Violence against cyclists is hate crime, says local pressure group.
The Cambridge Cycling Campaign has recently called for a clampdown on abuse towards cyclists. In a written submission to the Get Britain Cycling Inquiry, held by the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, the Campaign stated that hatred towards cyclists should be treated as “a crime” and dealt with “in the same way discrimination of other groups is managed”.
The Campaign specifically mentions the abuse of cyclists on social media sites, such as @cyclehatred Twitter feed. Examples of tweets depict cyclists as “fucking sarcastic red light jumping scum”, and threaten cyclists to “just get out the road before I run you over”. The hostile stereotype of cyclists as road users who disregard the Highway Code adds to the “stigma” of being “a cyclist”, which the Campaign claims is one of the most important reasons deterring people from owning a bicycle.
A recent case of abuse against a cyclist goes beyond verbal, as seen in an attack on Dr Ernest Turro, a Cambridge University Researcher, on February 7. This week, details of the attack were revealed. Dr Turro was overtaking another cyclist when a car “came out of nowhere” and started “honking his horn violently”, as recounted by Dr Turro in the Cambridge News. He gave the driver “the finger, as you do”. The driver then chased and shoved Dr Turro, who went over the handlebars and subsequently had to have thirteen stitches in his head. The driver has not yet been identified.
Currently “assaults on people using a bicycle are treated as assaults”, according to Robin Heydon of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign. It is irrelevant whether the attackers are motivated by prejudice towards cyclists. The Campaign’s suggestion that the government make hatred towards cyclists a crime would put more importance on the motivation of such attacks.
However, at the moment the Cambridge Cycling Campaign is not campaigning for the criminalising of hatred towards cyclists. Robin Heydon stated that as it would “need to be a national policy” it was “something for national organisations to campaign for”.
Dr Turro told The Cambridge Student: “Hatred towards cyclists is a fairly widespread phenomenon in Cambridge”. Local measures which could tackle this issue would be “good urban planning” to stop cyclists and motorists “getting in each other’s way”, he claimed. The Cambridge Cycling Campaign also states that there is room for improvement. They advocate measures such as a minimum width of cycle lanes and advanced traffic lights for bicycles. However, Dr Turro stated that a “more general culture war is being fought”, as the vitriol of a Twitter feed like @cyclehatred shows.
Jeni Bloomfield – News Reporter