Jan Etherington: Because of Andrew Mitchell it's okay to hate cyclists again

Hackneyed stereotypes and death defying leaps of logic from Telegraph columnist

by Dave Atkinson   September 25, 2012  

Jan Etherington

Well, it had to happen. The chief whip Andrew Mitchell's verbal abuse of a police officer for refusing to opening the Downing Street gates is not an indictment of his character but, of course, all down to the bike he was riding.

Who thinks so? Jan Etherington thinks so. In a similar vein to Richmond Magazine editor Richard Nye, Etherington seems only too pleased that she's been fed a line to re-ignite her hate of all things two-wheeled after the cycling love-in of the summer of 2012.

"We got rather fond of cyclists this summer. Bradley Wiggins, with his sideboards [sic], on his throne at Hampton Court, lovely Victoria Pendleton and those stoic girls who cycled through storms," she begins, before referencing the velodrome and revealing that she even thought about buying a bike herself, shock horror. But that all changed when Mitchell started swearing, we learn.

"Everyone loses their temper once in a while, but nobody loses their temper more often than a bike rider," she asserts, pausing to back up that claim with nothing other than her own prejudice.

From then on it's just a weary descent into the same old clichés and stereotypes that always get dragged out for phoned-in angry-of-suburbia pieces like this. Let's go through them again. We know, it's boring.

Cyclists are arrogant: "We are lesser mortals: they look down their noses, from their elevated position on those wince-inducing saddles, on us poor saps, munching cheeseburgers in our nice warm cars."

Cyclists are dangerous: "They have absolutely no spatial awareness of anything that isn’t passing them on two wheels... you’re likely to be knocked down by these neon Lycra louts… you’ll be overtaken by a hurricane of metal and luminous leggings careering past within inches of your elbows"

Cyclists are inconsiderate: "Swearing at us locals for daring to traverse our own roads at anything less than a sprint… too many cyclists think that being disguised as a lumpy glowworm means they can behave like spoilt brats"

Cyclists look stupid: "I think it’s the sheer embarrassment of the outfits they have to wear that makes many of these cyclists so bad-tempered. I’m sure they can hear the mocking laughter of onlookers whenever they whizz past, flashing their glistening, logo-strewn limbs"

All of this because of one person – one person, incidentally, who doesn't fit any of the stereotypes above – who called a police officer a pleb and happened to be on a bike at the time. Jan has an answer for that though, as she then turns her attention to the chief whip. He wasn't wearing a helmet, which is clearly a crime, but she suspects that "beneath his façade lurks a Lycra lout, squirming in a bodysuit of wasp yellow… No wonder Mitchell was in such a hurry to pedal off – it was before he turned green and split his trousers."

Etherington signs off with, "the Chief Whip punctured all the post-Olympian goodwill we felt towards cyclists, in one foul swoop," as if, firstly, she speaks for the nation and, secondly, she had any goodwill towards cyclists in the first place, which is clearly unlikely for all her protestations that she was on the cusp of getting on to two wheels herself.

It's a breathtaking leap of logic to conclude that the actions of one man - high profile or not - who wasn't let through a gate are the arbiter of a nation's feeling towards his mode of transport at that time.

We don't recall the same argument ever being used by Etherington of cars when Harriet Harman was prosecuted for crashing her car while talking on her mobile phone in 2009. After that incident a witness reported that Miss Harman wound down her window and said: "I'm Harriet Harman, you know where you can get me." This on top of a speeding fine in 2007, and a seven-day ban in 2003 for speeding at nearly 100mph on a motorway. Such behaviour should clearly, in Jan's eyes, negate any good feeling towards driving that may have been generated by the success of the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. But on this topic she has been strangely silent. Or perhaps we missed her article.

For more on attitudes towards cyclists, read Cartlon Reid's excellent polemic: Why must cyclists behave before they get bike paths?

57 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Looking at the picture it's not really surprising that only rotten things would come out of that mouth. Sick

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
25th September 2012 - 14:04

3 Likes

Here we go again.

Who will complain to the PCC this time? Got stuff to do alas, otherwise I'd do it.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2242 posts]
25th September 2012 - 14:09

1 Like

OldRidgeback wrote:
Here we go again.

Who will complain to the PCC this time? Got stuff to do alas, otherwise I'd do it.

email already winging through the ether of cyberspace Devil

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
25th September 2012 - 14:39

2 Likes

An open letter to Ms Etheridge:

Dear Jan,

If the above is what you call a good use of your time then we won't be sad when you stop. What a bile-filled waste of space you are. Thanks,

The human race.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2001 posts]
25th September 2012 - 14:50

1 Like

Water off a duck's back. I'd be more worried if I ever found myself agreeing with a Telegraph columnist!

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
25th September 2012 - 14:58

1 Like

Comrade wrote:
It's all a load of bollox...however, I am a cyclist and a motorist, but guess what I hate most cyclists. The reason is because typically they (from what I've seen) do jump red lights, do ride on pavements, will insist on always riding abreast, hardly ever stop to let cars by on narrow lanes, very rarely indicate to turn and seldom return a greeting when you are cycling or running yourself. Thats just me though and my opinion!

I must admit though, cycling has made me a better motorist!

What a strange comment? Riding 2 abreast is legal, I would have hoped that you as a 'cyclist' would know that. Every week on our club run we will get at least one car overtaking us shouting abuse claiming its illegal to ride two abreast. As for pulling in on narrow lanes we do that too but at a convenient time, you would think that following a group for a couple of mins until a convenient place to pull in was the end of the world!

The pavement and red light comments clearly aren't true, but even if they were I wouldn't 'hate' the wrongdoers, or all cyclist for that matter.

Coincidently I drive a car too, what are the chances eh?

posted by Manx Rider [18 posts]
25th September 2012 - 15:03

3 Likes

I think online Eds have spotted a method of driving page traffic.. ignore the trolls. But if you can't, well it's worth a read for being a particularly crap 'oh such edgy comments' column )

posted by james-o [204 posts]
25th September 2012 - 15:24

1 Like

Angry GRRR this makes me so angry Angry ....maybe that's just because I'm a cyclist though

posted by chriscadman [13 posts]
25th September 2012 - 15:42

4 Likes

posted by wyadvd [123 posts]
25th September 2012 - 16:22

1 Like

In the words of Steve Jones (Sex Pistols):

"What a fucking rotter!"

zanf's picture

posted by zanf [561 posts]
25th September 2012 - 16:26

1 Like

Taking influence from the easysridingabike article above, I see she calls cyclists a race. She then goes on to make sweeping generalisations based on her own prejudiced ideas portraying cyclists in a negative light. This is racism.

posted by j1mmy76 [65 posts]
25th September 2012 - 16:50

1 Like

What a pleb she is.

Doesnt she own a toothbrush either?

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
25th September 2012 - 17:02

2 Likes

I don't read newspapers, because there's so little NEWS in them Yawn

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
25th September 2012 - 19:15

2 Likes

Comrade wrote:
It's all a load of bollox...however, I am a cyclist and a motorist, but guess what I hate most cyclists. The reason is because typically they (from what I've seen) do jump red lights, do ride on pavements, will insist on always riding abreast, hardly ever stop to let cars by on narrow lanes, very rarely indicate to turn and seldom return a greeting when you are cycling or running yourself. Thats just me though and my opinion!

I must admit though, cycling has made me a better motorist!

And I'm sure you, sir, are of course the perfect cyclist.

In all seriousness though, if you do indeed hate the majority of cyclists as you say you do; why then choose to engage with a social platform designed to bring the so-called red-light jumping, pavement-riding, never-indicating grumpy bastards together?! Surely your time would be better spent polishing your car and your ego elsewhere...

posted by Chris Bevan [60 posts]
25th September 2012 - 20:36

2 Likes

Boys and Girls, fair comments mostly indeed, please allow me to clarify. What I was thinking of but not expressing as I am not very articulate, was that it gets on my nerves (yes you are right - I should not have said "hate") when cyclists don't follow the rules for all but blatantly do their own thing without any regard for others. On reflection, the cyclists I am talking of are probably not typical of people who would use this site, but youngsters or others who just happen to use bikes.

Comrade's picture

posted by Comrade [153 posts]
25th September 2012 - 21:13

1 Like

Have you noticed that if cyclists don't wear bright clothing we are damned(thanks Auto Express) if we do wear bright clothes this is what we face. Could the cycle haters get together and let us know what we are allowed to wear.

A better idea, the cycle haters can get together and impose rules for cyclists and cyclists can get together and decide on rules for other road usershttp://road.cc/sites/all/modules/smileys/packs/Yahoo!/wink.gif

posted by unenlightened [2 posts]
25th September 2012 - 21:17

2 Likes

Must admit when I read this piece I had to check the date (1st April?) - it's so ridiculously over the top that no one but a deranged Torygragh reader would even bother reading to the end. Sad and pathetic. Loved notfastenough's parody re disabled athletes - makes the point beautifully.

Pastaman

posted by pastaman [220 posts]
25th September 2012 - 22:14

2 Likes

"They have absolutely no spatial awareness of anything that isn’t passing them on two wheels... "

Actually, most cyclists I know have better spatial awareness than non-cyclists I know...due to the fact they are alert as to not get squashed by a larger vehicle.

And the ones who "ride crazy" are actually the most spatially aware bordering on twitchy hypervigilance.

She probably has no spatial awareness and therefore often get surprised by vehicles

dontcoast's picture

posted by dontcoast [21 posts]
25th September 2012 - 22:32

2 Likes

cleanthes wrote:
Comrade wrote:
It's all a load of bollox...however, I am a cyclist and a motorist, but guess what I hate most cyclists. The reason is because typically they (from what I've seen) do jump red lights, do ride on pavements, will insist on always riding abreast, hardly ever stop to let cars by on narrow lanes, very rarely indicate to turn and seldom return a greeting when you are cycling or running yourself. Thats just me though and my opinion!

I must admit though, cycling has made me a better motorist!

Unfortunately it's not just you. It's people like you who make broad sweeping statements about how "they typically do..." and "they rarely...". Almost all the cyclists I ride with DON'T jump red lights, DO indicate clearly, DO say please and thankyou.

And yes, occasionally I'll ride abreast. It's legal, it's safer a lot of the time, and if I am in someone's way I'll get out of it as soon as it's safe to do so.

Many people on here are cyclists and drivers. The fact that any of us is a cyclist or a driver doesn't give us any right to start throwing around comments starting with "Most cyclists..." or "Most drivers..." in the same way you wouldn't start with "Most women..." or "Most Indians...". It's those sorts of statements in the hands of twatty journalists that end up leading to stereotypes and bad attitudes towards one group or another.

So unless you actually know and can speak for "Most cyclists", just shut up and concentrate on the improvements you're making on your driving.

Well said!

I am only as insane as the insanity around me (Jens Voigt)

posted by alronald [58 posts]
25th September 2012 - 22:58

3 Likes

stupid fu$king woman ...

posted by Karbon Kev [680 posts]
26th September 2012 - 8:44

2 Likes

She should resign. Simple as. And so should her Editor.

posted by Clenbutador [15 posts]
26th September 2012 - 9:02

2 Likes

10 minutes of observation ofva London street would show this moron and the others commenting on the telegraph site that riders in Lycra or high viz are the least likely to break the rules. If they observed me they would realise that I am not embarrassed by the clothes I "have" to wear, I choose to wear it because I look sensational Cool

posted by FreudianSlit [10 posts]
26th September 2012 - 9:11

2 Likes

Here is a letter from Jan complaining about someone using a small sample and generalising to damn the whole.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/letter-dont-rubbish-us-1555455.html

ooooh, the irony.

posted by FreudianSlit [10 posts]
26th September 2012 - 10:04

3 Likes

Stupid jounro. Bet she doesn't pay road tax.

Bring me sunshine, and dry roads

MalcolmBinns's picture

posted by MalcolmBinns [107 posts]
26th September 2012 - 10:41

2 Likes

One of my favourite bits of Etherlogic is her whinging about cyclists using pedestrian walkways as a stick to beat someone and prove that they were wrong to not want to use a pedestrian exit.

posted by farrell [1520 posts]
26th September 2012 - 12:43

2 Likes

FreudianSlit wrote:
Here is a letter from Jan complaining about someone using a small sample and generalising to damn the whole.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/letter-dont-rubbish-us-1555455.html

ooooh, the irony.

Great find! What a vile woman.

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3329 posts]
26th September 2012 - 12:45

2 Likes

I think she should be drug tested, look at the spaces in the teeth and her eyes are practically on the side of her head, classic symptoms of Growth hormone abuse...

posted by Jasonnz1 [23 posts]
26th September 2012 - 12:46

2 Likes

Just seen a tweet by @wirralvelodrone (part of conversation with @Doctor_Hutch) that made me smile:

"typical 'newspaper' journalist. You know, alcoholic, chain smoking, criminal, kill princesses. They are all the same."

I could probably think of a few more unflattering attributes if I had the time...

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [2001 posts]
26th September 2012 - 13:46

3 Likes

TheBigMong wrote:
Looking at the picture it's not really surprising that only rotten things would come out of that mouth. Sick

In her case, the teeth are the window to the soul.

posted by FreudianSlit [10 posts]
26th September 2012 - 14:21

2 Likes

MalcolmBinns wrote:
Stupid jounro. Bet she doesn't pay road tax.

Classic. Well done, sir! Cool

posted by TheBigMong [218 posts]
26th September 2012 - 18:43

3 Likes