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Paper says government figures highlight need to give 'lycra louts' same treatment as speeding drivers - but conveniently ignores casualty figures...

The Department of Justice has revealed that the number of cyclists who have been prosecuted at magistrates’ court for failing to stop at red traffic lights more than halved from 55 in 2006 to 22 in 2007. The figures have been eagerly seized upon by the Daily Mail as fuel for its ongoing campaign against so-called ‘lycra louts.’

The figures were released in a written Parliamentary answer to a question from the Labour peer, Lord Lipsey, who told the newspaper that they proved that cyclists, as a result of not being required to display license plates, were able to “ignore the law with impunity.”

The paper added that its own research has revealed that in 2006, there were 147 prosecutions of cyclists in England and Wales for cycling on the pavement, and contrasts the treatment of cyclists with that of motorists, claiming that more than 2 million of the latter receive speeding tickets each year, with 200,000 of them prosecuted.

There is of course a reason for the emphasis on prosecuting drivers for speeding offences, but it’s not one you’ll find explained anywhere in the Daily Mail article, so we’ve had a trawl through Department for Transport (DfT) data for 2008 to put the issue into perspective. Here’s what we found.

Last year, 14% of all road traffic accidents, and one quarter of road deaths, had exceeding the speed limit or driving too quickly for the conditions as a contributory factor. That suggests to us that taking measures to curb speeding motorists are a sensible deployment of resources.

Looking specifically at single vehicle accidents involving a cyclist hitting a pedestrian – and the DfT data do not distinguish between those involving cycling on the pavement or where, for example a pedestrian has stepped into a rider’s path – in 2008 there were 236 that involved injury to the pedestrian. Of those, 54 were seriously injured and just one was killed.

During the same year, 4,236 pedestrians were seriously injured and 310 killed in single vehicle accidents involving cars – and those statistics exclude accidents involving vehicles such as motorcycles, taxis and minicabs, buses, goods vehicles and other motor vehicles, which together accounted for a further 175 pedestrian deaths, bringing the total to 485.

In light of that figure, it’s a mystery why the Daily Mail should focus its attention on a group of road users responsible for one pedestrian death – or, around 0.2% of the total – especially when 89 cyclists were themselves killed in accidents involving motor vehicles during 2008.

It’s also unclear, given those statistics, why the newspaper, while on the one hand bemoaning the time and expense involved in prosecuting speeding motorists who have, after all, broken the law, and often with fatal consequences, should be pushing for exactly that legal process to be increasingly applied more to cyclists instead of applauding recent initiatives to crack down on anti-social cycling.

As reported here on road.cc in recent weeks, a number of police forces across the country have launched campaigns targeting cyclists who are jumping red lights, riding without lights or cycling on the pavement, often issuing transgressors with fixed penalty notices or providing training to help them become more responsible road users.

That’s something you’d hope the Daily Mail would welcome, given the prominence it has given in its pages to such issues together with its call for action to be taken, but it seems that those initiatives are not enough to satisfy it.

It was left to the DfT itself to put the newspaper’s ‘story’ into context, with a spokesperson quoted as saying: “The vast majority of cyclists ride safely and responsibly but we are fully aware that a small minority put themselves and others at risk.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

16 comments

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OldRidgeback [2815 posts] 8 years ago
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Of course it's worth remembering the Daily Mail's somewhat questionable political allegiance in the 1930s.

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purplecup [217 posts] 8 years ago
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don't think much has changed since then, ORB...

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demoff [327 posts] 8 years ago
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We are the angry mob,
We read the papers every day
We like who we like we hate who we hate
But were also easily swayed

Could have been written for the Daily Wail readers.

The Mail should simply be ignored giving no creedence to any of the rubbish they print.

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dave atkinson [6329 posts] 8 years ago
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When you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory
Remember: there are two sides to every story.

any more prescient lyrics out there in the tune-iverse?

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demoff [327 posts] 8 years ago
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Plenty

Don't believe it all
Find out for Yourself
Check before you spread
News of the World

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TheHatter [770 posts] 8 years ago
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argh! what can you say about the Daily Mail and their readership?
And you just know given the politicians we have on all sides they'll be falling over themselves to appease the poor downtrodden Daily Mail readers.

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hammergonewest [105 posts] 8 years ago
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Shurely that should be "persecution" not "prosecution" and why stop at anti-social cyclists? Is the Daily Mail going soft?

Or maybe I'm failing to read between the lines  1

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badbunny [71 posts] 8 years ago
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Trouble is, it's our friendly white van driver that reads and believes this comic  20

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LondonCalling [151 posts] 8 years ago
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Badbunny, spot on, that is the problem.

We should bring Chavez from Venezuela with his penchant for shutting down newspapers, maybe he could give us some tips on what to do with the Daily Mail!  3 1

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OldRidgeback [2815 posts] 8 years ago
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Badbunny - must be the same van driver who accelerated past me and then braked and turned left right in front of me yesterday. Luckily I was on the ball and my Ridgeback has good brakes, though I did lock up the back on the wet road. Mind you, his Mercedes Sprinter was yellow.

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fennesz [151 posts] 8 years ago
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My parents read the mail, my Dad often comes out with utter shite regarding 'cyclists'. Can't help but think he's a bit of knob, coz my wife & kids cycle to school, I do everything on a bike. Apparently we shouldn't be on roads blah, blah. Next thing he complains about is the amount of traffic on the roads. But then he thinks were right to go into Iraq...

Oooh, I'm venting!

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Tony Farrelly [2911 posts] 8 years ago
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My aunt used to read the Mail so that she'd "know what the enemy was thinking" she reckoned it gave her an ulcer in the end… so she stopped.

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Simon_MacMichael [2504 posts] 8 years ago
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My late mum used to read it - when we visited she'd often be banging on about something she'd read in it. My brother and I - who both read a certain newspaper that means we should munch lettuce (untrue) wear sandals (untrue) and ride bikes (true in my case) - would then have to explain to her how things really were.

Just my opinion, but the Mail is very good at identifying the fears of its readers, and milking those fears to death. I could go on, but better not...  14

(ps Although I should add that I think in many cases it's the Mail that put those fears out there among its readership in the first place)

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Simon_MacMichael [2504 posts] 8 years ago
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dave_atkinson wrote:

When you wake up to the fact that your paper is Tory
Remember: there are two sides to every story.

any more prescient lyrics out there in the tune-iverse?

Not a lyric, but a headline - someone who used to sit next to me in the Clock End at Highbury when not reporting on games once did an article on David Mellor for a football mag under the headline:

'What's the story, boring Tory?'  4

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Simon_MacMichael [2504 posts] 8 years ago
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tony_farrelly wrote:

My aunt used to read the Mail so that she'd "know what the enemy was thinking" she reckoned it gave her an ulcer in the end… so she stopped.

My mum once worked for a very posh chap who would watch Coronation Street so he could "see how the other half lived". His words. Seriously.

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Muddy Ford [8 posts] 8 years ago
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So anti-social driving that causes cyclists to ride on the pavement for their own safety is not targetted. Cycle lanes that suddenly end causing drivers to race past with 6 inches to spare or being caught behind a cyclist that can't do 30mph therefore driving 6 inches from their back wheel until the road widens again. I've had drivers shout "get off the road! I pay road tax!" so I shout back "I pay National Insurance to cover the accidents drivers cause!"