Just how many times has Petronella Wyatt's mother been knocked over by rogue cyclists? It's the question that's been on the lips of readers since Sunday, when the Daily Mail writer published a column calling for all cyclists to have licences.
Eagle eyed Mail reader Carlton Reid spotted a distinct similarity with a story she wrote for that paper in 2010; compare and contrast:
On August 16, my mother was hit by a Lycra lout. She was crossing the road when a youth on a bicycle shot a red light, knocked her to the ground and left her with a broken arm.
Yesterday, a friend telephoned to ask about her health. 'She would be feeling better,' I replied, 'if she hadn't been hit by another bicycle the other evening.'
I could hear a convulsion in his voice. It sounded like stifled laughter. He could not repress a gurgling sound before he managed to compose himself to express sympathy and shock. 'Again? How awful!'
But it isn't amusing. My mother is elderly. She was shopping in London's Regent Street when she was hit by the first cyclist, who failed to stop. He didn't even look back.
Kindly passers-by dragged her seemingly inert body on to the pavement and called an ambulance.
The hospital said she was lucky to have survived. As it is, the bones in her right arm are so badly broken they will never heal properly.
Then three days ago, just as she was regaining some strength, she crossed a street near her home in North London to buy bread. Once again, a hit-and-run cyclist struck.
Daily Mail, 8 Sept 2012
with the earlier piece:
Last week I met a friend for coffee. 'How is your mother?' she asked. I stared into my latte. 'Um, she had a serious accident. Her arm is broken.' 'Oh, no. What on earth happened?' 'She was run down by a bicycle.'
The inevitable convulsion took place in the nerves of my friend's face. She looked as if she was going to laugh. She could not suppress a gurgling sound before she managed to compose her features into the correct position of commiseration and shock, and say: 'How awful!'
But once you stop laughing, it isn't really funny at all. My mother is elderly and frail. She lives in North London, and was crossing the road after dark when she was hit by a cyclist who did not have his lights on.
Daily Mail, 19 Feb, 2010
The three incidents mentioned - in 2010 late at night in North London she fell on her back and hit her head, and then while shopping this year in Regent Street she suffered a broken arm, and then later in the same month, she was hit again and fell on her head once more - add up to some serious bad luck.
Such bad luck, that it has led some people to question the veracity of what she was saying and at least one member of the public to complain to the PCC (see our comments section below).
We'd never make light of any type of road traffic collision here at Road.cc, but are left scratching our heads at the fact Ms Wyatt did not think to refer to the earlier incident in her second piece - given that it would have only backed up her case.
Wyatt's anecdotes about her own cycling don't suggest a woman who is entirely confident on two wheels:
"As I wobbled along London's roads, nearly hitting every pedestrian and car in sight, I was petrified and hysterical, screaming every shrewish curse I knew.
"After three days, disgusted with myself and unwilling to commit manslaughter, I rode on to the kerb – deliberately – and fell down. I then hailed a taxi and put my bike inside. I have never cycled since."
She's also less than kind about a prominent cyclist, her ex-lover Boris Johnson:
"Bicyclists on the other hand, are heroes of the highways. To many of us, moreover, there is something intrinsically endearing, sometimes even comical, about bicycles. Is it because they conjure up pictures of Edwardians in silly pantaloons, old maids cycling to church and irrepressible London Mayor Boris Johnson, perched on the saddle like a baked potato with cheddar on top?"
The Evening Standard has taken up the story too now, under the headline 'All cyclists should have a licence', says Petronella Wyatt as her mother is injured twice in a month.
The article includes a statistic that we're certainly not sure about. "The Transport Research Laboratory, in conjunction with the police, has established that half of all collisions between bikes and cars are the fault of the cyclist," she writes.
Carlton Reid, of BikeBiz, wrote of this statistic:
"The 64-page TRL study reports that police blamed adult cyclists for, at most, 25 percent of collisions where cyclists were injured. Motorists were to blame for up to 75 percent of all injury incidents involving adult cyclists."
The Guardian, in its analysis of the 2009 report wrote:
"The 64-page analysis found that police attributed responsibility for collisions more or less evenly between drivers and cyclists overall, but this was skewed by the fact that when child riders were involved their behaviour was named as a primary factor more than three-quarters of the time.
With adult cyclists, police found the driver solely responsible in about 60%-75% of all cases, and riders solely at fault 17%-25% of the time."
So while we've not enough evidence at present to suggest that Petronella Wyatt's mother, Veronica Banszky Von Ambroz, definitely hasn't been hit by cyclists three times in two years and we would certainly wish her a full and speedy recovery, we would definitely accuse Ms Wyatt of some very selective use of facts and figures.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.