The “common criminal behaviour” of dangerous drivers around cyclists needs to be eradicated before we “lose a vital transport choice”, says National Active Travel Commissioner Chris Boardman. The former Olympic champion made the comments in response to a video posted on social media today by the National Foundation for Retired Service Animals (NFRSA), which showed the charity’s founder Lady Bathurst, cycling the length of Britain to raise awareness for the foundation, on the receiving end of an extremely close pass by an oncoming driver overtaking a lorry at speed.
The shocking incident – which, as Boardman pointed out, saw three cyclists, supposedly protected by hi-vis clothing, “almost killed” – took place yesterday as Lady Bathurst, the former High Sheriff of Gloucesthershire, crossed the border into Scotland, two weeks into her attempt to ride her e-bike from Land’s End to John O’Groats to celebrate the NFRSA’s first year and to raise awareness of the charity’s work.
It was such a happy day going over the border yesterday - but it nearly ended in disaster. Lady B was in the cycle lane, waving to fellow cyclists, just as a woman in a red car dangerously overtook a lorry, nearly hitting her, & causing the support car to swerve. Not a nice… pic.twitter.com/ZMEV7hW6EI
— NFRSA (@The_NFRSA) September 27, 2023
However, as the 58-year-old cycled alone on the hard shoulder, waving to two cyclists riding in the opposite direction, a motorist attempted to overtake a lorry driver approaching a bend in the road, missing Lady Bathurst by centimetres at speed and causing her to wobble.
The overtaking driver also manages to pull in front of the lorry just as another motorist, driving a support vehicle as part of the charity ride, appears around the corner.
Drone footage captured by the charity also shows the lorry driver narrowly passing the two cyclists on the other side of the road.
“F***ing hell,” the Countess can be heard saying in the video, posted this morning on X, formerly Twitter, by the NFRSA, as she came to a stop on the hard shoulder shortly after the near miss.
“My knees are actually shaking. It was literally inches away. I was waving… and I laughed, and just wobbled out, and she… I very nearly was a dead Countess, not a cycling Countess!”
Posting the clip of the incident this morning, the NFRSA wrote: “It was such a happy day going over the border yesterday – but it nearly ended in disaster.
“Lady B was in the cycle lane, waving to fellow cyclists, just as a woman in a red car dangerously overtook a lorry, nearly hitting her, and causing the support car to swerve. Not a nice experience at all.
“Please motorists – be careful when overtaking on country roads.”
Reposting the video, Lady Bathurst added: “I was riding alone yesterday afternoon, in beautiful Scotland on the NFRSA Charity Bike Ride, when this happened. It was unbelievably frightening and shook me up.
“Please, when overtaking on country roads, be aware of what might be on the other side of the road. Thank you.”
Meanwhile, Active Travel England’s Boardman, who today called on the government to back and provide funding for cycling schemes at a meeting at 10 Downing Street, described the shocking incident as something that “shouldn’t be normal, but it is”.
“Three people – ‘protected by high viz’ – almost killed whilst doing something wholly beneficial for society. This shouldn’t be normal, but it is,” Boardman wrote.
“This is common criminal behaviour and we need to stop it or we will lose a vital transport choice.”
Despite Boardman’s comments, some social media users responded to the video by arguing that Lady Bathurst should have been wearing hi-vis and that the charity cyclist was lacking “concentration” at the time of the close pass, prompting the Countess herself to intervene in the discussion.
“The top had reflector strips. I wasn’t wearing my coat. Hot!” she said, in response to one social media user who claimed that “cyclists MUST wear hi-vis clothing. It’s a no-brainer.”
“To be honest,” Lady Bathurst continued, “She was going that fast, I’m not sure she’d have seen me if I’d had fireworks coming out of my head!”
Replying to someone who accused her of “showboating”, she said: “Showboating? Really?? I was BEING FRIENDLY and returning a wave from a cyclist on the other side of the road. I was NOT expecting a red missile to narrowly miss me. What is wrong with you?”
Another social media user also attempted to pin at least some of the blame on the charity cyclist, arguing that “you took your eyes off the situation unfolding in front of you to smile and converse with the cyclist across the road instead of moving over to the left of the cycle lane as a precaution. That wave almost cost you your life.”
“I could have been doing a handstand and cartwheels,” Lady Bathurst pithily replied. “The fact is at whatever stage, I was safely within the lines of the bike lane. The motorist overtaking did so in a reckless manner and was doing well over 70.
“I’d argue the stupidity of the driver nearly cost me my life.”
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.