes to the Highway Code (the details of which he appears to have just plucked from his imagination) have created a situation in which people on bikes “hog the road and treat motorists with disdain”.
It’s going to fly up the charts, Jake.
In this latest column, titled ‘Why do cyclists insist on making drivers angry?’, Jake kicks off by taking us to a sportive in the New Forest – a place where the local motorists have been famously welcoming to sportive riders in the past – where his attempt to finish ‘first’ in the ‘race’ was thwarted by a bunch of “plodders” riding two abreast (heaven forbid), and slowing up the traffic, and super-fast Jake, behind them.
“In spite of the traffic delays – which in my mind cost me my victory – I’d averaged 19.6mph over the 45 miles, which was a personal best. Go me,” he writes.
“But it was the behaviour of the bunch of plodders that rankled. They had been having a whale of a time, showing zero awareness of the inconvenience they were causing to the other road users. To be fair to the motorists, they were all extremely patient.
“Nobody honked, revved, or attempted a dangerous overtake. But a fair few of them must have cursed into their windscreens. And why shouldn’t they? Would it have been so bad for the racers to have dropped into single file to let them pass?”
Eh, I think Jake needs to take a look at the Highway Code. Oh, he has, apparently.
“Most cyclists are wonderful people, but some of them can be deeply inconsiderate,” he continues. “I fear the latest revamp of the Highway Code may have encouraged this by allowing riders to occupy the middle of the road, permitting them to position themselves two abreast, and giving them licence to ignore cycle lanes if they so wish.”
Yes, Jake absolutely – except your close reading of the Highway Code seems to have missed that cyclists are permitted to ride in the middle of the lane (“to make yourself as visible as possible”), not the road, that riding two abreast “can be safer”, and that cyclists “may exercise their judgement” when it comes to using bike lanes.
Not that any of that matters to keen cyclist Jake: “It’s obviously a good idea to keep cyclists safe. But when they abuse those rules to hog the road and treat motorists with disdain, the result is a pressure cooker on four wheels. There’s no more dangerous driver than a furious driver. That’s what worries me.”
Yes, there’s “no more dangerous driver than a furious driver” – so blame the vulnerable road user, of course.
Wallis Simons then goes on to ponder why cyclists who also drive seem to “exist in some state of double consciousness”, ignoring the possibility that people who have experienced life on two wheels may be more considerate and less “furious” when they’re behind the wheel of vehicles with four.
“Cyclists rightly demand that motorists drive with care and consideration,” he concludes. “But if the favour isn’t returned, the enmity only grows. If we want to reach a state of harmony between two wheels and four, this must be a two-way street.”
Dunno. Why does the Spectator insist on pissing me off?
— Peter Warne (@pzwarne) September 25, 2023
I think it’s safe to say that Jake’s latest attempt at anti-cycling bingo hasn’t gone down too well.
“Wrong question,” noted one Twitter user, referencing the article’s headline. “The question should be: what kind of motorist gets angry around other road users and are they fit to hold a driving licence?”
“Thanks for this, punishment pass expected on the way home now for merely existing…” added Cycling in London.
“Blaming other people for your anger is called projection,” noted Dave.
Others, meanwhile, were quick to jump on Jake’s somewhat flawed interpretation of the Highway Code.
“The Highway Code, police, and cycle training all recommend cycling abreast, which makes me wonder why you employed a journalist to write a road safety story when they don’t know basic road rules,” wrote Adespoto.
“Maybe it was to make drivers confused and angry so people get hurt.”
The same Twitter user later added: “’The Highway Code may have encouraged this by allowing riders to occupy the middle of the road’ – Nowhere does the Highway Code say this. What’s more, Simpson already knows this cos he was told last time he made that mistake.
“You're deliberately confusing drivers to encourage hate.”
The comments by @JakeWSimons feed into bigotry and exacerbate already excessive danger from drivers.
Driving has an inherent element of danger to others (it's why drivers have seat belts, air bags etc. in cars and highway environments engineered to accommodate their danger).
— CHAIRRDRF (@CHAIRRDRF) September 25, 2023
The column was also heavily criticised by Dr Robert Davis, the Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum.
“These comments feed into bigotry and exacerbate already excessive danger from drivers,” Davis said.
“Driving has an inherent element of danger to others (it’s why drivers have seat belts, air bags etc. in cars and highway environments are engineered to accommodate their danger).
“This is the third anti-cyclist piece he has come out with [fourth, actually]. I wonder if he has bothered to actually talk to any cycling organisations, or roads police [like] Andy Cox, like a journalist should?
“Unlike other prejudice/bigotry – we’re not so inherently likely to endanger other groups of vulnerable people in everyday life – this anti-cyclist bigotry has a specific danger involved. That’s why it's especially wrong.”
Not that the Spectator will listen, of course. Same time next month, Jake?
The rumours of a planned merger between Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step – two of the biggest and most successful teams in the sport – have baffled many onlookers in the cycling world, but none more so, it seems, than Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe.
Speaking on their Watts Occurring podcast, the two Welsh Ineos Grenadiers riders dissected the week’s big pro cycling talking point, as well as its possible ramifications for the two teams (including the potential for conflict between Remco Evenepoel and Jumbo’s grand tour winning trio) and the wider peloton – and, it’s safe to say, they don’t fully understand what’s going on, or why.
When asked by Rowe what he thinks of the rumoured merger, and the possible creation of a hyper-powered Soudal-Visma mega team, Thomas, stirring spoon firmly in hand, said: “I have no idea. One thing I would say is: Remco hates Jumbo, and Jumbo hates Remco – so that’s not going to work, is it? Unless they do different programmes.
“You should hear what Roglič says about Remco. I’m not trying to start any rumours or anything, I’m just saying.
“Why would Jumbo want to do that? They’ve just won three grand tours.”
“It’s because they’re losing Jumbo, their headline sponsor,” Rowe responded. “But what that says to me, is that it’s a sad state of affairs for cycling, if that team can’t get a new headline sponsor.”
“That’s exactly what I was going to say,” replied Thomas, who was the victim of phase one of Jumbo-Visma’s grand tour winning masterplan this year, losing out to Primož Roglič in dramatic fashion at the Giro.
“How can you not get another sponsor when you’ve won the Tour the last two years, you’ve dominated this season, you’ve got the biggest riders? It’s sad.”
The 2018 Tour de France winner also branded claims from sources that the merger is designed to bring the squads on par budget-wise with UAE Team Emirates and Ineos as “a load of bollocks”, pointing out that the British team has been operating on a more “stringent” budget in recent years.
Rowe added: “UAE, Jumbo, and ourselves all have massive budgets. But why would they decide to do this now? There are 50 riders under contract – if they merge, they have 20 riders too many. So the obvious thing they’re going to do is pay out the 20 cheapest riders.
“Surely there’s got to be better planning than that? And all the staff, how many people are going to lose their jobs?”
While Thomas and Rowe appear just as confused as the rest of us when it comes to the motivations behind the rumoured merger talks, at least we have a bit of insight into what Remco Evenepoel may think about the whole thing.
Or perhaps Thomas is just stirring the pot in a bid to seal the deal on that long-rumoured Remco to Ineos transfer?
It looks like today’s two big blog stories – which, to be honest, are from the opposite ends of the cycling discourse genre – have sparked quite a bit of reaction.
Unsurprisingly, friend of the blog Jake Wallis Simons’ latest contentious and somewhat fact-free take on cycling and the Highway Code has gone down as well as Simons himself finishing second at a 45-mile sportive…
“Time this sort of rhetoric was stamped out,” wrote Martian. “It is not allowed against any other section of society. Let’s call it for what it is – inciting violence, bullying etc, not acceptable anywhere else, not acceptable on the roads.”
Meanwhile, one reader described Simons’ article as “incitement”, while another branded it “disgraceful” and “designed to spread division”.
The Twitter account BikepackingAdventure also had a few suggestions for the Spectator’s headline writers when the time comes (in a few weeks probably) for Simons’ next anti-cycling column:
“Why do victims insist on making bullies angry?”
“Why do victims of crime insist on making criminals angry?”
All cracking suggestions…
On a more light-hearted note, Controversial Team Mergers According to G has proved a big hit, with the first battles of the new Roglič v Remco war taking place on our Facebook pages (“Remco is a winner, Roglič is just a whiner,” says Tobias – though Roy countered with: “Who likes Remco? Nobody”. Steady on, lads…).
On the possible merger, Analisa said: “It’s not gonna happen, it’s all talk to stay relevant for the end of the season. Plus, there is no way Roglič and Remco are staying on their teams. I see them going off to Ineos or similar.”
But what about Ineos’ “stringent budget”, Analisa?
“I'm pretty sure that both Remco and Roglič will be off somewhere else next year anyway,” agreed Rog. “But I would hate to see the merger of two of the most successful and charismatic teams on the circuit, and if they did would they be Dutch or Belgian?”
Hmmm, good point.
“Why don't we amalgamate all the World Pro Teams, and then we can have lots of fun watching them all attacking their teammates?” asked John.
Another cracking suggestion…
With Soudal Quick-Step set for an overhaul this winter, regardless of whether it’s the subject of a hostile takeover from over the border in the Netherlands, one rider integral to the Belgian squad’s success over the last few years has confirmed this afternoon that he will be racing elsewhere in 2024.
Michael Mørkøv, Danish lead out supremo, has told Ekstra Bladet that his six years at Quick-Step – during which he’s piloted Elia Viviani, Sam Bennett, Mark Cavendish, and Fabio Jakobsen to Tour de France stage wins – are over, with rumours intensifying that the 38-year-old is set for a move to Astana, where he may well be reunited with his old mate, the potentially soon to be unretiring Cavendish (more on that later).
“I know who I’m going to ride for. It won’t be Soudal Quick-Step,” he told the Danish paper.
When asked if there was any truth in the Astana rumours, Mørkøv replied: “It’s a possibility. A good possibility. It hasn’t been decided yet, so I can’t answer that.”
Hmmm… Are the stars aligning for one last crack at that Tour record for You Know Who?
road.cc: Come for the latest cycling news, stay for the awesomely (awful?) alliterative headlines:
Though I think our resident headline expert Dan might have got slightly carried away with this one…
At the weekend we reported on a controversial police operation in Edinburgh, held as part of Vulnerable Road Users Week, which – contrary to its lofty ambitions of protecting those most vulnerable on the roads – led to four cyclists, and just one motorist, being fined for jumping red lights.
While Police Scotland’s interpretation of ‘vulnerable road user’ instigated the usual anti-cycling bingo discourse on social media, perhaps officers north of the Tweed should pay some attention to what their colleagues in Norfolk are doing.
Last Thursday, as part of the same initiative carried out to a questionable degree in Edinburgh, Norfolk Police held a close pass operation, with bike-riding officers “proactively working to reduce the dangers [presented] by motorists who choose to drive too closely to them on Norfolk’s roads”.
As part of the operation, 13 drivers were provided with educational input by officers, to make them “aware of why their manner of driving was careless or inconsiderate” and “inform them of the typical hazards faced by cyclists”, with the 1.5m ‘Pass Mat’ coming in handy.
Another 13 motorists were also issued with a Traffic Offence Report for a range of offences, including driving with no seatbelt and no insurance, and using a mobile phone.
One driver was also arrested on suspicion of drug driving. He was taken to Wymondham Police Investigation Centre for questioning and later bailed.
Sergeant Ben Hawkins, from the Norfolk and Suffolk Roads and Armed Policing Team, said in a statement: “Vulnerable Road Users week offers us the perfect opportunity to get out and educate drivers about how they can better keep themselves and other road users safe.
“Operation Close Pass allows us to engage with drivers and ensure that road users are abiding by the latest Highway Code guidance which states the need for a 1.5m overtaking clearance.
“We will continue to work to make Norfolk’s roads safer and ultimately reduce the number of people who are killed or seriously injured.”
Take note, Edinburgh…
A retired school teacher who was cycling around the world to raise money for charity was killed during the devastating earthquake that hit Morocco earlier this month.
71-year-old David Barden, from Oxton, Wirral, died when his hotel in the Atlas Mountains – where he had been staying while riding his bike in the region to raise money for the Red Cross – collapsed on 8 September during the 6.8-magnitute earthquake, which killed more than 2,900 people, the BBC reports.
Since retiring from his job as a teacher at West Kirby Residential School for Special Educational Needs, Mr Barden spent his time cycling around the world raising money for a range of charities.
“My dad was a very restless man and was always busy”, his daughter Sarah said.
“Going back to when he was a teacher, he would take the kids on school trips and cycle with them across Ireland and England. He ran the London Marathon several times and raised money for a number of charities.”
Mr Barden frequently blogged about his cycling trips and in his last post from 7 September, the night before the earthquake, he wrote: “So far on this ride through over 20 countries I’ve enjoyed both setting myself some demanding challenges and getting away from normal routines, where the sequence of the day can be anticipated with few surprises."
“Lengthy, chance conversations hearing people’s life experiences completely outside of my own are always an enriching element of travel.”
It’s Cycle to School week, when across the UK children are encouraged to take to two wheels – but Sustrans’ Head of Behaviour Change Chris Bennett says the reality of cycling on British roads in 2023 means that children and families are currently being “deterred from their right to cycle”.
Cyclist Alex told us: “Police responded that the light was not red so no further action. Very depressing response from Greater Manchester Police. Their exact words were: ‘No further action was taken in relation to this matter. Unfortunately we could not see what the traffic light colour was for the Audi’. I replied to them that the light was red and showed a screen shot. Not heard anything back.”
The Cyclists’ Alliance, the union representing the women’s pro peloton, has released the results of its latest annual survey, with the 2023 report revealing increased concerns about race safety, along with a wider financial disparity within the bunch, with a quarter of those surveyed receiving no salary at all this year.
The survey, which asked 140 riders across a variety of disciplines about their experience in the sport, found that 25 percent receive no salary or income (up from 22 percent in 2022), 70 percent of non-World Tour riders are paid less than €10,000 a year, and more than half od the women’s peloton work or study alongside their racing careers.
While the Women’s World Tour is bound by a €32,102 minimum wage, outside of that top tier, where no such regulations exist, 41 percent of riders aren’t paid, while only 15 percent of those in the second tier or below earn more than €20,000 a year.
“Despite some signs that women’s professional cycling is progressing, this survey also reveals that many women continue to face tough challenges in the pursuit of a professional cycling career,” the report said.
“The disparities between riders in the WorldTour and riders outside the WorldTour continue to grow wider.”
Meanwhile, the number of riders who say they are “unhappy” or “very unhappy” in their team has increased from 11 to 15 percent, with 26 percent saying they are expected to pay for fundamental aspects of their profession, such as medical tests and equipment repairs, while a quarter said they were not happy with the level of equipment provided to them.
While financial worries dominated, 35 percent also expressed concern about physical safety – including the effects of concussion – and many noted that racing “is too dangerous”, a concern that was brought into the spotlight at June’s Tour Féminin des Pyrénées, when a range of safety issues, such as members of the public driving on the course, prompted the peloton to refuse to start the third and final stage.
Today we got to meet @Apple CEO @tim_cook. We talked about our Foodcoach app & technologie in cycling. Thanks for having us, would love it to welcome you around one of our races next year 🤗 @RichardPlugge @JumboVismaWomen pic.twitter.com/p2Luvys8v8
— Riejanne Markus (@Riejannee) September 25, 2023
While the rumour mill has been churning at full speed over the past day or two, following reports that Jumbo-Visma and Soudal Quick-Step are in talks concerning the creation of a ‘mega team’ that would put 1990s Mapei to shame, the Dutch squad may well be exploring other financial avenues that won’t involve having to listen to Patrick Lefevere bang on about how the 1970s were a golden age for culture in team meetings…
Yesterday, Jumbo-Visma’s Dutch time trial champion Riejanne Markus and the squad’s CEO Richard Plugge met with none other than Apple head honcho (and “lifelong cycling fan”) Tim Cook, ostensibly to discuss the team’s Foodcoach app and the use of technology in cycling.
As a lifelong cycling fan, it was an honor to meet Jumbo-Visma’s Riejanne Markus and @RichardPlugge and celebrate the Netherlands’s favorite sport! 🚴♀️ @Relivecc developer Lex Daniels has created an app that supports riders at every phase of their cycling journeys. pic.twitter.com/smFMvyDt2F
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) September 25, 2023
Or maybe, just maybe, Plugge was busy showing Cook some drafts of how the Apple logo would look emblazoned on a yellow jersey on the Champs-Élysées…
Apple-Visma 2024? Or even Jumbo-VisMac? I’ll get my coat…
A Somerset cycle lane which caused 59 injuries in its first year of use, and was branded a “failed experiment” by Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg earlier this year, is to stay in place as it is after a cross-party group of councillors withdrew its plan to commit the council to investigate works on it.
Yesterday evening, we reported that transport and public health data experts analysing the initial impact of the widespread implementation of 20mph speed across Wales last week have found that there has been a “dramatic” change in traffic speeds so far, with the results hailed as “astonishing and far greater than would have been predicted”.
The report from Agilysis showed an average reduction in vehicle speed on the new 20mph roads of 2.9mph over the past week, a change 20’s Plenty For Us director Rod King said would make routes “far more pleasant for walkers and cyclists” – while the study found that motorists’ journey times have only increased by 45 and 63 seconds in Cardiff and Wrexham respectively.
However, despite those findings, one Welsh MP has criticised the change and claimed that the money spent installing new signage would have been better used to mend potholes across Wales.
Simon Baynes, the Conservative MP for the border Clwyd South constituency, has launched a petition to overturn the policy and return speed limits in residential areas to 30mph.
“I have received numerous complaints in Clwyd South about the introduction of the blanket 20mph policy by the Labour Welsh government which has been introduced at vast cost and without proper consultation,” Baynes told the Shropshire Star.
“We have found conflicting signs on roads in Clwyd South and many people feel that the costs of changing signs would have been better spent on mending potholes.”
While the MP agreed that 20mph zones could be used near schools and hospitals, he argued that “these should be clearly marked and enforced, and not applied to all roads. This policy also creates inconsistency at the border with England in Clwyd South. Sometimes, the border is not marked or splits streets in half. This means that the Highway Code does not apply equally across Britain.”
Baynes believes that the new speed limits will damage the economy, fail to improve road safety or air quality, and increase frustration and congestion – while also arguing that Britain’s roads are “very safe”, anyway.
“Since its implementation, my office has been contacted numerous times by residents who are concerned with various aspects of the change,” he says.
“The 30mph limit has been the national standard since 1935 and is part of the Highway Code for Great Britain. Our roads are very safe thanks to high design and technology standards.”
However, despite the MP’s concerns, campaigner King believes that “20mph limits work, and they work particularly well on the faster urban roads”.
He continued: “They are not a silver bullet, but do reduce speeds to make streets far more pleasant for walkers and cyclists, they lower faster speeds and produce a more consistent flow of traffic. This in turn makes it safer for all road users. A default urban/village 20mph limit is key to liveability and community life whilst at the same time retaining mobility for all. Well done Wales.”
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.