The double Olympic champion Laura Trott has accused cyclists of being reckless and causing accidents by failing to obey the rules of the road.
The cycling gold medallist said she was shocked by how many rogue riders jumped red lights and weaved dangerously through traffic – and added that accidents were “not always the car’s fault”.
She also called for safety helmets to be compulsory for all riders as she spoke of how her sister, also a professional cyclist, had survived being knocked off her bike by wearing one.
Trott, 21, was speaking after being appointed an ambassador for the Lee Valley VeloPark, which includes the Olympic velodrome, by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. He has separately expressed concern that cycling’s image is being tarnished by an aggressive, Lycra-clad minority.
Trott said: “Cyclists wonder why they get a bad name. I see cyclists jumping in and out of the buses and people wonder why they get hit. It’s not always the car’s fault. Cyclists need to help themselves and should not jump red lights.
“I would ride in London but I certainly wouldn’t ride like that – you just have to be careful. I can understand going down the outside of traffic, but you should obey the rules of the road because we’re all road users.”
Trott’s call for politicians to make helmets compulsory for cyclists puts her and her fellow campaigner, the Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, at loggerheads with Mr Johnson’s cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, who insists helmets have no proven benefits and refuses to wear one. Trott said wearing a helmet was drummed into her at a young age by her parents, despite her complaints that it was “uncool”.
In 2010 her sister, Emma, 23, broke her collarbone and suffered concussion so bad that she “barely even knew who she was” when a car hit a group of five British riders in Belgium.
Trott believes Emma’s life was saved by the helmet she wore. She said: “When I was 11 I didn’t want to look uncool but my parents wouldn’t let me out unless I was wearing it. It should be a legal requirement to wear a helmet. So many lives have been saved by them and it saved my sister’s life. She got hit by a car and cut her head open. When Emma called from hospital she barely even knew who she was, so if she wasn’t wearing a helmet she wouldn’t be here today.
“For me, putting my helmet on now is a habit and I’ll wear it even if I’m going to the shop for a pint of milk.”
Fourteen cyclists were killed on London streets last year and already there have been six deaths this year. Mr Johnson has put aside a £913m cycling fund, to be spent on schemes including a “superhighway” along the Embankment, linked to Amsterdam-style quiet roads in outer boroughs.
Trott said the new infrastructure, which has escaped major government spending cuts, was overdue. She added: “It shows show we’re becoming a cycling nation and the scheme is needed now. If you don’t do it then London’s roads are going to be filled with cyclists. We need more bike lanes in central London.”
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