A 62-year-old mother says she has deflated tyres on about 100 SUVs in the last month – and wants to recruit an “army of middle-aged women” to join her protest action.
The member of controversial climate activist group The Tyre Extinguishers told Sky News she feels “exasperated” with drivers of the “destructive” vehicles.
The woman, who asked to be called Anna, says she targets SUVs in west London as she cycles home from work – and once deflated tyres on 16 vehicles in one evening.
She says passers-by have never questioned her because she does not look “threatening” or “suspicious” – but she was confronted by two drivers whose car tyres she let down.
The protester, who is a writer and film editor, says she is willing to spend time in jail over her cause and will only stop if the government takes action against SUVs, including banning adverts for the vehicles.
“I don’t see there is any justification for them,” she told Sky News.
“The pollution they cause affects all of us, it certainly affects me.
“They’re intimidating for cyclists and pedestrians… I’ve come off my bike because of two SUVs.
“I don’t want to be breaking the law. If these cars are doing so much damage, then attention needs to be drawn to it.”
Anna, who no longer owns a car but used to drive a Toyota RAV, says she deflates SUV tyres by putting lentils in the valves.
“I tend to have an hour’s go, usually in the evening when it’s getting dark,” she says.
“It’s not a nice thing to be doing. I get really dirty.
‘My children are encouraging’
“I just feel compelled to do something. I also feel what I do is a drop in the ocean, there are so many.
“Where I live, there are about five per street. And I don’t know who the people are, actually.”
Anna says she started deflating tyres on SUVs about four weeks ago and her three children, aged in their 20s and 30s, are “very encouraging”.
“I’ve done about 100 now,” she adds.
“I can be quicker if it’s in daylight because I can see immediately where the valve is. But it’s obviously less frightening to do it when it’s getting dark.”
She says she does not cover her face to try to hide her identity when she deflates the tyres, and has even targeted SUVs on the street where she lives.
‘I don’t look suspicious’
On the two occasions she has been confronted, the drivers were chauffeurs – including one who said her actions were “very wrong” but they “ended up wishing each other a good day”, according to Anna.
Neither driver threatened to involve the police, she adds.
Anna says passers-by have never stopped her to ask what she is doing, saying: “I’m 62. I don’t think I look threatening. I don’t look suspicious.
“I have thought of getting my children involved but they would look much more suspicious.
“We need an army of late-middle-aged women.”
Why are SUVs being targeted?
The Tyre Extinguishers say sport utility vehicles – or SUVs – are ‘a climate disaster’, ‘dangerous’ and ‘unnecessary’.
The vehicles feature elements of standard cars but are larger and have off-road capabilities.
They consume around 20% more energy than a medium-sized car because of their size, and over the last decade have outstripped aviation to become the second-largest cause of rising CO2 levels.
But despite warnings over climate change, SUV sales grew 10% between 2020 and 2021 and made up about 45% of all new vehicles sold globally last year, according to the International Energy Agency.
Anna admits she is worried about causing an accident if a driver fails to realise their car tyre has been deflated.
But she says: “I don’t do it if I think the person is going to drive away soon because the tyres go down slowly.
“I do it hoping they will find the car in the morning completely deflated.”
Not afraid of going to jail
Anna – who says she has no criminal record and has never previously taken part in direct action – says she is not scared of being arrested over her antics or going to jail.
“Maybe I’m being naive,” she says. “My daughter said she’d come and see me.
“I don’t feel ashamed of doing it. If it gets attention, that would be a good thing.”
Anna says the size of modern SUVs is “quite frightening” and she claims they are “incredibly destructive”.
‘I feel exasperation for them’
On SUV drivers, she says: “Have you no thought for the people in Pakistan suffering from the climate extremes?
“I feel exasperation with them and it would be good if they were made to consider what they’re doing.”
The Tyre Extinguishers say they want to “strike fear” into owners of “gas guzzling” SUVs and claim to have deflated tyres on thousands of cars across the UK since March.
The activists say they have struck in London, Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Sheffield and Cambridge – and their campaign is “escalating fast”.
They have warned more cities are set to be targeted as they aim to deflate tyres on more than 10,000 vehicles by the end of the year.
Police have warned the group’s actions “will absolutely not be tolerated” and have sought to catch those involved.