Incident on Hills Road: a first-hand account

This article was published in 2013, in Newsletter 107.

I was commuting home by bike from the Addenbrooke’s site at 6.30pm along Hills Road. It was an ordinary evening for me, having commuted by bike for the best part of ten years. It was night time and my front and rear lights were switched on. A colleague followed closely behind. After checking over my shoulder that it was safe to overtake a cyclist, I began to do so within the cycle lane on Hills Road. As I performed this manoeuvre, the cyclist I was overtaking began to overtake another cyclist in front without looking over his shoulder. Despite warning him with my bell, he persisted, edging ever closer into me and I was therefore forced to pull out slightly into the carriageway (by about a foot, according to my colleague who herself had looked behind and was preparing to overtake). Then, a car that neither of us had spotted when we had looked back moments earlier appeared suddenly and at great speed from behind. The speeding driver began to honk his horn repeatedly and at great proximity to what was now a cluster of four cyclists. I perceived this unnecessary act to be dangerous and intimidating, which led me, in a moment of frustration, to react to the driver’s actions with a hand gesture. This did not go down well.

The driver overtook and stopped his car on the cycle lane ahead. As I overtook his car, he opened his door and started to get out. Fortunately I had left sufficient space between us not to be clipped by the door and I managed to cycle around him safely. I then heard him rev up his car and accelerate down Hills Road behind me. Concerned that he would attempt to strike me with his vehicle, I cycled onto the shared-use pavement for safety. He continued and stopped his car a second time, on this occasion in a brightly lit area in front of Homerton College and the Faculty of Education. He got out of his car and stood there with his hands in front of his chest, waiting to tackle me. While I attempted to circumnavigate him, as I had done earlier, he began to chase me on foot all the way across Hills Road, which fortunately was clear of traffic at the time. As he sprinted behind me, I was forced to cycle onto the pavement on the opposite side of the road.

Although I was cycling as fast as I could on my folding bicycle, trying to get away, the man managed to catch up with me. He grabbed me by the coat as I cycled at speed, ripping it in the process, and shoved me into a telephone exchange box. The impact propelled me over the handlebars and caused me to fall head-first onto the concrete floor. I stood up and saw him run back across the road and get into his car. As I fumbled with my phone to take a photograph and attempted to read his number plate, he started the car and zoomed off at once with his headlights switched off.

The assault was over very quickly and, out of concern, witnesses focussed their attention mostly on my bleeding head, rather than the assailant and his car. I took their details and, preoccupied that I might have suffered an internal head injury requiring medical attention, I cycled myself back to Addenbrooke’s for examination. I asked my colleague to accompany me in case I fainted on the way. Once at A&E, I received 13 stitches to my head and have since been suffering from headaches and other symptoms.

Ernest Turro