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Protestor who blocked UCI Worlds road race accuses cycling community of being complicit in climate crisis

One of the four climate activists who glued their hands to the road claimed that the cycling community was ignorant about “oil and gas companies sponsoring their races”

Appearing at the trial for disrupting the 2023 UCI men's road race World Championships, one of the climate activists accused the "wider cycling community" of being complicit in climate change and ignorant about the oil and gas companies sponsoring the races.

This year's UCI men's road race from Edinburgh to Glasgow, eventually won by the Dutch ciclisimo star Mathieu van der Poel, was halted for almost an hour when four activists from the Scottish climate action group This is Rigged glued their hands to the road on the B818 road near the Carron Valley Reservoir in Stirlingshire, right before the peloton approached.

The riders were brought to a standstill between Bonnybridge and Lennoxtown, as officials and police authorities tried to negotiate with the protestors and then subsequently used a debonding chemical to free their hands. 

> Mathieu van der Poo-el: World champion’s visit to Scottish couple’s toilet during protest makes front page news

Appearing in court in August, the four activists pleaded not guilty to causing a breach of the peace and said that they had taken the steps to draw attention to the ongoing global climate crisis.

2023 world road race championships stopped following protest (Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)
Riders waiting for the 2023 UCI men's road race world championships to resume after being disrupted by protestors (Alex Broadway/SWpix.com)

Now on trial at the Falkirk Sheriff Court on Wednesday, the activists reiterated their reasonings and tried to explain why they were forced to take the steps they took.

> Four plead not guilty to breach of the peace following protest that disrupted World Championship road race on Sunday

21-year-old student Catriona Roberts said: "If your house is on fire and you run into the road, rooted in fear, and you block the traffic, it is not a breach of the peace."

Romane Moulin, a renewable energy software developer said that she had acted for the "greater good, being disruptive to prevent disruption to millions".

The four were eventually let off after being admonished, with 29-year-old carer Ben Taylor the only recipient of a fine of £250, reports The Telegraph.

> Is cycling's 'sportswashing' debate too big to ignore? World Championships protest shines spotlight on less-than-green sponsors

During the proceedings, Taylor, at one point, said that the cycling race "was in itself causing rolling disruption across Scotland", adding that "the wider cycling community was complicit and ignorant about oil and gas companies sponsoring their races".

He said the climate change crisis was “now very serious” and world leaders were not acting.

Sheriff McCulloch interjected: “Some people might say if it’s the leaders you claim don’t act properly, it’s to them you should be directing your ire, not towards the UCI and the cyclists in the race.”

Glasgow world championships road race stopped due to protest (GCN) 5
Glasgow world championships road race stopped due to protest (GCN)

The course of the men's road race, starting from Edinburgh before crossing River Forth and heading south-west to Glasgow, took the riders along some of Scotland's biggest polluting plants, one of them owned by Shell and two owned by Ineos.

Shell, that has been accused of attempting to suppress the evidence of global warming, besides holding its own internal discussions about climate change for decades and even making a film on the subject in 1991*, is the main sponsor for British Cycling, with cyclists from Team GB riding the race in Scotland with the company's logo on their shoulders.

> "Greenwashing, pure and simple" - fury as Shell UK sponsors British Cycling

Meanwhile, Ineos sponsors the UK-based men's cycling team Ineos Grenadiers, formerly Team Sky — the wildly successful team which saw the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and even Mark Cavendish (albeit only for a year), dominate the cycling world for years.

Ineos itself is a British chemicals company founded by Sir Jim Ratcliffe, and also manufacturers the 4x4 SUV Ineos Grenadier, which the likes of former Scottish pro cyclist David Millar and Welsh Tour de France winner and Ineos rider Geraint Thomas have recently come under fire for owning.

> "When cycling superstars promote SUVs, you know we have a very big cultural problem": Former Scottish pro and national champion David Millar blasted for showing off his Ineos Grenadier

In fact, in a statement released by This Is Rigged in the immediate aftermath of the protest, one of the four activists, Cat Roberts, said: "The fact that Ineos has been allowed to sponsor a team in the race around the Campsie Fells – which were engulfed in wildfires last month – is a disgrace and an insult to both the cycling community and the people of Scotland.

"We cannot continue with business as usual while our country burns and our futures are ruined. Time is of the essence and we need to act like it. The Scottish government must stand up to Westminster and oppose all new oil and gas, and implement a fair transition now."

The Sheriff said he accepted that all the four activists in question firmly "held views and beliefs", but protests must be "proportionate and peaceful". In his opinion, their actions were peaceful, but bringing the riders to a halt in a world championship cycling race was not a proportionate measure.

While the presence of oil and gas magnates in the world of cycling is undeniable, do you think the claim that the wider cycling community is ignorant and complicit in the global climate crisis true? Let us know in the comments...

* Regarding Shell's position on climate change and global warming, a Shell spokesperson has contacted road.cc since the first publication of this article, and supplied this statement: 

The Shell Group did not have unique knowledge about climate change. The issue of climate change and how to tackle it has long been part of public discussion and ongoing scientific research for many decades; the vast public record of media articles, scientific journals and government reports over the last 50 years makes this clear.

"Shell’s position on climate change has been publicly documented for more than 30 years, including in publications such as our Annual Reports and Sustainability Reports.

The paragraph in the original article has been edited to note that Shell has been 'accused of' suppressing evidence of global warming. 

Adwitiya joined road.cc in 2023 as a news writer after graduating with a masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He has previously covered local and national politics for Voice Wales, and also likes to writes about science, tech and the environment, if he can find the time. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him trying to tackle the brutal climbs in the valleys.

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19 comments

Avatar
qwerty360 | 3 months ago
1 like

I seem to remember large chunks of the cycling community complaining about the involvement of big oil etc in cycling as part of the industries greenwashing attempts.

 

I also suspect this is similar to arguments about supporting the military (Make cheaper fabric means cheaper uniforms + tents etc; Cheaper/better food = less military budget spent on food, more on weapons; better bicycles - paratroopers using them as light faster transport they can jump out of planes with etc)

 

Almost anything we do will eventually involve and so benefit big oil (see climate protesters using flags/signs made with oil based products and travelling to protests using oil based fuels/power production).

 

At least using bicycles moves us in the right direction. Protesting changes in the right direction (like cycling more, driving less) just allows those who don't want any change to argue that nothing they can do will solve the problem perfectly therefore doing nothing is acceptable...

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Left_is_for_Losers | 3 months ago
0 likes

Lock the loonies up. 

Or leave them glued to the road indefinitely, they'd soon find out it's not a great idea.

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perce replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 3 months ago
7 likes

Another one I saw yesterday was '' Tomato soup burst''. Seriously.

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chrisonabike replied to perce | 3 months ago
4 likes

"Strangely Brown", more like.

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GMBasix replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 3 months ago
10 likes
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

Lock the loonies up. 

Or leave them glued to the road indefinitely, they'd soon find out it's not a great idea.

Great suggestion. Kindly present yourself at the nearest gaol.

Avatar
MattieKempy replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 3 months ago
12 likes

Head-in-the-sand climate denier alert. Bet you subscribe to other conspiracy theories too. Like Trump, Boris, Liz, RishGPT.

Left_is_for_Losers wrote:

Lock the loonies up. 

Or leave them glued to the road indefinitely, they'd soon find out it's not a great idea.

The cycling community is of course complicit in the climate crisis. Maybe slightly less than the motoring lobby or disciples of RishGPT, but still complicit.

Lots of love from a proud-to-be Lefty, Woke, Snowflake, Guardian-reading Loser.

Avatar
Left_is_for_Losers replied to MattieKempy | 3 months ago
3 likes
MattieKempy wrote:

Lots of love from a proud-to-be Lefty, Woke, Snowflake, Guardian-reading Loser.

At least you admit it. A bit embarrassing for you no doubt, but better than denial

Avatar
Secret_squirrel replied to Left_is_for_Losers | 3 months ago
8 likes
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:
MattieKempy wrote:

Lots of love from a proud-to-be Lefty, Woke, Snowflake, Guardian-reading Loser.

At least you admit it. A bit embarrassing for you no doubt, but better than denial

Im proud to be all of those things too.   Although I feel Im more of a centrist and its the Overton window that has moved around me.....

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wycombewheeler replied to Secret_squirrel | 3 months ago
4 likes
Secret_squirrel wrote:
Left_is_for_Losers wrote:
MattieKempy wrote:

Lots of love from a proud-to-be Lefty, Woke, Snowflake, Guardian-reading Loser.

At least you admit it. A bit embarrassing for you no doubt, but better than denial

Im proud to be all of those things too.   Although I feel Im more of a centrist and its the Overton window that has moved around me.....

In the current politcal landscape the centre looks like the left, and the actual left is out of site.

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Boopop | 3 months ago
12 likes

Let's see:

  • I cancelled my British Cycling subscription when they saddled up with Shell. I actually shredded my card on twitter and encouraged others to do the same
  • I do not own a car
  • For the most part I support the actions of XR, JustStopOil, InsulateBritain, etc.
  • I bank with Triodos because they don't support the fossil fuel industry.
  • When I cycled to Rome, I got the train back rather than a flight.
  • I'm the secretary of the local cycling campaign group
  • I'm attending a London Cycling Campaign summit in just over a week to get some further training.
  • I've never been a fan of Ineos's involvement in pro cycling
  • I don't eat much meat, very little beef
  • I used to be in the committee on the local road cycling club.

I think it can be safely said that I'm part of the "wider cycling community". I'm not sure what Ben said is particularly helpful. Yes certain aspects of the cycling industry are sadly associated with the fossil fuel industry, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop cycling. Presumably he doesn't genuinely think no-one in "the wider cycling community" knows about this but he's poorly worded it.

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Rendel Harris replied to Boopop | 3 months ago
7 likes

He also appears to be ignoring that part of the "wider cycling community" that couldn't care less about, or even actively dislikes, the racing side of things (that definitely doesn't include me but I know several people who would fall into that category). It's a bit like saying that everybody who drives a car must be an F1 fan.

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
0 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:

He also appears to be ignoring that part of the "wider cycling community" that couldn't care less about, or even actively dislikes, the racing side of things (that definitely doesn't include me but I know several people who would fall into that category). It's a bit like saying that everybody who drives a car must be an F1 fan.

I cycle for utility and I also cycle for lesiure, not sure if Audax would be considered sport since we are not racing (honest guv). Really don't care about the pro tour. And actively against events like the tour where the number of motor vehicles driving the course of the route likely exceeds the number of actual bikes.

Climate activists are fully justified in disrupting bike races as far as I am concerned, even though bikes are better than cars. Bike races include too many of the latter.

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FionaJJ replied to Boopop | 3 months ago
1 like

I'd need to see the full context of the quotes to be sure, but it's reasonable in the context to think she's not blaming every individual who cycles, rather meaning there is collective responsibility amongst those in actual establishment positions (particularly when it comes to racing) as well as those who support them.  As a cyclist, arguably part of the 'wider cycling community' I'm not in any way offended by the assertion. I agree with it and is something that needs to be said more often, preferably by those within the community.

I support the goals of the environmental protest groups, and while I don't support all of their tactics, and agree some stunts are ill judged, I can't be doing with people complaining about disruption, especially when it's to something like a bike race. People who think that's beyond the pale have no idea of what's coming. I don't think it's controversial to say Storm Babet caused a lot more disruption than a handful of people in orange t-shirts throwing some glitter.

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Adam Sutton replied to Boopop | 3 months ago
2 likes

I don't consider myself part of the "wider cycling community" much to the relief of some on here I am sure! I do think I should be what is representative of the wider road using community though. Yes I own a car, two in fact, one a small SUV (oh the horror!) But I also own three bikes, my main one being a gravel bike that has mudgaurds and a pannier rack permantly affixed, as I consider it transport. I commute to work by train and the six miles to the train station by bike.

Elsewhere I use common sense, public transport like in many places is pants, so if I need to travel distance or if I need to buy bulky stuff I will use the car. If I need to get a few items that can go on the pannier, I will use the bike. 

I don't really care about cycling as a sport, but I do engage regulary with local councillors on matters regarding cycling and after much nagging have managed to get KCC to at least sweep one of the main cycling routes on an occassional basis.

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Brauchsel | 3 months ago
4 likes

"she had acted for the "greater good, being disruptive to prevent disruption to millions"."

I get this argument, although it's not a defence in law. I'm not sure I can think of many examples of pure disruption actually being effective though. Are there cycling fans or art lovers who think "I wasn't sure what to do about climate change, but now a race has been disrupted/a painting disfigured I think I'll listen to these guys as they must have the answers"?

It's not like it's a mass popular march or similar, where thousands have decided to demonstrate: whether or not I agree with marchers' causes, sheer weight of numbers suggests they should be heard. 

I do agree with these guys' view of the scale of the problem, although probably not their preferred solutions. I can't see how, as a tactic, just pissing off people going about their daily lives is going to achieve anything. Merely getting on TV and improving your standing with other protestors doesn't actually save the planet. 

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brooksby replied to Brauchsel | 3 months ago
2 likes
Brauchsel wrote:

"she had acted for the "greater good, being disruptive to prevent disruption to millions"."

I get this argument, although it's not a defence in law. ...

How has this post been up for sixteen hours and nobody has posted a Hot Fuzz meme??

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hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 3 months ago
2 likes
brooksby wrote:
Brauchsel wrote:

"she had acted for the "greater good, being disruptive to prevent disruption to millions"."

I get this argument, although it's not a defence in law. ...

How has this post been up for sixteen hours and nobody has posted a Hot Fuzz meme??

//noweevil.com/thehive/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/hot-fuzz-gif1.gif)

Avatar
Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
10 likes
Quote:

Shell, whose attempts to suppress the dangers of climate change since the 1980s are now widely known

If that were the case the world would be a very much cleaner place. They've tried to suppress evidence about the dangers of climate change, which is rather different.

Avatar
levestane replied to Rendel Harris | 3 months ago
10 likes

Indeed. Big oil lied about the environmental impacts, big tobacco lied about health outcomes, and big food is doing the same

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