A “raging” motorist allegedly mounted the pavement and grass verge before attempting to drive through a ‘die-in’ organised in memory of a cyclist killed after being struck by a driver at a notoriously dangerous junction.
According to cyclists participating in the demonstration in Sheffield yesterday – which saw dozens of protesters lay on the road to raise awareness of a campaign for protected cycling infrastructure and improved road safety measures following the death of Adrian Lane last September – the motorist accelerated past a queue of traffic, drove around a barrier and towards group of the demonstrators, which included children, before getting out of his car to angrily confront those taking part.
Two of the protesters have told road.cc that, after the driver had made his way past the demonstration, another motorist “blocked his route”, forcing him to “wait until the road was cleared anyway”.
A cyclist involved in yesterday’s vigil also told us that a different motorist shouted at the campaigners before the ‘die-in’ had started, while another “deliberately” blew exhaust fumes in their direction.
However, many of the campaigners acknowledged that the vast majority of drivers briefly delayed by the protest were patient and understanding, with some showing support for the event’s aims.
> Die-in protests — changing public opinion or scaring people away from cycling?
Yesterday’s die-in formed part of the Lane Campaign, which advocates for the introduction of improved safety measures and protected cycling infrastructure at the junction of Ringinglow Road and Common Lane, just outside Sheffield, where Adrian Lane was killed in September last year following a collision with a motorist.
The campaign wants the junction to be ‘squared off’ so drivers are forced to slow as they approach it, the introduction of a 20mph speed limit into Ringinglow village and traffic calming measures, as well as the installation of a segregated bike path.
Following the protest, which saw cyclists block the road for 13 and a half minutes – the time it takes to play Pink Floyd’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, one of Dr Lane’s favourite songs – a mass ride took place to Sheffield Town Hall, where speeches were made calling for safer spaces for cyclists.
One of the event’s organisers, Sarah Cotton, told the Sheffield Star earlier this week that the die-in was “highly planned and risk assessed”.
“We appreciate this will potentially hold up traffic for a short while, but it's important to remember Adrian never made it home, whereas affected people will have the option to safely turn around and take a different route, or make it to wherever they are going, albeit a little late,” she said.
However, one motorist clearly took exception to the delay, sparking the heated confrontation which marred the end of the protest.
Local cyclist Phil, who was injured after being hit by a motorist on a nearby road and whose friend was left with a brain injury following a collision at the same junction where Dr Lane was killed, told road.cc that yesterday’s protest was an emotional and terrifying experience.
“I was really apprehensive about it. The idea of lying on tarmac for ten minutes – which would have been the first time I’d lain on tarmac since I was on it for thirty minutes after my incident – I found really difficult,” Phil said.
“It was scary knowing you were stopping traffic, that the police weren’t around, that it was a protest. You don’t know how drivers are going to react. They’re in big metal vehicles and you’re not, and you’re in a vulnerable position lying on the road.
“But there were enough people around that you felt no-one’s going to do anything stupid. Or at least that was the hope.”
He continued: “As we were preparing, ready to start, someone shouted out their window at us as they drove past. They didn’t know what we were doing at that point, that it was going to be a protest – they just saw cyclists and started shouting at us.
“And then someone gunned their engines and kicked out their exhaust fumes – it was an old car and it produced a lot of exhaust smoke, and it was very, very much deliberate.
“It was pretty much uneventful, then, for the nine minutes of the ten minute planned protest. A driver near us got out of his car with his dog, and he was standing there being very patient. And that was very reassuring, as he was very happy to support when it was explained to them what was going on.
“I was looking at my watch, thinking someone’s going to blow the whistle any second now, to let the cars get on their way, when suddenly I heard shouting, and this guy was accelerating up the grass.
“He went past the queue of traffic, gone on to the verge, and he’s driving up the grass – and there are children ahead of him lying on the ground. People spot him, get up, and stand in front of the car, as he revved his engine – because there was absolutely no way he could have got through without hitting someone.
“So thankfully no-one was hurt, but he gets out of his car and starts shouting and swearing about cyclists being in the middle of the road, etcetera, etcetera. And thankfully the organisers thought ‘the sooner we get this guy out of the way, the better’.
“And at this point, the protest has gone on longer than it would have anyway, looking at this guy. We cleared all the bikes out of the way, and as he drove past, he was still shouting and gesticulating at us.
“And then he gets blocked further on up the road by a car – and I have no idea if this was deliberate. But he’s there for a good few minutes.”
Stephen, who also attended yesterday’s protest, praised the organisers for managing the situation calmly.
“I honestly don’t think people could believe what was happening it was so at odds with the atmosphere of the protest, including the other drivers who were held up. The stewards did so well to manage the situation calmly,” Stephen told us.
“Apart from the incident at the end, the protest was really calm and respectful. We were there to remember someone whose life was cut short by a motorist as well as raise awareness of the dangers of that road and junction in particular.
“Measures had been put in place in case any emergency vehicles needed to get past. I expected more drivers to be frustrated and angry, but actually as they started moving through many of them showed their support for the protest.”
Phil also told us that, as the group made their way into Sheffield to continue the protest, motorists sitting in a queue of traffic could been shaking their heads at the riders – despite travelling in the opposite direction.
“What is going on in your mind, that when you see a cyclist you’re angry?” the Sheffield local asked. “You’re sat behind the wheel of your car, a cyclist isn’t holding you up, we’re not going in the same direction as you, we’re not the cause of your delay. But you shake your head angrily because you’ve seen a cyclist. That is not rational.”
Reflecting on the incident at the die-in, Phil added: “It’s not surprising. I’ve been around motorists breaking the rules. But we’re at a junction where someone has died, where we’re protesting for road safety. And this man is so angry.
“And for what reason? Where has this come from? I just don’t understand the anger. And it’s getting worse.”
road.cc understands that footage of the incident was captured by a drone operator and that the driver has been reported to the police.
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