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Revealed: Shocking extent of abuse and sexual harassment faced by women cycling in London

Pedal power: Women cyclists are demanding a halt to abuse from motorists (LCC)
Pedal power: Women cyclists are demanding a halt to abuse from motorists (LCC)

Women cycling in London have been called “bitch” and “slut” and told to “get off the road” by motorists, a report has revealed.

Some women also suffered sexual harassment, ranging from unsolicited sexual comments, to men taking photos or videos of women cycling, to groping or slapping when they stopped at traffic lights.

The survey of more than 1,000 women cyclists, by London Cycling Campaign’s Women’s Network, found some mothers faced abuse for cycling with their children.

A fifth of respondents said they had stopped cycling temporarily or permanently as a result of the abuse.

The report said the findings echoed a UK-wide study of “near misses”, which found that women were almost twice as likely as male cyclists to face harassment or bad driving.

The report, which was published on Tuesday evening, warned: “It seems that abuse towards women cycling has become normalised.”

The lack of protected cycle lanes was said to be a “major barrier” to cycling in the capital. Parks, canal towpaths and unlit, isolated routes – which are often part of Transport for London’s recommended “cycleway” routes – “do not serve women well”, especially at night.

This meant that women had to cycle on main roads, where there is a greater risk of a collision, or to stop cycling after dark.

The report, What Stops Women Cycling in London?, found that 93 per cent of respondents said drivers had used vehicles to intimidate them. More than three-quarters of respondents said this happened at least once a month.

One woman, Nevin, told researchers: "We were both stopped at traffic lights. He shouted 'You can f*** off and suck your mother'. It was the way he said it."

Another cyclist, Dani, said: "I experienced the most aggression when I was cycling with a trailer with my kids in.

“It was impatient drivers in residential areas getting frustrated that they couldn’t overtake me. They would yell out of their windows. Once someone stopped in front of me to tell me I was a bad mother for putting my kids in danger."

Sara said: "I was cycling on the road where I live. There are cars parked on each side so I have to cycle in primary position. A driver drove towards me at speed, then as he passed he wound down his window and shouted 'bitch' in my face."

Catriona, another survey respondent, said: “I've had drivers passing too closely on purpose to intimidate me more times than I can remember.

“I've been stopped at lights and had my bum slapped by a man as he walked past. Women in London, including those of us just trying to get about on bikes, face gendered abuse, aggression and violence and we have to end this.”

Last November the Standard revealed that TfL was conducting its own research into sexual harassment suffered by women cycling, as part of a wider piece of work on violence against women and girls.

The LCC has set up a petition calling for action from Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL.

Eilidh Murray, chair of London Cycling Campaign, said: "While more and more people are cycling in London and safe cycle routes are rolling out in many boroughs, there's still too many parts of London where cycling isn't and doesn't feel safe enough – and women still face additional barriers to cycling and additional hostility when cycling.

“This needs urgent action to address the fact that only a third of cycle trips in London are done by women – whereas in Holland, over half are.”