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“He drove towards me at speed, then shouted ‘b***h’ in my face”: Nine out of ten women face abuse while cycling, shocking new survey finds

77% of female cyclists in London say they experience verbal, physical, and sexual harassment and intimidation once a month, with over one in five revealing that they’d given up cycling as a result of this abuse

The shocking extent to which women cycling in London face a frequent barrage of verbal and physical abuse, sexual harassment, and intimidation from motorists and other road users has been laid bare in a revealing report from the London Cycling Campaign, which found that nine out of ten women who ride their bikes in the capital have experienced abuse, with over one in five claiming that such experiences forced them, at least temporarily, to give up cycling.

The report, titled ‘What Stops Women Cycling in London?’, was based on a survey of over 1,000 women who cycle in London – 77 per cent of whom say they experience harassment and intimidation at least once a month – which produced a hard-hitting video on the gendered abuse and aggression directed towards female cyclists.

According to the report, “get off the road” was by far the most common form of verbal abuse aimed at women cycling, while taunts of “bitch” and “slut”, unsolicited photos and sexual comments, groping or slapping when stopped at traffic lights, and accusations of poor parenting when cycling with children were also appallingly prevalent.

Dangerous driving, punishment passes, and intimidation

Published last night by London Cycling Campaign’s Women’s Network, the report found that 93 per cent of respondents said drivers had used their vehicles to intimidate them, with 77 per cent revealing that such intimidation occurred at least once a month.

More than one in five women said they gave up cycling, either temporarily or permanently, following these incidents, which they said often happened on roads with no cycle lanes and when they took up primary position in the middle of a lane to prevent close passing on narrow stretches.

Along with verbal abuse, the report found that motorists responded to these instances of safe cycling with punishment passes, tailgating, and even deliberately hitting women with their vehicles. However, the survey also found that the police response to such incidents was woefully inadequate, with only one of the 25 examples of intimidation and dangerous driving by motorists included in the report resulting in significant follow-up action.

Cyclists in London (copyright Britishcycling.org_.uk).jpg

> Police’s “road safety culture” questioned as motorist escapes punishment for allegedly abusing and swerving at female cyclist

The survey’s findings, the report notes, echo UK-wide studies which have found that women are almost twice as likely to face harassment or bad driving as men while cycling.

One of the cyclists who took part in the survey, Sara, told the London Cycling Campaign: “I was cycling on the road where I live. There are cars parked on each side, so I have to cycle in primary position. A driver drove towards me at speed, then as he passed he wound down his window and shouted ‘b***h’ in my face.”

“Get off the road, you b***h”

This normalisation of harassment towards female cyclists has also manifested itself in other ways, with nine out of ten women surveyed revealing they have experienced abuse – including sexual harassment, physical threats, and physical and sexual assaults – while cycling, with 63 per cent saying it happens at least once a month.

“We were both stopped at traffic lights,” says Nevin. “He shouted, ‘You can f*** off and suck your mother’. It was the way he said it.”

> "Sexist, dangerous and misogynistic": Cyclist says she was "verbally abused" by bus driver who made weight comments

Meanwhile, Dani said she “experienced the most aggression when I was cycling with a trailer with my kids in”.

She continued: “It was impatient drivers in residential areas getting frustrated that they couldn’t overtake me. They would yell out of their windows and once someone stopped in front of me to tell me I was a bad mother for putting my kids in danger!”

“A complete stranger walked up behind me and slapped me on the arse,” another cyclist included in the campaign’s video said. “It was so hard it bruised me through my clothing.”

“I've had drivers passing too closely on purpose to intimidate me more times than I can remember,” added Catriona. “I’ve been stopped at lights and had my backside slapped by a man as he walked past. Women in London, including those of us just trying to get about on bikes, face gendered abuse, aggression and violence and we have to end this.”

“These barriers mean women’s mobility, freedom, and quality of life are all impacted”

Infrastructure, or the lack thereof, was also a prominent theme in the report’s findings, with 88 per cent of women saying that they prefer cycling on protected cycle lanes or on low traffic routes, and that they rely on them for their journeys, refusing to ride their bike without them.

Nine out of ten also argued that they would begin to cycle, or cycle more, if better infrastructure such as protected lanes, were readily available for journeys.

The survey also found that 55 per cent of women are forced to choose between “dangerously” busy roads or a route that takes them through isolated or dark places, such as parks and towpaths, where they feel at risk. Many women, the report says, feel forced to make longer journeys or simply stop cycling when it gets dark early.

Hyde Park Corner 2.JPG

67 per cent of respondents also believe that there are not enough safe cycle routes for children, with 39 per cent saying their kids never cycle, either alone or with an adult.

At the moment, just 15 per cent of those surveyed feel they have a local cycle network that meets their needs.

“These barriers mean women’s mobility, freedom, and quality of life are all impacted,” the report argued.

> Women cite badly-lit routes and lack of safe infrastructure as major barriers to cycling

Along with this week’s newly published report, the London Cycling Campaign’s Women’s Network is currently running a petition to the Mayor of London calling for urgent action to protect female cyclists’ physical and social safety, as well as providing local cycle networks that “think beyond the commute” and prioritise low traffic neighbourhoods and safe routes to local amenities and schools.

“While more and more people are cycling in London and safe cycle routes are rolling out in many boroughs, there are still too many parts of London where cycling isn’t and doesn’t feel safe enough – and women still face additional barriers to cycling and additional hostility when cycling,” Eilidh Murray, the campaign’s chair, said in a statement.

“This needs urgent action to address the fact that only a third of cycle trips in London are done by women – whereas in Holland, over half are.”

“Every woman and girl should be able to enjoy the benefits of cycling in London without fear of violence and intimidation,” Sophie Linden, London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said.

“Yet sadly, across the UK, we face an epidemic of violence against women and girls and today’s report demonstrates the significant impact this abuse and aggression is having on women cyclists. It is simply unacceptable, and the Mayor and I are committed to preventing violence against women and girls and challenging the attitudes that enable these behaviours.

“The Mayor and TfL continue to invest in our protected cycle network, cycle training and skills, and secure well-designed cycle parking, helping to address the barriers and encourage more women and girls to take up cycling.”

Ryan joined road.cc 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 road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’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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53 comments

Avatar
Bungle_52 | 4 months ago
4 likes

I read these things and my first thought is usually "what can be done about it". In this case I would think getting a camera would be a good start. The police seem to be a lot more interested in verbal assaults than close passing so I reckon there'd be a good chance of action.

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Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
0 likes

I don't understand any of the "yes, but" comments or anything suggesting or comparing data to abuse men receive.

The point should be that any abuse is abuse, regardless of gender or who it's aimed at and the data shows it's clearly worse for women. 

Women are at the pointy end of this which is unacceptable. And, if you see abuse - step in rather than film it like all the nonsensical yobs and pansies of nowadays. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
6 likes
thisismyusername wrote:

all the nonsensical yobs and pansies of nowadays

"Pansy (n): slang, offensive A homosexual or effeminate man."

What a nasty bit of work you are.

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brooksby replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
5 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:
thisismyusername wrote:

all the nonsensical yobs and pansies of nowadays

"Pansy (n): slang, offensive A homosexual or effeminate man."

What a nasty bit of work you are.

I'd forgotten 'pansy'.  I don't think I've heard that said in anything other than a horticultural context since about 1980… 

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
1 like
Rendel Harris wrote:
thisismyusername wrote:

all the nonsensical yobs and pansies of nowadays

"Pansy (n): slang, offensive A homosexual or effeminate man."

What a nasty bit of work you are.

As if anyone needed proof that Rendel can twist what he wants - I had no idea that it meant that, the definition I'd know for pansy was along the lines of the below:

a man who is seen as unmasculine, timid, or affected.

Stop. Twisting. Everything

p.s. last time I called you a nasty piece of work, there were people clamouring for me to remove the comment, so perhaps they will do the same to you?

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Rendel Harris replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
7 likes

"I'm not an unpleasant bigot, I'm just deeply ignorant of my own language." Hell of a defence. Totally transparent of course, but at least you gave it a go. 

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

"I'm not an unpleasant bigot, I'm just deeply ignorant of my own language." Hell of a defence. Totally transparent of course, but at least you gave it a go. 

Seriously, you think you know the meaning (and multiple meanings) of every word in the English language without googling it?

You genuinely are a horrible person. Rather than address the point, you prefer to focus on a stupid technicality that you had to google anyway. Deal with the substance man, rather than being a pernickety weirdo with your strange obsession with me. You don't pull everyone else up on the meaning or double meaning of every word they use. You must just look like a complete nut case. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
7 likes

You think I had to google to find out that "pansy" is an offensive term for a homosexual? Please don't judge me by the standards of your intellect.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

You think I had to google to find out that "pansy" is an offensive term for a homosexual? Please don't judge me by the standards of your intellect.

I've never had to use, or heard or seen the word used in that context. 

Seeing as you clearly have...it makes me wonder how "clean" you really are or want to make yourself look. 

Address the point Rendel: 

You genuinely are a horrible person. Rather than address the point, you prefer to focus on a stupid technicality that you had to google anyway. Deal with the substance man, rather than being a pernickety weirdo with your strange obsession with me. You don't pull everyone else up on the meaning or double meaning of every word they use. You must just look like a complete nut case. 

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Rendel Harris replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
7 likes
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

You don't pull everyone else up on the meaning or double meaning of every word they use.

"Everyone else" isn't a) a deeply unpleasant and bigoted alt-right shill and b) hasn't been previously banned for racism, bullying, harassment and libel.

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Left_is_for_Losers replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

You don't pull everyone else up on the meaning or double meaning of every word they use.

"Everyone else" isn't a) a deeply unpleasant and bigoted alt-right shill and b) hasn't been previously banned for racism, bullying, harassment and libel.

Now explain who "everyone else" is without telling lies. 

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NotNigel replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 4 months ago
2 likes

..

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Steve K | 4 months ago
10 likes

The correct reaction to this is not "I get abuse too, I don't believe women get it any worse" but "bloody hell, I thought I got it bad, but this is horrific for women".

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dubwise | 4 months ago
1 like

What's happened to awavey? I don't think she has posted for a while.

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Hirsute replied to dubwise | 4 months ago
2 likes

They always had a few spells of absence. Perhaps they were fed up with the usual arguments !

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BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 4 months ago
4 likes

I believe it. It certainly corresponds with many incidents I have been told about by female cyclist I know. 
incidently, I also had someone gnarl at me that I was a bad parent (after they close passed and brake checked me) becuase I had a child in a cargo bike. I'm a male. 

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open_roads | 4 months ago
3 likes

I'm not massively convinced there's a different experience men and women on bikes.

I've been verbally abused  / followed / swerved at / close passed / had things thrown out of car windows at me etc etc despite not being female.

The real issue is the sense of entitlement and willingness to "punish" cyclists for perceived infringements by a great deal of motorists.

I'm also not combined by the stats - on a regular commute through the city my perception is that I see far more abuse being dished out of car / lorry windows to male cyclists than females not that it's any less intimidating depending on your sex. And yes, that's adjusted for the fact that there are more men than women commuting by bike.

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Brauchsel replied to open_roads | 4 months ago
16 likes

"UK-wide studies which have found that women are almost twice as likely to face harassment or bad driving as men while cycling."

All things being equal, I'll believe UK-wide studies over one person's perception from their commute in the city. 

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morgoth985 replied to open_roads | 4 months ago
13 likes

There is a difference.  It's pure cowardice.  The vermin don't have the balls to take on a 6 foot 4 brick shithouse so they hurl abuse at women instead.  I am very far from being 6 foot 4 or made of brick but my daughter, who is a much better and faster cyclist than me, gets worse abuse (she's a junior too so not only are these "gentlemen" shouting abuse at women, they're also shouting abuse at children).  I would like to hear any 6 foot 4 blokes' experiences and whether maybe the scum confronting them changed their tune when they realised who they were dealing with.

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MattieKempy replied to morgoth985 | 4 months ago
9 likes

6 foot 3, so I hope that's close enough to qualify me. I rarely get abuse but often suffer from intimidation and weaponising of cars. It also happens when cycling with one or other of my daughters (one is 15 and could easily be mistaken for a grown woman, the other is 11 and could not) or wife and I too get chastised for poor parenting when taking my daughers on the road.

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morgoth985 replied to MattieKempy | 4 months ago
4 likes

I do almost despair sometimes about our lovely countrymen.  Spose I shouldn't.

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Rendel Harris replied to morgoth985 | 4 months ago
14 likes

There is also, of course, the difference that if a man is hurling abuse at a man the worst case scenario is almost certainly that they just want a bit of "handbags" to make them feel hard, and 99% of the time they'll back off if challenged by man of reasonable size and confidence. As a man I don't have to worry that the person abusing me might want to sexually assault me or worse, which is something that will always be at the back of a woman's mind.

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Brauchsel replied to Rendel Harris | 4 months ago
5 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

As a man I don't have to worry that the person abusing me might want to sexually assault me or worse, which is something that will always be at the back of a woman's mind.

Probably not the sexual assault, but as a man you're very much more likely to be assaulted (or worse) by a stranger than a woman is. I'm sure we've all met the sort of upstanding gentleman who would "never hit a woman" but has a long list of anecdotes that end up with some poor sod being punched.

Not, of course, to belittle the misogynistic gauntlet of catcalling and harassment that women are forced to endure and which should be more actively stamped out. Just to note that the victims of (non-domestic) male violence are pretty overwhelmingly men. 

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Dnnnnnn replied to Brauchsel | 4 months ago
5 likes
Brauchsel wrote:

Just to note that the victims of (non-domestic) male violence are pretty overwhelmingly men. 

That's true, although I'd say there's a lot of context behind it - perhaps to the point that it's not particularly relevant here. The sexualised nature of a lot of this stuff comes wrapped in up a lot of societal baggage which limits women's lives much more than men's. I'm not sure most blokes need worry so much about being on the streets late, or wondering if our attire will attract aggression.
 

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Brauchsel replied to Dnnnnnn | 4 months ago
2 likes
Dnnnnnn wrote:

That's true, although I'd say there's a lot of context behind it - perhaps to the point that it's not particularly relevant here. 

Apologies if I've misunderstood, but is that an insinuation that male victims of male violence have brought it on themselves? Of course there are pub brawls etc where it's six of one etc, but more of the time it comes from saying the wrong thing, wearing the wrong football shirt, talking to the wrong woman or just "looking at me funny".

Most men I know well have at some stage needed medical treatment due to more-or-less unprovoked violence from a man they didn't know. To the best of my knowledge, none of the women have. 

Women are very much more likely to be verbally harassed or subjected to unwanted touching, which (entirely reasonably) puts them in fear of it turning into a more serious sexual assault. Men are very much more likely to be seriously hurt by a stranger. 

I think it's relevant here, as focusing only on the misogynistic aspects misses the underlying cause. This kind of man (or men behaving in these kinds of ways) bully and intimidate women by harassment, and other men by physical violence. Both are expressions of an underlying male aggression, and both are still seen by too many as socially-acceptable. Neither is. 

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Dnnnnnn replied to Brauchsel | 4 months ago
0 likes
Brauchsel wrote:
Dnnnnnn wrote:

That's true, although I'd say there's a lot of context behind it - perhaps to the point that it's not particularly relevant here. 

Apologies if I've misunderstood, but is that an insinuation that male victims of male violence have brought it on themselves?

No.

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Eton Rifle replied to open_roads | 4 months ago
5 likes

The plural of anecdote is not data. I'll take actual studies with comparison between men's and women's experience over your "What about da menz" whining.

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Zjtm231 | 4 months ago
5 likes

Of course the Daily Mail have manged to turn this into Male Cyclists abusing Female Cyclists....

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-12973173/Female-cyclists-reve...

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the little onion replied to Zjtm231 | 4 months ago
5 likes

How on EARTH did they manage that? It's actually quite impressive.

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mattw replied to Zjtm231 | 4 months ago
6 likes

I think that's a bit harsh TBH. It's only one sentence.

Nearly the whole piece has better messaging, though obvs the Mail is enjoying all those photos of fit female cyclists.

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