Driffield News

Too many drivers have no respect for cyclists, says champion duathlete

An athlete from Driffield is calling on the authorities to provide better protection for cyclists after a series of near misses on roads around Capital of the Wolds and the wider East Riding.

If that wasn’t enough, Matthew Nelson has also been subjected to vile abuse whilst out training – and was even spat at on a recent local ride.

The former Driffield School & Sixth Form student is the current British and English duathlon champion and will be going for world glory in Denmark at the beginning of May.

An experienced cyclist who is out on his bike almost every day, Matthew said that drivers pulling too close to him has been something he has come to accept as being the norm.

But since the Highway Code was changed in January, with the aim of making the roads safer for cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders, the 29-year-old said the dangers and abuse has heightened.

Cyclists are advised to wear body cameras when out on the roads – however, Matthew said this should not be required if drivers stuck to the rules.

The treatment of cyclists on the roads has always been fairly bad…. but if anything, it seems to be getting worse.

matthew nelson

“I’m normally on the bike around 12 to 15 hours every week, perhaps even more, depending on the time of year,” he said.

“I tend to use the roads in between Driffield and Beverley, occasionally going further afield into North Yorkshire.

“The treatment of cyclists on the roads has always been fairly bad. There are lots of near passes on the rural roads around here and the new laws that came into force recently state that drivers should give cyclists more space as they pass.

“But if anything, it seems to be getting worse.

“Ninety per cent of drivers pass cyclists far too closely and they’re happy to squeeze by, just so they can progress on their journey 30 seconds faster.

“Near passes, as well as being cut up (dangerous driving into the path of another road user whilst overtaking), are seen as normal by most cyclists and that’s the kind of thing I expect from all cars when I’m out on the road, which is sad.

“But more recently, I have been brake-checked (when a driver deliberately either taps on the brakes several times or slams hard on the pedal when moving in front of another vehicle, with the intention of causing the behind driver to either collide or take evasive action) on several occasions and I’ve had items thrown at me from drivers and passengers.

“I’ve even had drivers that have stopped their cars to spit at me. That happened between Hornsea and Driffield when a driver came very close and the passenger just spat at me out of the window and then swore.

“Incidents like that ruin your ride, but unless you’re wearing cameras, no one knows about it.

“I don’t tend to ride with them as they are very expensive and it shouldn’t be a requirement every time you go for a bike ride.”

An elite athlete with numerous race wins to his name all over the world, it’s fair to say Matthew will be one of the most competent cyclists using the roads around Driffield and the Wolds.

Often, he can spot if danger is heading his way and makes a safe move, but he admitted even he is becoming apprehensive whilst out training.

Matthew said that whilst it is great that everyone is being encouraged to get on their bikes as the government attempts to improve the country’s fitness after the COVID lockdowns, as well as enhance the environmental benefits of cycling, he believes the roads are a dangerous place for those less experienced.

He wants to see the laws highlighted and enforced better, as they are in other parts of Europe, before something terrible happens.

“It is so dangerous out there and becoming such a problem,” said Matthew.

“I’m an experienced cyclist and would class myself as someone who is able to handle a bike, so if I am brake-checked, I can generally see it coming and take action.

“But, for example, someone like my girlfriend, who has only just started cycling, would not respond as quickly.

The updated rules advise cyclists they can do the following:

● Use the centre of the lane when it is dangerous for a car to overtake, for example at junctions, on narrow sections of road or approaching a roundabout

● Exercise their judgement when using cycle lanes

● Can ride two abreast when in large groups, accompanying a child or someone less experienced

● May pass slow moving traffic

“If it’s a male driver, it can be quite intimidating for female cyclists too. Also, if I was a parent, I wouldn’t want my child going out on the roads at the moment.

“The people who are using bikes are keeping cars off the road, which is what we are being told to do for the environment.

“Drivers have no respect whatsoever. At four or five o’clock, everyone is rushing home, but driving past a cyclist dangerously is not going to cut their journey down very significantly at all.

“It’s so frustrating. I’ve reported incidents to the police on numerous occasions, but unless contact is made, there doesn’t seem much interest.

“I don’t think that’s good enough and I fear that more people are going to be killed unless action is taken.
“Drivers don’t seem certain about what they should be doing under the new laws.

“It’s almost as if everyone seems to resent cyclists now. The laws needed to be brought in, but in England, we don’t enforce them like other countries do.

“In countries like Spain, the laws are highlighted everywhere you go and the cycle paths are laid out much better and not shared between pedestrians and cyclists.

“It’s often not safe to ride on cycle paths when you are travelling at 25mph and sharing them with pushchairs and dog walkers. Changes need to be made sooner rather than later.”

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