Newspaper columnist Matthew Parris wrote a piece in The Times (27th Dec) that said, “A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists….. Driving or walking, don’t you just hate the way that, riding two or three abreast, they shout and curse at you or whir their angry little bells, as though it’s your problem that they need to clear the way?”
As if we need to add to the 2006 death toll of 146 cyclists, 599 motorcyclists, 675 pedestrians and 1,612 drivers and passengers killed on the roads. (Road Casualties 2006)
The article attracted a lot of comment, neatly polarized between the usual deranged cycle-haters and cyclists. I’m not really sure that it deserves much comment yet if some enraged motorist does string wire across a lane, would Parris have any liability? As one of the commentators pointed out, Mr Justice Hughes, when sentencing Abu Hamza to seven years for incitement to murder, said "No one can say now what damage your words may have caused - no one can say whether any of your audiences, present or wider acted on your words."
Another correspondent pointed to an April 2007 story in The Times headlined, " Biker killed by barbed wire: A farmer is under investigation for manslaughter after the death of an Italian motocross enthusiast who was practically decapitated by barbed wire stretched across a country track. Marco Badiali, 48, who was married with two children, bled to death from a “deep wound across his throat”.
Finally, riding two abreast is perfectly legal and is safer: it forces drivers to slow down and overtake properly instead of squeezing past. Cyclists do not need to “clear the way”!
For the record, the Highway Code, Rule 66, states, “You should never ride more than two abreast.”