How Nigel Havers incurred wrath of bicycling readers

Cahal Milmo,Elisa Bray
Wednesday 07 June 2006 00:00
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The ability of the supposedly genteel pastime of cycling to raise emotions was no better exemplified than in a one-line comment on the pages of The Independent two weeks ago from the actor Nigel Havers.

In an otherwise uncontroversial interview about the treasures of the National Trust, the 56-year-old was asked what he would like people to take more notice of. He replied: "Cyclists who jump red lights and ride on pavements because they're all bastards."

The comment started a battle on this paper's letters page on who was the most maligned - the nation's eco-friendly cyclists or its motorists terrorised by Lycra-clad hoodlums.

Yesterday, Mr Havers was in no mood to signal a thaw in relations. Speaking from his car on a mobile phone, he said: "I absolutely hate cyclists. If they use the roads for free and they don't have to pay any tax, they must obey the rules.

"The rules are that you stop at a red traffic light. I'm at one now and four cyclists just went through. They go up a one-way street the wrong way. And they're aggressive if you get in their way. One just smacked the side of my car with his hand. It's unbelievable behaviour."

But for every pedalphobe there is a cyclophile.

In an earnestly-argued letter published on 30 May, Julia Blincoe, from Southampton, wrote: "I have no objection whatever to occasional pavement cycling and have every sympathy with cyclists.

"Cycles do not emit fumes or loud noise nor cause CO2 emissions, nor devour thousands of acres of land for parking space and they keep their riders healthy so that NHS costs are lower."

Others, such as David Selby, from Hampshire, said that cycle paths were the poor cousins of road infrastructure.

As in all such polemics, the final word seems to have gone to someone who says the blame lies on both sides.

Chloe Pearse, a former London cyclist who now lives in Bangkok, wrote in yesterday's issue: "I can unfortunately see all sides. I too have been annoyed at cyclists who seem blind to red lights, who jump on pavements to avoid traffic jams. But my most abiding memory of cycling in London was after I was cut up on Lancaster Gate by a driver, a vehicle came screeching to my side and Mr White-Van-Man stuck his head out of the window and said, 'Are you alright, love? Do you want me to get her for you?'

"Stunned as I was, I feebly nodded and he sped away, cutting up several other motorists in the process of exacting my revenge."

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