'The only good cyclist is a dead one' - advertising pulled in wake of magazine editor's remarks
Power of social media sees issue move from Richmond to cycling media then onto mainstream outlets
Southwest London bike retailer Moore’s Cycles has said it will not be repeating its advertising in a local publication Richmond Magazine for as long as its editor, who wrote that ‘the only good cyclist is a dead one,’ remains in his job. Yesterday, reaction to editor Richard Nye’s column went beyond the magazine’s local readership after news of it spread following a forum posting here on road.cc, and a news story on cycle trade website BikeBiz. The Times newspaper then picked it up, with its story including clarifcation by Nye of his comments.
While Moore’s Cycles decision to pull advertising came earlier this week and before the forum posting here – although another dealership in the area, Sigma Sport has also said on Twitter it will not now be going ahead with advertising it was considering in the magazine – it does demonstrate something that we are increasingly seeing.
That is the power of social media to give cyclists a voice and take issue with the type of comments Nye made. Examples include the reaction against Addison Lee earlier this year following its chairman’s anti-cyclist comments in the company magazine, which among other things led to the loss of the firm’s government contract, or insurance firm Ingenie’s ill-thought-out ShareTheRoadUK campaign, pulled last month within days of its launch.
Market research consistently shows that regular cyclists are an affluent, educated demographic – exactly the kind of readership profile that a glossy lifestyle magazine is seeking to attract, and particularly in an area such as Richmond which is not only one of London’s wealthier suburbs, but also has the highest levels of regular cycling of any Outer London borough according to analysis published last week by the Department for Transport.
In a blog post published on its website yesterday, Moore’s Cycles, which operates bike shops in Twickenham, Teddington and Isleworth, said: “Words cannot fully describe the horror we felt reading Richmond Magazine editor Richard Nye’s comments that ‘the only good cyclist is a dead one'.
“Our customers and staff are all cyclists and it is utterly reprehensible that the editor of a magazine which should be supporting the local community and businesses can write such offensive comments. We were not aware of the editorial content when we booked our advert. We sent a complaint to the magazine on Monday. To date we have received no response. Where is their accountability? It goes without saying that we will not be advertising in this magazine whilst Richard Nye remains editor.”
Nye told The Times: “With regard to my remark about the only good cyclist being a dead one, it is just a phrase, like people who said during the Cold War that ‘the only good Russian is a dead one’. It’s a standard English phrase. It doesn’t actually mean you want to see that person dead. I absolutely don’t wish cyclists any ill.
“I was suggesting that I used to be really angry at cyclists, then we all had this cycling love-in at the Olympics, and then to my relief I went back to being this angry person again. That’s not actually something to be relieved about. It had irony written all over it. I don’t shout such things at cyclists.
“If I were writing the piece again, I perhaps wouldn’t choose to use that phrase and if there are individuals out there who have suffered a painful loss as a result of a cycle accident, then to those individuals I am very sorry and it certainly wasn’t anywhere in my thoughts at all to think about cycling fatalities when I wrote that line.”
He went on: “A lot of cyclists behave in ways that don’t help anyone, least of all themselves,” Nye said: “This wasn’t a deadly serious piece. It was a slightly ironic piece aimed as much at my own eccentricity as anything else.”
Local councillor Katharine Harbone, who acts as the borough’s cycling champion, told The Times: “If it was done in jest, it is a bad taste joke and irresponsible in that it stirs up anger and frustration from cyclists, especially as Richmond is a borough with one of the highest proportion of journeys made by bike.
“I can see he probably did it in jest, but if a politician did something like that they would be crucified. My first reaction was to think, ‘you cannot be serious.’ Especially as a cycling company advertises in his magazine.”
The row over Nye’s comments also dragged in a publication across the Atlantic in Richmond, Virginia that shares the same title, with some people addressing tweets to the American publication by mistake.
The Richmond, Virginia-based magazine showed its Transatlantic namesake the right way to engage bike riders, tweeting “While we have cyclists' attention, here's a 2011 story about local cyclists making a difference for kids,” with a link to a story featuring a local cycling club that focuses on community outreach to disadvantaged children in the inner city.