Steven Norris, former chair of the National Cycle Strategy Board, said at Wednesday's Cycle Forum for England that Britain's car-centred culture has made cyclists feel invisible, with the result that some exhibit yobbish behaviour. Transport minister Kim Howells, a GT-riding roadie, agreed, saying he'd nearly been knocked down by a cycling 'jerk' earlier that morning.

‘Cycle terrorists’ threaten take up of cycling by the ‘unconverted’

"Cycle terrorism is a British phenomenon, because cyclists feel put upon, invisible," said Steven Norris, would-be London mayor and outgoing chair of the National Cycle Strategry Board.

"Other countries in Europe are cycle-friendly. Cyclists need to feel an equal part of society."

Dr Kim Howells said there was a lot of latent goodwill for cycling in the UK but a minority of cyclists were in danger of "blowing it for the rest of us."

So called ‘Lycra louts’ often feature in newspaper columnist rants against cyclists and Howells can understand the hatred directed at cyclists.

"There’s a lot of ill will because of a minority of cyclists, jumping red lights and ignoring other traffic laws. Some jerk nearly knocked me over on the Embankment this morning."

New NCSB chair Philip Darnton, president of the Bicycle Association, said cycling in the UK suffers from an image problem:

"My background is as a marketing man selling detergents. Soap powder used to spill out of boxes. The product did not live up to the advertised promise. We now have a similar problem with cycling. We’ve got to change ‘cycle-friendly’ [the infrastructure mantra of advocates] into ‘friendly cycling’. In london, at least, the ‘product’ lets the marketing down."

Darnton acknowledged the ‘friendly cycling’ idea came from Andy Shrimpton, IBD owner of Cycle Heaven in York and an ACT board member.

Shrimpton agreed cycling had an image problem.

"We’ve got to put our house in order," he said.

Journalist and transport campaigner Christian Wolmar had a novel solution: ‘Hug a driver day’, he quipped.

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