Dealing with cyclists in mainstream press comment forums – a primer

by seven   February 26, 2014  

I've been getting increasingly sick fed up of the raving loonies in my local rag's online comments section (I know, I know, it's my own fault for paying them any attention in the first place) so I made a short satirical "guide" of sorts based on their behaviour. It started out as something I would keep for myself and cut/paste whenever a new "look at those pesky cyclists" story got published, but it quickly grew to a size where there's no way I would've been able to fit it in a single comment, much less get any of the lunatics it parodies to read the thing, so here it is for your entertainment instead.

Permanent version at http://www.photogob.co.uk/2014/02/26/dealingwithcyclists/ if you fancy dropping it on any anti-cyclist pinheads commenting on news stories in the mainstream press.

General

Talk directly and forcefully about what, in your opinion, cyclists should and shouldn't be doing. It helps immensely if the last bike you rode said "Raleigh Grifter" on it in foil lettering. On the off chance that you have actually cycled recently, be very sure to point this out right at the beginning. "I'm a cyclist myself, but..." is always a great way to start your comment. It means you definitely know what you're talking about.

Use "the highway code"

Now... you have to be careful here. I don't mean actually use the highway code because, somewhat irritatingly, it will rarely support your argument. No, instead use the words "the highway code" as a phrase with which to figuratively beat these dopey cyclists about the head to drive home your point. If you do actually use the Highway Code then just misquote or paraphrase certain sections, remembering to omit the parts you don't personally agree with. Make rules up. stuff like "cyclists should be in the gutter", "cyclists must use cycle paths when provided" or "cyclists should stick to the outside of roundabouts" are all instantly believable classics. Trust me – nobody will notice.

If somebody notices

When some know-it-all swot has the temerity to call you out on any omission, misquoting or made up rule, under no circumstances should you respond. Walk away. Ignore this advice at your own peril. If the smug reply is simply too arrogant and infuriating to ignore, and you feel you simply must engage, then it should be solely to advise them that the highway code is plainly out of date/wrong/stupid on that particular point, because, well... common sense of course! Once you have done this it is strongly advisable to head off and pick an argument with someone else less annoyingly "informed".

Risk

When discussing risk, you must always make it very clear that all risks faced by cyclists on the roads are entirely of their own making and as such are wholly their own responsibility to mitigate. Examples of classic phrases you can employ when using this tactic are: "they are just a danger to themselves" and "why on earth should I be expected to look out for cyclists if the stubborn fools won't go to the effort of writing me a letter three weeks in advance to notify me that they might be using a certain stretch of my road on a given day and time?"

Whenever possible, you should overstate danger, to the point where you end up strongly implying that anyone even contemplating getting on a bicycle in this day and age must be afflicted with a special kind of brain defect which is bound to end in their permanent removal from the gene pool.

Always, always, blame the victim

This is a win-win strategy. When you pull out this big shiny gun, you will invariably attract shrill accusations of victim blaming within seconds of your post going up. When this happens, calmly come back with a quick "ooh, you're all such victims, why don't you take responsibility for your own safety for once instead of blaming everything on everyone else?" ... Bam! Right in the kisser! Next!

Red light jumping and other crowd-pleasers

Mentioning red light jumping (RLJing) used to be a sure fire winner, but sadly these days it's considered a slightly hazardous and time-intensive tactic. Should you let this one out of its bag then be prepared to fend off a flurry of lying replies from lying cycloterrorist liars claiming no sir they never ever ever do it, cross their lying hearts and hope to die. Better either to lob the RLJ-bomb just as you leave the discussion, or - if you plan on sticking around - employ a cleaner, more up-to-date sweeping generalisation such as pavement cycling, filtering (sorry, "weaving in and out of traffic") or the cycling fraternity's bewildering and pig-headed refusal to use the designated, perfectly safe, not at all strewn with broken glass and potholes, parking/cycle lanes that you paid for with your "road" tax.

Evidence

When faced with opposing evidence refuting a claim you've made, it is important that you try to find supporting evidence for a counter-claim. Note that this does not need to have any actual relevance to the matter at hand, nor does it even really need to exist, which leads us neatly on to...

Anecdotal evidence

This is by far the best sort of evidence to employ in any debate involving cyclists, because you can make it up on the spot and embellish as desired depending on the time available and how much you currently need to prove to the world at large just how smug and arrogant all cyclists are. The more emotive your description of you/your nan's harrowing encounter with these reckless two-wheeled marauders the better. Anecdotal evidence never fails when what you need is a nice bit of diversionary flak to take the heat off you for a bit, plus... oh, my, god does it annoy them! A well-executed story can knock them stone dead for whole minutes at a time while they feverishly type out their bafflingly angry responses. "Just the other day I witnessed..." is a brilliant opening rejoinder. "From out of nowhere" and "nearly took my arm off" are also immortal classics. Never underestimate the value of first hand exaggerated hearsay. Nobody can argue that it didn't happen, least of all those pesky cyclists, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at the sheer quantity of fiction you can successfully pass off as plausible. The key thing to remember here is that the vast majority of your audience is almost always receptive. If you entertain them, you'll have them eating out of the palm of your hand.

Other types of evidence (aka "actual" evidence)

Like the Highway Code, the sort of "report" that constitutes "actual" evidence on cycling and other transport-related matters is always long-winded, boring and difficult to understand. Even the pictures are just a bunch of confusing lines and numbers which nobody could ever really be expected to figure out. Another thing these "reports" have in common with the Highway Code is that they will only rarely, if ever, support your position. This is because they are written by pro-cyclist, anti-everyone-else Labour leftie eco-loony do-gooders and have the unctuous whiff of joss sticks and whalesong about them. Best avoided.

Take special care to present opinions as fact wherever possible.

Numbered lists are great, with a simple authoritative sounding introduction such as: "here are some facts". It's always good to start off with a couple of actual facts, or at least vaguely plausible statements, before moving on to the real humdingers.

Money

Money is a very powerful part of your armoury in the fight against these misguided fools on their two-wheeled, motorless contraptions. They don't pay "road" tax therefore they don't have a say, end of discussion. Cyclists are guests on the road and the point you need to get across at every opportunity is that they have outstayed their welcome. They should either start paying "road" tax like everyone else* or get off our roads. This is usually also a good point at which to remind cyclists that, unlike your good self, they are not highly trained, licensed and insured individuals. Note that this line of attack can play well whenever the pesky "highway code" conundrum rears its ugly head.

* Except perhaps owners of electric vehicles, low emissions vehicles, vehicles made before 1973, trams, vehicles which can't convey people, police vehicles, fire engines, ambulances and health service vehicles, mine rescue vehicles, lifeboat vehicles, certain road construction and maintenance vehicles, vehicles for disabled people, some agricultural and land maintenance vehicles, gritters, snow ploughs, vehicles undergoing statutory testing, vehicles imported by members of foreign armed forces, and crown vehicles. Basically nobody except you pays "road" tax and you are the only person entitled to use the roads. Cyclists certainly by their very definition don't pay "road" tax because, well, why on earth would you cycle if you owned a car?

Money, part two

Whenever any public funds are allocated for cycling infrastructure you must find out about it and then be outraged.

Finding out is easy, because your local rag will always make a song and dance about it. They will specially select quotes that make the local cycling lobby look like the bunch of tree hugging la-la-land nutters they clearly are, and which make the local council look like spendthrift buffoons. Again, not so difficult, since that's what they actually are.

Likewise, getting your rage on is also easy because, frankly, it is outrageous, isn't it? Cyclists are a tiny proportion of the population (see above under "present opinions as fact") therefore any money spent on them is money wasted.

Warning: You must always be sure to quickly divert attention from anyone attempting to put budgetary numbers into perspective. Comparisons between cycling infrastructure spending and all other transport spending are your nemesis. Better stick to safer ground with phrases like "waste of my council tax" and "my granny is freezing to death while these cyclists get preferential treatment" because - if one thing's for sure in this debate - it's that the council tax is in fact yours and that cyclists are definitely 100% responsible for fuel poverty. Ok that's two things, but they're absolutely for sure. Without a shadow of a doubt.

Play to the gallery

You're sure to be upvoted if you pander to prejudices similar to your own. The best way to do this is to be as dismissive as possible of people on bikes. The principal method of doing this is by ensuring you always refer to them using the correct third person terms such as "them", "they" and "these".

Pavement cyclists, your poor frozen granny, mums with prams, school kids and toddlers are just a small selection of the sort of emotive vehicles you can employ whenever you need to dismiss any piffling counter argument. After all, with cyclists, as everyone knows: THEY ALL DO IT! (NB: The definition of "IT" in the preceding statement can vary depending on your present requirements; again, see under "Anecdotal evidence".)

What to do if it starts to go south

In the unlikely event that all seems lost with a particular strand of debate, or you have collected a particularly odious and tenacious "bike person" who is thwarting your every move, worry not. If you can't get your point through the thicko cyclist's dense skull, you can always fall back on the ad hominem insult. This is especially effective if you can dream up some diminutive version of either their forum handle, or some vaguely cycling-related pun or alliterative effort. Recent crackers include such classics as "Piddle on Parliament", "Two Wheeled Terrors" any reference to something being "peddled/pedalled", or the evergreen classic "Lycra Louts".

There is a very deep well of dismissive phrases and resentment there for you to draw on. Most people only skim their bucket on the surface but if you want your comment to really stand out and attract the upvotes necessary for you to feel you have won the argument, you have to go deep. Really knock it out of the park and finish with a flourish. Leave no cliché unturned in your efforts to go out with a bang. A good example would be something like "Spandex Bandits" but of course I just took that one so you'll have to figure out your own.

When all else fails

Last but by no means least, accuse them of trolling. Those bastards are posting just to wind you up, so why should you let them get away with it? If you notice any repeat pro-cycling offenders posting on a fresh story, you can skip straight to this bit and just shut them down straight away. Nothing wins an argument like winning it without arguing.

4 user comments

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FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [582 posts]
26th February 2014 - 11:31

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Genius!

posted by jacknorell [340 posts]
26th February 2014 - 11:56

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posted by crazy-legs [505 posts]
26th February 2014 - 13:07

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...and welcome to the Top Gear Production Team! Rolling On The Floor

posted by levermonkey [357 posts]
9th March 2014 - 20:33

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