By Stuart Clarke published
Those of you who pick up a copy of the Metro newspaper on your commute to work, you'll know it's normally a bastion of high quality news, but a recent online post by Metro 'blog coordinator' Yvette Caster saw the publication hit a bit of a low.
Getting people to click on your stories is sometimes pretty hard as an online journalist, so when Ms Caster trawled the Clickbait Database and entitled her story 'Cyclists are a menace and should be banned from the roads' she must have sat back and rubbed her hands in glee.
Unfortunately, the headline was about the only well thought-out thing in the story, with the 467 words that followed it simply churning out age-old clichés about cyclists.
As cycling grows in the UK we see a fair amount of anti-cyclist comments and you become a bit immune to it after a while. Just read the comments section of any MailOnline story about cycling and you'll get the idea of what Ms Caster talks about in her article.
Let's take it from the top, as we deconstruct Ms Caster's diatribe almost line by line, starting with a spot of sexism...
"He, and, yes, it is almost always a he, some balding MAMIL (Middle-aged Man In Lycra) sweating away, holding up traffic, causing accidents and generally being a total liability on the modern highway."
It's quite sad, in many ways, that a woman like Ms Caster still believes that cycling is a preserve 'almost always' for males, given the boom in women's cycling in recent years. A cursory glance at a city-centre road in rush hour will allow you to see that there's plenty of female cyclists on the road.
The sad fact is, though, in London the majority of cycling deaths in recent years have been women - lycra-clad or not - and the accidents are very often not 'caused' by the cyclist being 'a total liability'.
Time to get your head out the sand and look at some facts, rather than simple clichés.
Facts like the fact that cyclists are 11 times more likely do die on the roads per mile travelled than car drivers. Or the fact that car drivers also jump red lights and cause a lot more accidents by doing so than cyclists, according to Department for Transport figures.
"If we set aside, for a moment, the danger they pose both to what roads are for – cars – and what the pavements are for – walkers, there’s first the visuals."
Firstly, bicycles don't really pose a danger to a car, because there's only one outcome when a cyclist comes into contact with a two-tonne metal vehicle.
Secondly, roads are not 'for cars'. Roads existed well before the motorcar. Indeed the better paving of roads came about because more people were using bicycles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
But I'm excited to find out what the 'visuals' Ms Caster is going to describe so eloquently.
"They look ridiculous. Nobody looks good riding a bicycle. There’s a reason James Bond drives an Aston Martin and Knight Rider has KITT while bikes are for the likes of Benny Hill and Granville – they are the transport of clowns, buffoons and Boris Johnson."
Granted, James Bond looks pretty good in an Aston Martin, but Knight Rider? Everything in that show looked awful! Also, Knight Rider was the name of the television programme, not the character in the programme.
Playing the Boris Johnson card is just too easy, isn't it. There are plenty of graceful and stylish cyclists in the world to change your opinion.
"Exercising on them leaves you with a Peter Crouch physique – seriously unenviable."
This is where Ms Caster's argument falls apart altogether. For those of you who aren't aware, Peter Crouch is a particularly tall and skinny, well-paid footballer. He also happens to be married to the model Abbey Clancy, so his physique must have some sort of attraction.
Plus, in an age when inactivity and obesity is costing the country billions of pounds each year, saying that exercising gives you an unenviable appearance is completely ridiculous.
"Plus, a bike’s construction is frankly some kind of highly suspicious witchcraft – how do they even stay up at all?"
And there we have it. The words that completely undermine everything Ms Caster has ranted about thus far: "How do they even stay up at all?"
It's a classic case of hating something that you don't understand. "Oh, I hate the French because I can't understand what they're saying."
It's simple physics really.
"Then there’s the lycra. The ugly, lurid, lycra of the man on the train stinking the place out with his bike sweat.
"Said man will also inevitably block the train doors with his unroadworthy beast, or at the least stab you with the grimy edge of his clunky fold-up."
So when a cyclist does what Ms Caster suggests and gets off the road to use public transport, they still feel her wrath?
"Then there’s the appalling rudeness of so many cyclists.
"I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Sunday cyclists, merrily riding down a windy country lane SIDE BY SIDE in a 60 zone.
"It’s almost as if they want to be bumped off."
Some cyclists can be rude, yes. Some drivers can be rude as well. People in general are rude - it's not riding a bike that makes people rude.
As such an avid fan of motoring, it's surprising that Ms Caster hasn't read the section in the highway code about cyclists being allowed to travel SIDE BY SIDE (or two abreast, as it's officially called) on a road.
Chris Boardman even presented a video about the topic...have a look at it here.
"Then there’s the ‘speed demons’ who don’t think the highway code applies to them, nearly mangling pedestrians who have waited patiently at crossings, with their heads down, peddling madly through red lights."
Okay, we'll give you this one. People who ignore traffic signals and lights are a nuisance to everyone. We're well aware that many 'lycra-clad' cyclists skip red lights and the many of us will call out our fellow riders for their stupidity.
"Let’s be honest, any claims they may make about saving the environment (smug, smug, smug) are surely negated by the amount of fumes emitted by vehicles queued behind them, desperately trying to overtake safely as they wobble about."
Not all cyclists are graced with the ability to ride in a dead straight line, and the prospect of a car scraping your handlebars often makes riders a little more nervous on busy roads.
Ms Caster said on Twitter last night that she 'stands by' everything she wrote in her article, having been contacted by members of the 'cycling mafia', as she called them, one of whom referred to her as a 'Pound Shop Katie Hopkins'.
It's bad enough that a person down the pub feels that it's okay to spew such anti-cyclist sentiment, let alone a journalist looking to grab a few cheap clicks.
Here's a few suggestions for some more guaranteed clickbait stories: 'Why do wheelchair users take up all of the pavement?' or 'People that block the doors on the Underground should be deported'.
Look out for those ones soon.
Stuart Clarke is a News Associates trained journalist who has worked for the likes of the British Olympic Associate, British Rowing and the England and Wales Cricket Board, and of course Cycling Weekly. His work at Cycling Weekly has focused upon professional racing, following the World Tour races and its characters.
Training through the pain
It’s a universal truth in cycling: when the hard effort hurts too much, we back off and slow down. But can we train our ability to tolerate pain? Steve Shrubsall finds out
By Stephen Shrubsall • Published
Ten alternative kits with more flair than (most of) the WorldTour would know what to do with
Gravel, crit, and amateur teams have some of the best kits (fact)
By Michelle Arthurs-Brennan • Published