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Lone female cyclists are “being targeted”, says former Scottish champion

Jennifer George, who finished eleventh in last week’s British time trial championships, has been attacked twice in recent weeks while riding alone in Surrey and Kent

A leading British cyclist has warned women not to cycle alone in less busy areas, after she was recently attacked on two separate occasions while training on her own.

Jennifer George, a two-time Scottish road race champion who finished eleventh at last week’s British time trial championships, was intimidated by two men on a motorbike while riding alone near Oxted in April.

According to George, the men rode directly at her from the opposite side of the road in a game of ‘chicken’. After dodging them, she then sheltered in a nearby café car park.

After being left shaken by the incident, the 39-year-old avoided long solo rides for eight weeks, and cycled only with companions or for short distances.

However, on her first long training ride since the scare she was again threatened by two men on mopeds near Sevenoaks, Kent.

The cyclist told the Times that she thought to herself: “Oh God, it’s not going to happen again.” This time, the moped riders stared at George as they passed before returning five minutes later, slowing down beside the cyclist while continuing to eye her up and down.

Seeking help, George says she rang on a doorbell, and the two men scarpered. However, with no one home, she was forced to hide in the garden for half an hour, fearing that the moped riders were waiting to ambush her.

George rode for the Drops Cycling Team in 2016, when she finished fifth in the British road race championships and took seventh at the Tour de Yorkshire, and now works part-time as a DS at the AWOL O’Shea team.

She says that the back-to-back incidents, which both took place around noon, have changed her approach to cycling. She now intends to ride with a live camera after previously wearing a tracker, and says she feels unsafe while stopping to fix a puncture by the side of the road, and hides behind a hedge to avoid being seen.

> Female cyclist held down and bike stolen during frightening attack 

“I’ve never been so scared in my life”, she admitted.

“I had a complete meltdown. I don’t feel safe anymore. Now I ride with one eye over my shoulder, one eye forward, not trusting anybody.

“It really should not be the case that women need to be with people to be secure. I think that, at the moment, when we are being targeted, it is going to be safer to ride with other people.”

She also noted that cyclists have been slow to realise that they can be targets for criminals.

She said: “A bicycle is seen as an expensive item, like wearing a really expensive watch, and if you’re not aware, there are bad people out there that will try and steal it from you.”

In April we reported that a woman was held down and had her bike stolen by two men in Surrey, two weeks before George’s first incident near Oxted, as multiple reports emerged of a moped gang seemingly targeting lone female cyclists.

The cyclist was sat on Beddlestead Lane, near Warlingham in Surrey, when she was approached by two men on a scooter.

Surrey Police say the incident, which happened between 1.40pm and 2.15pm, saw the victim held to the ground while the offenders made off with her bike down Clarks Lane. 

George, who admitted that she was worried whether the men on the motorbike near Oxted were “only after my bike”, was asked by the Times if she feared that the attackers intended to assault her.

“I don’t want to think about it,” she replied. “It seemed like a lifetime... but probably only took three or four minutes.”

The 39-year-old has reported both incidents to the police, but has yet to receive updates of any progress in finding the perpetrators. She has called on British Cycling to issue more alerts concerning potential threats from criminals.

Nick Chamberlin, policy manager at British Cycling, said: “We’re deeply concerned by reports of cyclists being targeted in this way and are working with police forces, local authorities and others to ensure that the issue is addressed and that the criminals responsible are brought to justice.

“While we will continue to alert our members to spikes in incidents in particular areas of the country, it is our view that no rider should ever need to fear for their personal safety or property when out on their bike and it is vital that our police forces are properly equipped and instructed to tackle the issue before any more riders experience such terrifying incidents.”

> Professional cyclist robbed of bike by Richmond Park machete gang

In October 2021, professional cyclist Alexandar Richardson – who finished third at Sunday’s British road race championships, won by Mark Cavendish – was knocked off his bike and threatened by a gang with a machete in Richmond Park, in southwest London. 

The then-Alpecin Fenix rider said at the time that the attacks were “becoming a common occurrence in parts of London”, with the gang taking his team-issue Canyon Aeroad.

It was the second violent robbery in the park within 24 hours, after the owner of a 2021 Cannondale System Six was pushed off his bike by two balaclava-clad men on an electric scooter.

Ryan joined in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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Huw Watkins | 1 year ago

Don't hold your breath waiting for the police to take any interest or action in that part of the world.  They don't give two sh*ts about cyclists.  We were forced off the road and attacked with a hammer a couple of months ago.  Reported the assault the same day but have not heard anything since despite chasing.  Tossers.

open_roads | 1 year ago

A more accurate report / headline would be "lone cyclists are being targeted".

In North Surrey Men are being violently assaulted by bike robbers on mopeds - it's not a male / female thing - everyone is potentially a target and the police don't seem to have made any arrests leading to prosecution even though it's been going on for several years.

mdavidford replied to open_roads | 1 year ago

It is accurate, though, in that it's reporting what a particular person said. She may or may not be correct that these attacks specifically, or attacks more generally, are particularly targeting women, but that's how it feels to her, based on her experiences and those she's heard about from others, and that's what the article's covering.

SaveTheWail replied to mdavidford | 1 year ago

Yes, but the article writer does have some control over the narrative.  There is an issue with the constant portrayal of women as potential victims (with a responsibility to protect themselves), and the fact that she was asked whether she feared she was going to be attacked suggests they were keen to emphasise her potential victimhood.  Some women are fed up of being told to protect themselves, and are trying to change the narrative to e.g. 'Educate your sons', i.e. put the responsibility where it belongs.  Being portayed as potential victims results in being perceived as potential victims, which is not good.  Advising women to only go out in groups is akin to saying that, because of the large number of near-misses being reported, cyclists should stay off the roads.  Restricting oneself to group rides, especially as a woman, would severely limit your opportunities for cycling.

mdavidford replied to SaveTheWail | 1 year ago

That's an argument about emphasis and editorial choices, though - not about accuracy, which is how the original comment was framed.

Also, it's not clear from the above that she was prompted about fears, rather than just volunteering her thoughts (it might be clearer in the original article - I don't know, because paywall). If she was, though, that seems like more of a bone to pick with The Times, rather than

SaveTheWail replied to mdavidford | 1 year ago
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It's quite far down the above article, but it says she '...was asked by The Times if she feared that the attackers intended to assault her.' (Just for the record, I wasn't picking a bone with, just commenting on the way things are presented generally, whether by journalists or society in general.) And Open_Roads did say 'A more accurate report / headline would be...' - and I think their point still stands: often, things are portrayed as a threat to women specifically, when men are also at risk.

mdavidford replied to SaveTheWail | 1 year ago
1 like

Fair enough - missed that. For some reason it's buried in a bit where they already appear to have moved off the present story to add in references to previous ones.

For what it's worth, I agree with the thrust of the points you're making. I still don't think it's a question of accuracy though - nor do I think those were the points open_roads was making.

jaymack replied to open_roads | 1 year ago

I have a friend who rides with an old chain in her pocket...

yellowjack replied to open_roads | 1 year ago

I'd agree with this. I'm a middle aged bloke, been cycling for 40+ years. And I've got to say Surrey is probably the nastiest place to cycle in the UK in my expereience. I'm not one for group cycling, nor do I tend to be out with the hordes. I prefer longer rides starting late mornings or afternoons, taking me, frequently, beyond the hours of darkness. And one ride in particular sticks in my mind. I'd done a bit of a "climb-fest" from Farnborough out through the Surrey Hills and was making my way up Box Hill before turning to head home. Mid summer so still light but "quiet on the hill" with the cafes closed. 

What happened next was pretty upsetting to be honest, and with 25 years in the army behind me it takes some doing to upset me. A gang of what can best be described as "feral youths" came down the hill toward me on mopeds that, if they were legally owned and operated I'll eat my chamois pad. They were weaving around and generally "just being teenagers". There was no one else around to be bothered by them swerving from edge to edge. I presumed they'd just pass me by swerving to the far edge of the road. But no. They "buzzed" me close after doing the "playing chicken" head-to-head thing. As you might imagine, I swore in response to that. Then they disappeared around the next bend. Relieved, I continued my climb.

But they must have turned around in one of the gravel parking areas on the first 'zig', and caught me near the top of the second 'zag'. which was were things took a turn for the worse, with this mob of about six moped riders jostling for position alongside me so they could take a turn at trying to kick out at me, preumably hoping that I'd take a tumble down the grassy hill. In reality they were as much a danger to themselves as to me. There were a couple of near collisions between them which I think brought the "attack" to an end, whereas they were nowhere near as competent on their machines as their bravado suggested, so they didn't land a single blow.

Pretty worrying, too, was wondering whether to continue up to the top of Zig Zag Road (possibility of them waiting to "ambush" me?), or turning around and being "caught unawares" if they came down again behind me. So I just thought "face up" and climbed. Turned out they'd disappeared, I certainly didn't see them again. This must have been pre-2012 too, before I was using a GPS device, but post-2010 because of the bike I was riding. 

I definitely felt "singled out" and "targeted" that evening, despite being a lone male rather than a female. I'm not going to deny any female the feeling that it's "because I'm a woman", but personally I don't think it is. In my opinion it's less about mysogyny, and more about an irrational hatred toward cyclists. Reporting to the police? All well and good, but unless you have a camera filming the incident, or an independent witness able to take registration numbers, any investigation is unlikely to get very far. I'm sure they'd have taken it more seriously if I'd been injured (or worse). And I'm sure they'd take a far keener interest if it were a car driver tootling about pushing mopeds into ditches. And while I miss those Surrey Hills climbs now I've moved further away, I certainly don't miss the frequently toxic attitude of other road users out that way. It's especially galling when you're being ranted at about "TdF Wannabes" and "selfish group rides" when you're out on your own trying to have a quiet ride away from big group rides...




lonpfrb replied to yellowjack | 1 year ago
yellowjack wrote:

While I miss those Surrey Hills climbs now I've moved further away, I certainly don't miss the frequently toxic attitude of other road users out that way. It's especially galling when you're being ranted at about "TdF Wannabes" and "selfish group rides" when you're out on your own trying to have a quiet ride away from big group rides...

Gasman Jim | 1 year ago

Probably unreasonable to expect the police to do much about this as they're too busy harrassing a late middle aged man with a megaphone / amplifier in Parliament Square.

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