“Cyclists driving motorists insane” in Dales, says Richmondshire councillor

Tensions have risen between cyclists and motorists in rural areas. Photo: PA

Cyclists using the Yorkshire Dales should be taught how to ride on country roads and motorists education on what to do when meeting cyclists, a senior councillor has said.

A meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s executive heard while the county’s 9,000km road network had seen an upward trend in cycling inspired by the Tour de France Grand Depart 2014 race, since the pandemic there had been a sharp increase in riders on rural roads.

Ahead of leading councillors approving the 2021-2026 York and North Yorkshire Road Safety Partnership Strategy, opposition members questioned whether more could be done to resolve an escalating conflict between cyclists and motorists in rural areas.

The calls follow the authority coming under sustained pressure to reconsider its policy to focus cycling road improvements on urban areas, and in particular Harrogate, claiming it benefits more people.

Officers told the meeting statistics showed while cyclists and drivers were equally to blame for cycle collisions in urban areas of the county, cyclists were at fault for about 70 per cent and drivers 30 per cent of cycle collisions on rural roads.

Councillor Stuart Parsons, leader of the authority’s Independent group, called for twin educational campaigns to teach motorists what they need to do when encountering a large group of cyclists in places like Wensleydale and to teach cyclists how they should be riding on the lanes.

He said cyclists were “making themselves a great number of potential enemies and therefore dangerous situations by their approach to using the roads, especially when they are not road taxpayers when using it for their cycles”.

Coun Parsons added: “Cyclists do drive motorists somewhat insane, especially when they are travelling two or three abreast, which they seem to be doing more and more so.

“On these winding roads it makes it difficult for anybody to pass safely.”

The authority’s executive member for highways, Councillor Don Mackenzie replied that while some cyclists needed to learn not to “create obstructions on the highway”, his sympathies were with cyclists as their equipment weighed a few kilograms as opposed to cars that weigh one or two tonnes.

Councillors heard the increase in cyclists would be reflected in government changes to the Highways Code this autumn, such as drivers needing to give greater space to cyclists and cyclists needing to ride single file to help vehicles overtake.

The meeting was told the authority was already trying to educate drivers and cyclists, but the council’s Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Bryn Griffiths said the council’s highways department appeared to be “reactive rather than proactive” over dealing with risks on the roads.

He said despite some roads being riddled with potholes and being popular cycling routes they never appeared to reach the council’s criteria for road repairs.

Coun Griffiths said: “In industry it is considered good practice to look at near misses and be proactive and engineer or manage out issues that they have.

“Because of the state of the road cyclists are having to meander all across the road to avoid bumps, lumps and hollows and you get near-misses. But these near-misses aren’t recorded and used to help manage the highway.”

The meeting heard the council had higher maintenance standards for popular cycle routes.

Coun Mackenzie said the authority was aware sides of roads tended to get potholes which forced cyclists to swerve, but added the council had spent a record amount on road repairs this year.

He said near-misses were difficult to measure and as the council had limited funding for road safety it directed focused on locations which accident data showed were the most hazardous.

Coun Mackenzie said: “I hear every day ‘this road is an accident waiting to happen’.

“I’ve heard that about certain roads since I took on this portfolio in 2015 and we’re still waiting for the accident to happen. ”

35 Comments

  1. It’s not just in the Dales, it’s everywhere. Some cyclists give the impression that they’re in the Tour de France; it’s as if they have to cover the maximum distance in the shortest time. Pedalling furiously, some seem to adopt a praying position instead of holding the handlebars whilst going hell for leather face down and staring at their front mudguard; it’s a wonder they can see where they’re going. Obviously there are good motorists and good cyclists, equally there are bad examples of both. A bit of give and take on both sides wouldn’t go amiss, especially if those riding bicycles could acknowledge that drivers just want to pass safely, and maybe bike riders could do more to assist.

    • I came across a group of 10 or more cycles on a very narrow road in the Dale’s, they were spread all the way across the road, I waited thinking that they might go single file which would have allowed plenty of room for me to pass safely, when they didn’t I just gave a gentle touch on the horn incase they hadn’t seen me, this was rewarded by a load of two finger gestures

    • Alan G is absolutely spot on with his ability to stereotype, and expose his dislike for legitimate road users. They give me the ‘impression’ they are out keeping fit by exercising, thus saving taxpayers and the NHS millions by not occupying a hospital bed with premature cardiovascular conditions. He is right about good and bad road users, however drivers kill and maim, cyclists don’t.

  2. “Councillor Stuart Parsons, leader of the authority’s Independent group, called for twin educational campaigns to teach motorists what they need to do when encountering a large group of cyclists in places like Wensleydale and to teach cyclists how they should be riding on the lanes.

    He said cyclists were “making themselves a great number of potential enemies and therefore dangerous situations by their approach to using the roads, especially when they are not road taxpayers when using it for their cycles”.”

    Councillor Stuart Parsons needs to better informed. There is no road tax. The roads are paid for out of council tax which cyclist pay.

    • Pedantry aside, car drivers pay more in tax to use the roads than cyclists do through VED and fuel duty.

      • Can’t agree. I pay road tax and fuel duty for my car. I also ride a bike. My wife drives a 14 fiesta with 99gms emissions and doesn’t pay road tax.
        I suppose you could argue that my £275 tax for my van gives me more rights on the road than a Nissan leaf

      • No, that’s rubbish. Cyclists are more likely than non-cyclists to own and drive a car, which means as a subset of people, cyclists will pay more through VED than non-cyclists. Fuel duty and VED are not hypothecated for highways which means roads are paid for out of general taxation, including fuel duty among all the other forms of tax.

        https://www.eta.co.uk/2013/05/24/more-cyclists-pay-road-tax-than-car-drivers/

        It’s not pedantry to point out when something is incorrect when it is very relevant to the topic of discussion.

      • Motorists in the UK are responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people a year (ONS) and £4 billion road damage a year which is why they pay more in taxes to contribute to the costs of these untimely deaths and repairs to the roads.

      • pedantry aside, VED and fuel duty aren’t specifically spent on roads any more than anything else, but put into the tax pot along with other taxes. Road maintenance tends to get paid for mostly out of council tax, while road building is paid for mainly from the general tax revenue.

      • Cyclist have to fuel their bodies in order to ride. Neither food, nor petrol/ diesel gives anyone the rights to the road.
        VED is based on emissions, and some cars pay nothing, just like cyclists.
        The roads are paid for through general taxation, which we all pay. (Those that work, anyway)

  3. Disappointing to read that a councillor is talking about “road tax” which doesn’t exist, and hasn’t done so since the 1930s

    • Semantics, you know what the guy means. No tax, no insurance, and no damn sense seem to be the thing with cyclists.
      And before you say “we pay tax for our cars”, so do motorbikers, they also pay again for their motorbikes.
      Why doesn’t CANS extend their vilification of bikers to cover these people too?

      • So electric vehicles that cannot no Vehicle Excise Duty are not allowed to use the roads safely? No that is illogical, so why bring it in? The car driver can do a great deal more damage to the cyclist than the other way around. It is often not possible to hear the cars behind due to wind noise. How many inconsiderate tractor drivers are there out there? This is a complex safety issue which taking a partisan view on is unlikely to render any useful outcome other than stoking vitriol.

  4. But cyclists came before cars. Cars are the ones ruining the planet and the health of their drivers.

    • I bet you have a car or maybe 2 cars in the family plus i bet you used a car to get to the dale countryside to ride your bike

  5. Stopped at “cyclists are not road tax payers”. Road tax was abolished by Churchill, before the war!!! Roads are paid for by general taxes; even if you don’t have a car, but pay your taxes, you pay for the roads. A Councillor should know better! And that’s before you mention the 60 people a day killed or seriously injured on our roads by drivers. This whole study is skewed in favour of drivers, as usual.

    • “…before you mention the 60 people a day killed or seriously injured on our roads by drivers. This whole study is skewed in favour of drivers, as usual.”
      Thanks for that, I needed a bit of humour injecting into my day; if you only read a small part of the article and I suspect none of the actual study report itself, how are you able to conclude that the ‘whole study is skewed’?
      So what’s your own suggestion/plan for the roads then Dave? Just bicycles and those vehicles delivering stuff that you need, oh and of course your own car if and when you want to use it; perhaps the emergency services vehicles, provided that they’re not too noisy and intrusive as well?

  6. I don’t know what everyone is complaining about.
    If the price of petrol keeps going up, the way it is, we will soon have the ‘Horse and Cart’ back on our roads.
    There will, however, be one good outcome to this. Everyone will be able to view the nice roses!!

  7. No motorcycles wanted, no sports cars, now no cyclists. Who is allowed to enjoy the dales? Just walkers maybe. For a area dependent on tourism, there isn’t much hospitality. If everyone stopped visiting there would be a different moan

  8. Most cyclists use the roads for recreation. Living in NY I use the roads for travel to docs, shops and work. Its not unusual to be stuck behind a cyclist for several miles (6 in one instance) with no ability to safely overtake. Cyclists in the main are entitled and abusive to other road users.
    I can’t see anything will change. They should be insured and their cycles registered so they can be held accountable

    • 6 miles without a stretch of road in which you could safely overtake?

      I’ll take your word for it – many would have tried a close pass, so credit to you for not doing so – very considerate. Cyclists are mainly concerned with getting some exercise and going home to their families alive and uninjured. Cycle around Yorkshire for a bit and you’ll soon experience what it’s like from the other side, being aggressively overtaken by some oversized Chelsea tractor.

    • I have to disagree that “cyclists are in the main entitled and abusive” I would agree that “some people are entitled and abusive” whether they get in a car, a van or on a bicycle they will act that personality out, there isnt a switch on a bicycle that changes peoples personality.

  9. ‘Cyclists cause 70% of the accidents’

    Love to hear the facts begind that wild and wrong statistic.

    ‘Cyclists don’t pay road tax’ how many more errors are littered in this ignorant rant

  10. VED, what a lot of ill informed people called Road Tax, is based on emissions so cyclist are paying their VED at the same rate as a Renault Zoe and various other all electric cars.

  11. What about insurance when on the road? Car drivers by law have to have insurance, do cyclists? (They just go and buy a bike). Car drivers have to pass a full driving test, what test do cyclists have by law? Before going on a public road? And this is fair!

    • Most club/sports riders do have insurance via British Cycling, Bikeability training is offered to almost all 11 year olds in North Yorkshire. Personally I would have no issue with making both of these compulsory. Insurance probably for those over 16? I would add to your suggestion that driver training include how to share the road with cyclists i.e understanding how much space to give when overtaking and understanding what road position cyclists should adopt in various scenarios.

  12. Don’t we all need to be more tolerant? When I’m riding my bike I know that I’m likely to hold up faster vehicles from time to time. I’m sorry about this. But I am allowed to ride my bike on the highway and everyone should be tolerant. I’m tolerant when I’m in my car and get held up by a horse rider, a tractor, cyclists or even a Honda Jazz. The roads are for all and we just need to chill and accept that other folk want to use them too.

  13. Cyclists are vunerable road users. There are no other arguments. They might slow you down but won’t kill you!!!!!!

  14. It’s more about mutual respect required. I ride with local club, we try to avoid main roads, ride in groups of 8, with 300m between groups to aid passing.

    My main point is car drivers can be aggressive, I’ve been clipped on arm by wing mirrors or pushed by car into gutter, they don’t act the same when confronted with a horse! Or a group or ramblers.

  15. I don’t pay ‘roadtax’ because I have a low emission Honda – just like my low emission bike.
    It’s an Emission Tax!! When I cycle I’m not using my car – so no CO2 given out. I respect other road users when on my bike or in my car. Let’s try not to divide people over this.

  16. How is it that all the cyclists know how roads are funded but not all the drivers or an elected councillor?

    No need to be pedantic when Vehicle Exise Duty is the actual name.

    Maybe if the name was changed to idiot tax more drivers would question what they pay and how it is spent? Dont like it? Get a cleaner vehicle.

    Someone will still reply to this and be adamant that they pay a tax for road usage even though it was abolished over 80 years ago.

    Someone will get knocked off a bike today because of driver attitude,’they did’nt pay a tax that does’nt exist’.

  17. The problem isnt particularly the mode of transport i.e. cyclist v motorists, as most adult cyclists are also motorists and dont change in nature as they change their mode of transport. Some people are just inconsiderate/aggressive irrespective of the vehicle they are using and some are uninformed. Adult cyclists tend to have experience as a motorist but not all motorists have a reciprocal understanding of cyclist training such as when riding two abreast should be encouraged and primary and secondary road positions or understand how scary it feels when a two ton vehicle passes them inches away or that potholes can sometimes quite suddenly affect the road position of a cyclist.Im sure this partly leads to frustrations, plus some people just dont like ANYONE affecting their journey even if its for a few moments. Education of motorists is something we could effect (maybe as part of driver training) as is the continuation of educating cyclists how to behave on the road. In Richmondshire, bikeability (safe riding) has been taught by the County Council to 10/11 year olds for the past 11 years so theoretically most 11 to 22yr olds have been taught how to ride safely. Richmond Cycling Club have a programme of training their ride leaders how to safely lead groups together with British Cycling and I know that safe and responsible cycling is actively encouraged through the club, which is growing in popularity. There also needs to be some weighting to the issues, if a person on a bike is inconsiderate then it causes frustration and delay at worst, if a person (which could be the same person)is inconsiderate in a vehicle towards a cyclist the outcome could be severe injury or death.

  18. I do agree with the basic premise that more needs to be done to educate both drivers and cyclists it seems that everyone at the meeting was supporting that idea. There a few inaccuracies and misconceptions but that actually supports the argument for more education.

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