It's fair to say that the Daily Mail has never been a huge fan of cycling. It's probably perceived by the paper as being a bit too lefty, a bit too Jeremy Corbyn. Now, it appears as though someone at the Mail has collected together all of the paper's most cliché-driven anti-cycling rants from the past 100 years and condensed them into one rancid article.
Brendan O'Neill's piece, entitled "Is ANYWHERE safe from the lycra louts? They've got cycle lanes galore. But now they're on pavements and jumping lights - and mowing down pedestrians" sets out its stall early on.
"Smug cyclists are far more likely to send your blood boiling then [sic] other motorists", it says, continuing "A growing common sense among bikers is that cyclists should rule the road" and "Their arrogant attitude isn't helped by officials who pander to them".
The trigger of this amazing article appears to be a recently published report that injuries caused as a result of cyclist-pedestrian collisions have risen since 2014. The paper reports an increase of 50 per cent in seven years.
"But with this increase has come a growing sense among cyclists that bikes should rule the road," writes O'Neill. "This is, in part, down to their belief that their chosen method of transport isn’t only about getting from A to B, but also about saving the planet from eco-doom."
No mention is made of the number of cyclists, or anyone else, killed on Britain's roads for comparison.
Naturally, there have to be plenty of mentions involving cyclists' "self righteousness" and "holier-than-thou attitude".
And the fact that no cyclist pays road tax – yes, road tax – or is insured.
O'Neill attributes some of the world's ills to cyclists: pollution is increasing because car drivers are stuck on roads now clogged up with cycle lanes.
"In London, hundreds of millions of pounds are being pumped into getting more people on bikes. This has included turning ever more road space into cycling lanes. As a result, the space for cars has shrunk dramatically, so they’re more likely to get stuck in traffic jams and to pump out fumes."
There's a fairly obvious answer to drivers being stuck in a car while watching cyclists "whizz by" on their bikes in an adjacent cycle lane, but the Daily Mail does not point it out.
Cyclists are also above the law, it says, and the police are encouraging it. O'Neill notes that police in Camden have decided not to issue on-the-spot fines to those riding on the pavement. And that motorists are bearing the brunt of West Midlands Police's recent campaign to 'feel the collar' of drivers close-passing cyclists.
The author fails to grasp the reasoning behind either of these forward-thinking initiatives. In the case of Camden police, they are stopping pavement cyclists and instead of just issuing them with a ticket, they are asking them why it is they do not feel safe to ride on the road. And then attempting to do something about it.
As is often the case with such articles, the Daily Mail seeks to compartmentalise road users into distinct groups. Cyclists, pedestrians, drivers. In the Mail's Venn diagram, there are three distinct circles with no overlap. If you are a cyclist, you don't ever drive; if you are a pedestrian, you cannot also be a cyclist, etc.
No account is given that cyclists, like every other loosely-based group – fishmongers, lighthouse keepers, actuaries, swimmers, electricians, people who live in Wigan, for example – consist of a completely disparate set of people who don't actually attend a daily morning briefing to make sure they all behave and think in exactly the same way.
Of course, it's all designed to wind up cyclists – whom the paper quite probably perceives as being an easy target and good fun to give a poke to every now and then. I seriously doubt that even Mr O'Neill really believes half of what he has written – how could he. But just watch the below-the-article comments pile up.
Cycling is full of self-righteous, law-breaking, lycra-clad loonies who are out to KILL EVERY PEDESTRIAN, AND THAT MEANS YOU, and the paper doesn't sell a single copy by covering cycling.
So cyclists are fair game.
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Nigel Wynn worked as associate editor on CyclingWeekly.com, he worked almost single-handedly on the Cycling Weekly website in its early days. His passion for cycling, his writing and his creativity, as well as his hard work and dedication, were the original driving force behind the website’s success. Without him, CyclingWeekly.com would certainly not exist on the size and scale that it enjoys today. Nigel sadly passed away, following a brave battle with a cancer-related illness, in 2018. He was a highly valued colleague, and more importantly, n exceptional person to work with - his presence is sorely missed.