Stories in national press highlight polarised opinions on cyclists

Account of man run over by rider in Manchester contrasts with Indie's Save Our Cyclists campaign

by Simon_MacMichael   April 19, 2011  

The Independent Save Our Cyclists front page.jpg

Two stories featured prominently in British national newspapers in recent days have starkly illustrated the polarisation of public feeling when it comes to cyclists. Last Friday, The Independent launched a front-page appeal to end the slaughter of cyclists on the nation’s roads, complete with pictures of some of the victims. The Daily Mail, meanwhile, provided a first-person account of a pedestrian run over by a cyclist, who claims that “cyclists seem to be able to get away with almost anything.”

If the Independent’s campaign, called Save Our Cyclists, has a familiar ring, that’s perhaps because sister paper, the London Evening Standard, launched a similar campaign focused on the capital last year – both newspapers are owned by the Russian tycoon, Evgeny Lebedev.

The campaign, aimed at securing greater protection for cyclists from lorries and buses, which The Independent says account for 230 bike riders being killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads each month, has received the support of high profile cyclists such as the broadcaster Jon Snow, who is also the president of the national cyclists’ organisation CTC, and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Mr Snow commented: "I'm delighted to see the campaign and support anything that highlights the issue in the cycling world. HGVs and cyclists do not mix well, and training won't help. We need cycle ways with a curb that separates the bicycle from traffic."

Mr Johnson added: "No form of transport is 100 per cent safe but cycling is safer than most and we are doing all we can in London to make it even safer and ever more enjoyable."

However, a representative of the Road Haulage Association appeared to pin the blame for at least some incidents on cyclists themselves. Peter Cullum, head of international affairs at the trade association, said: "An assumption is made that cyclists are always the innocent party and unfortunately it's not true. Those cyclists' deaths are avoidable, but avoidable by who?

"We've been talking to cycling organisations for years on this issue and we ensure our drivers receive training. I'm not sure what has been done by the cyclists. With the surge of cycling in the last few years a lot of people have been going out cycling without knowing the dangers. If you can't see the lorry driver, he can't see you."

Meanwhile, in the Daily Mail, Hamish McGregor related how he was run over by a cyclist thought to be travelling at between 20 and 30mph while crossing a tramway in Manchester in January. The incident left him with cuts, abrasions and serious bruising on several parts of his body, but thankfully no broken bones.

While by his own admission, Mr McGregor stepped into the bike rider’s path without having seen him, the fact is that the cyclist should not have been on the tramway – bicycles, like all other vehicles other than trams are banned.

Mr McGregor claims that he is not asking for a “punitive crackdown on cyclists,” but he does suggest that cyclists are above the law, pointing out that they “can’t be charged with causing death by careless or dangerous driving.”

He also backs the private member’s bill introduced by the Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom to introduce an offence of causing death by dangerous cycling, which would replace the 150-year-old offence of causing injury through “wanton or furious driving or racing,” under which cases involving cyclists injuring pedestrians tend to be prosecuted.

“It is hardly surprising,” he maintains, “that this law has been used only a handful times in the past decade,” and he is correct, although perhaps not in the way he intended; according to Department for Transport statistics, just three pedestrians have been killed after being hit by cyclists since 2001.

CTC says that in recent years, two cyclists have gone to jail after hitting and killing pedestrians; far from being “above the law”, that suggests that when it comes to cases involving the death of another person, cyclists are treated much more harshly by the courts than most drivers convicted of causing death by careless or dangerous driving.

Perhaps the Daily Mail would be better off focusing its efforts in that direction?

13 user comments

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How ironic that the Independent's sister paper, The Evening Standard, should also print a derogatory, ill-researched and pretty one-sided article by a journalist by the name of Mr Shakespeare on the very same Friday last week. In the said article, he effectively claimed most cyclists are in fact the devil incarnate, had nothing better to do than attempt to run down any pedestrians at will and clearly believe red lights mean go like bulls in china shops ! No mention was made of pedestrians who step into the road without looking or ones incapable of recognising the difference between a green man (flashing or not) and a red man. Don't get me wrong ... some of my best friends are pedestrians, but the crux of the whole situation should be that cyclists, pedestrians, car drivers and any other road users become more TOLERANT of each other. It is not a war zone. As a regular cycle commuter in London (formerly a foot commuter), I see my fair share of incidents, but Mr Shakespeare's attempts to label all cyclists as holier-than-thou is pathetic and divisive. Perhaps he should be confined to the James Martin Asylum and subjected to perpetual tongue lashing from the Dark Lord, AKA Bradley Wiggins !!! Angry
Finally - Peace, Love and Understanding Smile

Cycling - not just a pastime or sport - free your soul on the open road.

timbola's picture

posted by timbola [234 posts]
19th April 2011 - 12:46


timbola wrote:
How ironic that the Independent's sister paper, The Evening Standard, should also print a derogatory, ill-researched and pretty one-sided article by a journalist by the name of Mr Shakespeare on the very same Friday last week.

Which bit of the Indie's 'free from propriatorial influence' stance do you not get? Becuase the two titles have the same owner doesn't make them 'sister' papers.

I find myself somewhat pleased that a lot of the response ot the indie's campaign is highlighting the anti-social (and illegal) riding habits of a small minority of cyclists (in London). Perhaps only when these numpties cease their RLJ'ing, not having lights at night, and agressive pavement riding, and and all of which are so prevalent on the streets of London, perhpas then the majority of shared space fellow roads users soften their attitudes to the rest of us who aim to ride within the law.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [393 posts]
19th April 2011 - 14:20


I think you'll find tat the ES is more related to the Daily Mail than the Independent.

The Mail group used to own the ES and the ES is still house at the Mails headquarters in Kensington although being sold on.

posted by gazzaputt [196 posts]
19th April 2011 - 14:29


Simon, just a bit of a heads up.

The last paragraph above the final line needs altering.

It says that two cyclists have been sent to gaol after being struck by bicycles.

Ooooh, me legs...

posted by Oh heck... [47 posts]
19th April 2011 - 14:50


duly noted, and amended.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7857 posts]
19th April 2011 - 14:58


I read Hamish McGregor's article and it did have some sane paragraphs in there towards the end but I don't think the Daily Bile's readership really got the subtleties, at least judging by the comments. I'm not doubting he had an accident but the cyclist who hit him must have had a miraculous escape not have incurred any injury himself travelling at over 20mph. Thinking

It does seem that cyclists are new Al Qaeda, the bile has obviously got a bit bored with bashing immigrants, single mothers and islamic extremist and needs a new hate figure. It's a shame that they can't campaign positively for a change in attitudes on all sides rather than just fan the flames.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [1113 posts]
19th April 2011 - 16:55


The fact that the Daily Mail editorial rants against cyclists should harldy be a surprise. A significant percentage of cyclists are not from the Daily Mail's target market. The daily mail supported Hitler remember, which gives you an understanding of where the paper comes from with regard to reason and truth.


posted by OldRidgeback [2586 posts]
19th April 2011 - 18:06


@Old Ridgeback - have you ever heard of Godwin's Law? (Look it up on Wiki) Time to move on I think.

What is true though is that all major media depend heavily on advertising to break even, and a huge proportion of that advertising comes from the motor trade in one form or another. The AA with its custard pie hats, car manufacturers, parts suppliers and manufacturers, rental companies, oil companies, you name it. They have a powerful lobby, the SMMT. Newspapers which depend on them for ad revenue have to toe the line, even if some do so more enthusiastically than others.

The "motorist" is as much a myth as the "war on". All motorists are pedestrians at some time, and then they act like one. The Bile simply misrepresents their views.

posted by Paul M [345 posts]
19th April 2011 - 20:40


Even the Independent comments mentioned 'Lycra Louts' and 'Killer Cyclists'... lazy thinking.

Although I suspect that attention will rapidly move on elsewhere and we'll be no further forward, at least it feels like some of the issues are seeing some daylight.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [1113 posts]
19th April 2011 - 20:55


Great article, the only thing that annoys me more than lorries knocking me off the road is seeing cyclists who think they own it. Gives us all a bad name!

Mariachi's picture

posted by Mariachi [25 posts]
20th April 2011 - 8:08


The Daily Mail risk upsetting a proportion of their readership. Many of the comments on that story received procycling comment. Whilst I agree with the writer that the cyclist shouldn't have been there I have doubts as to how truthful he's being for two reasons.

One is that had the cyclist been travelling at those speeds they'd have been just as likely to be as injured as he.

Secondly he actually lists a couple of the laws that have been used effectively against errant cyclists.

Even in the Independent there has been polarised debate. Much of it from myopic drivers who seem to blame us and want us out of the way (have a look at the letters pages).

downfader's picture

posted by downfader [204 posts]
20th April 2011 - 21:46


Brad Mc Gee falls off his bike alongside the team car . Leontin Van moorsell falls off the bike in front of the Grandstand in the Athens Olympic Women's road race .
Each cannot say why this happened but you see joe public riding "no hands and talking on the mobile" regularly usually in normal clothes and then the "Holier than thou " media attack regular riders trying to ride sensibly and safely and describe them as "lycra louts" etc !
What part of their vision is impaired ? Do they really rely on feedback or re they in the land of Nod dreaming up hate inspiring items to play to the "Hate cyclists faction"?

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [409 posts]
26th April 2011 - 19:57


While by his own admission, Mr McGregor stepped into the bike rider’s path without having seen him, the fact is that the cyclist should not have been on the tramway -

While the cyclist shouldn't have been there, Mr McGregor by his own admission didn't look, as many pedestrians don't. He's a very lucky man it wasn't a tram that hit him.

Cervelo S1, Zipp 404, SRAM Rival/Force, Rotor crankset and Vittoria.

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posted by stuartpeck1 [98 posts]
25th May 2011 - 15:06