Racing on public roads
The attitude of your correspondent James F. Page is, unfortunately, very common amongst the many motorists who in their inconsiderations do not know how to treat cyclists on the roads.
My job of selling cycles means that I have to drive 30,000 miles per year, and never am I given cause for alarm by cyclists other than perhaps by the odd child rider. I also cover several thousand miles every year on a cycle and on nearly every occasion I use one, my right to be on the road is jeopardised by the bad driving of certain motorists.
Surely Mr. Page would not wish to try and stop a sport which gives pleasure to thousands of riders and spectators every week. Time trials and road races are all well organised with police permission and co-operation, and the accident and inconvenience rate is remarkably low considering the thousands of races which are run every season. All racing cyclists are, incidentally, covered by compulsory insurance.
As far as not paying a contribution to the upkeep of the roads is concerned, you may he surprised to learn that nearly all racing cyclists are car owners, as a car is nowadays a necessary part of their equipment to take them round the country to the various races. The particular race that Mr. Page refers to is probably the Tour of the West, which is a professional race, the competitors being 100% efficient in handling what after all, is the most manoeuvrable vehicle on the roads.
Although not yet a major national sport, as it is in most countries, cycle racing has at least produced several British world champions since the war including the present world professional road champion, Tommy Simpson, also the Sportsman of the Year. This is a better record that has been achieved by many of our so-called major sports. It is also a sport that is open to all, where the champion is the best man, not like motor racing where the budding champions must forever watch as they cannot afford to participate.
Quite a few successful racing cyclists have become equally successful in motor sport, one who springs to mind being Peter Proctor, who raced for many years, part of the time with the strong B.S.A. team. On the Continent car and petrol manufacturers utilise the tremendous advertising power of professional cycle racing to sell their products, Ford running a strong team in France in conjunction with a cycle manufacturer, and BP share in the running of two racing teams, one of which is Peugeot, France's largest cycle manufacturer and one of the world's leading car manufacturers. The publicity value is so great that these concerns pour hundreds of thousands of pounds into the sport every year, and in this country the Milk Marketing Board spend £40,000 every year to run the Tour of Britain and Fords are happy to supply their cars free for service vehicles, again because of the publicity value.
Could I finally ask Mr. Page, if he is not in too much of a hurry when he next encounters a cycle race, to stop and cheer them on and appreciate that as they participate in the toughest sport of all, one of them might go on to bring honours to this country, a thing which we are very short of these days.
Manchester. Ian C. Byrom.
[We have received an astonishing quantity of letters from racing cyclists who read Motor Sport and many of whom own sports cars. So, and in view of the comments in the above letter on the tie-up between the Motor Industry and cycle racing, let's hope for some entente cordiale between two and four-wheeled road users! But you can't help being jealous of chaps who can race officially on public roads.—Ed]