More than seven years have passed since we published the first version of this article in December 2016, under the title 10 of the most hysterical anti-cycling Daily Mail headlines, and a fair bit has happened since then. Enough to double the number of gems in our listicle from your favourite cycling-unfriendly tabloid, and that was after a lot of narrowing down.
In the context of this topic, we’ve had a pandemic that led to a huge rise in the number of people getting into the saddle, accompanied by the rollout of temporary infrastructure, which in many cases was made permanent, for people not just riding bikes but also walking to get around; in part, that was due to the need for social distancing, but it is also a reflection of how cycling campaigning now forms part of a wider drive for safer spaces for active travel generally.
We’ve also had the changes to the Highway Code introduced two years ago and aimed at protecting vulnerable road users, whether on foot, on bikes or on horseback, although misunderstandings about the current rules persist, not least due to the way they were represented in some parts of the mainstream media.
Some things don’t change, however. The good old Daily Mail, or sister titles Mail on Sunday and the website Mail Online, still appear to lay into cyclists at the slightest opportunity. So with a new year beginning, we make no excuses in expanding this article to what are now 20 of the most hysterical anti-cycling Daily Mail headlines (including the original 10, now renumbered 11-20).
As before, we've included links to our own coverage of the same stories here on road.cc (other than number 10 – that link goes to the Daily Mail, so consider yourself forewarned).
2017 was a wild time, and it was made all the more wilder by the police proposing the Dutch Reach to drivers — another nefarious way for the pesky cyclists to control motorists!
Unfortunately, the Daily Mail article got the simple gesture completely wrong (and that's ignoring the 'wweird' typos in the headline, which still persists online to this day!), and suggested that instead of just opening the door with your opposite hand so that the driver is forced to swivel their body and pay attention to any oncoming cyclists, the driver is actually supposed to first roll down the windows, reach with their opposite hand outside and then open the door using the outer handle.
It was quite interesting to see another bike-loving newspaper, The Sun, also fall in the similar pitfall and use the completely bonkers and misinformed definition.
Usually, throwing your coffee on random strangers on the road is bad. So is tailgating them through a stop sign while sitting in your car. But our friends over in Australia wanted some confirmation, posing the million dollar question — who’s the most entitled?
Oh, I forgot to mention the driver’s parting gift to the cyclist... a flip of the bird.
While we’ve seen plenty of Daily Mail anti-cycling stories (you know we were spoiled for choice when making this list), this one from 2021 was a particularly depressing take on an incident where, in reality, a driver was putting a cyclist in danger.
Chaos reigned supreme in May 2023 when an all-out spat broke out between the BBC and Channel 5 presenter Jeremy Vine, who has also gained quite the celebrity status amongst cyclists with his short videos (Vines, if I may...) on Twitter, pointing out poor driving behaviour.
The MailOnline article claimed that Twitter had suspended Vine's account "for breaking its 'hateful content' rules after naming the woman who opposes 'dangerous' cycling lane".
However, confusingly, Vine was adamant "at no point was my account locked, so far as I can tell" and said "the whole thing is a bit of a mystery". Adding another level of confusion, the Mail piece included a statement from Twitter which said that the account suspended was @jeremyvine. The real Vine's account is instead @theJeremyVine, leading to suggestions the article had got the wrong account.
The journalist who wrote the article then accused Vine of "repeated attempts to weasel his way out of a true and bona fide story", and also said the @jeremyvine mention was "clearly a typo"...
Ah, the well-known bike lane takeover conspiracy theory “The Great Leap Backwards”. Penned by Mail columnist (and Florida resident) Richard Littlejohn, this piece published right before the introduction of the new Highway Code changes in January 2022 could only be described as “error-strewn”.
The recipients of Littlejohn’s cosmic wrath and fury were "mutton-headed communists" and "Genghis [Sadiq] Khan" for supporting cycle infrastructure, while also ripping into cycle lanes built during the pandemic, "Lycra-clad lunatics", "suicide jockeys", two abreast riding, the new 'Hierarchy of Road Users' and the regularly mythbusted road tax.
The usual, then.
Remember when the DM was obsessed with staging commuter races to find an excuse to bash cyclists? We won’t blame you if you don’t, because this was back in June 2018, making it the second time in just six months that the Mail had done the same exact thing.
But despite the cyclist not winning the race (that award went to the motorbike rider, travelling from Victoria Coach Station to Jermyn Street in 7 minutes and 15 seconds) and coming second — just seven seconds behind the motorbike — it somehow came to the conclusion that driving had become a slower mode (a full ten minutes slower) of transport than cycling, because of the cycle lanes and the number of people using them.
Back in 2021, the newspaper's casual hatred of cyclists finally caught up with it when press watchdog IPSO ordered it to issue a clarification, after it inaccurately claimed that proposed guidelines on best practice in reporting road traffic collisions sought to make abuse of cyclists a 'hate crime'. The press regulator said there was “no suggestion” of the guidelines’ authors calling for such behaviour to be criminalised.
The newspaper's article regarding the draft Road Collision Reporting Guidelines, then out for consultation, with the headline, ‘You can’t say Lycra Louts – Campaigners call for abuse of cyclists to be made a hate crime’, was soon taken down from its website...
A back-to-back IPSO kerfuffle in at 6 and 7. After the Mail claimed that there is wide public support for tougher cycling rules such as mandatory registration plates— by citing the results of a Fair Fuel UK survey, Cycling UK raised a complaint with press watchdog IPSO over what the charity believed was a “misleading and unreliable”.
A "rollercoaster", a "bog road", and "guaranteeing a puncture" — this how some cyclists and road.cc readers described the cycle lane in Wimborne, Dorset, besides pointing out several other dangers with the cycle lane such as blind spots which would put you right in the path of an oncoming driver from the side streets.
However, MailOnline seemed to be looking for a pat on the back from its readers for provoking another anti-cycling meltdown after it put a cyclist who was “caught on camera brazenly ignoring Britain's widest cycling lane as she rides in lane dedicated to other traffic instead” right in the crosshairs.
Look, this one shouldn't be complicated in the first place. If you’re in a car, the road’s exactly the same. There was always congestion.
But the Mail (and the Telegraph too, its partner-in-crime this time) wasn't going to let a small fact like a road being exactly the same as it’s always been keep them from blaming a cycle lane for ‘causing’ congestion. The newspaper had Birmingham’s A34 in its sights back in 2019, and apparently the congestion that the road has long suffered is now because there’s a segregated cycle lane that was built in April. No existing lanes were removed to make way for the cycle lane.
Another one from the West Midlands city, this time the newspaper wasn't happy with Birmingham City Council's plan to make the city a "leading international location", with active travel networks "on the same level" as Copenhagen and spaces "as green as Vienna" — with council leader Ian Ward insisting this was not "a war on motorists".
But MailOnline was quite keen to suggest exactly that in its coverage of the news, publishing a story titled: 'Now Birmingham wages war on motorists as Labour-run council plans to turn ring road into a "park that circles the city" and build 124 miles of walking and cycling routes in bid to mimic the "cycle-friendliness" of Copenhagen'.
We all know being a cyclist doesn't make you a saint. But one bad cyclist doesn't make all of us demons, does it?
Daily Mail journalist Petronella Wyatt was obviously upset and angry when her mother suffered injuries after being hit by a cyclist. As upsetting as this must have been, it was unfortunate that Wyatt used her column in the newspaper to launch a wide-ranging attack at cyclists.
In the article, Ms Wyatt claimed that bicycles are “a favoured tool of muggers,” took a swipe at the soon-to-be-launched London bike hire scheme, and called for cyclists to be made to take a test and adhere to a specific Highway Code.
Unpleasant coincidences plus a mix-up on dates resulted in eerily similar columns, as some readers of the Daily Mail piece, published in 2012, pointed out that much of it bore a striking similarity to an earlier column written by Ms Wyatt in February 2010, recounting how her mother had been hit by a cyclist and suffered a broken arm, and how an insensitive friend of Petronella's had stifled a laugh when told the news. Some even wondered if the second column was merely a re-hash of the first...
It was misidentification galore back in 2016 when the Mail lampooned a bunch of cyclists for passing a set of lights at a Cycle Superhighway... which really wasn't one according to Transport for London.
The article, which showed people bypassing the 5m filter lane onto Parliament Square, suggested the images were evidence Boris Johnson's £50m cycle superhighway programme was a waste of money.
Meanwhile, there was much social media backlash against the piece, labelling it as inaccurate and "one-sided", with some even being worthy of a chuckle.
Not much here to say, other than the much ado about nothing for the much publicised - and now even Government-ratified - "war on motorists".
"Cycle lane lunacy!" "The new blight paralysing Britain." You’ve got to hand it to the Daily Mail – it knows what vocabulary to employ when it's got it in for something.
Ah, for all the lunacy and blight, the newspaper's 2016 article looked like a U-turn as it gave evidence to support that cycles are usually a much more efficient and faster way of travelling in a city than by car.
But of course, it was only because of all the infrastructure developed dedicated for cyclists, conveniently ignoring that it’s actually a race that cyclists have been winning for years, even before the introduction of separated infrastructure designed to increase the safety of people on two wheels – perhaps most famously in an episode of Top Gear, in which Richard Hammond showed that the quickest way across London is by bike.
While the Independent ran its Save Our Cyclists campaign aimed at securing greater protection for cyclists from lorries and buses, which the newspaper said accounted for 230 bike riders being killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads each month, the Daily Mail infamously missed the point and ran 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.”
The publication, again displaying its enthusiasm for misinterpreting scientific research, manages to somehow extrapolate the notion that cycle commuting is “one of the biggest causes of heart attacks,” from some a study that makes no such claim whatsoever.
It’s one of those “Well, what do you expect?” type articles. We can only imagine the scenes in the newsroom when the research author told road.cc that the article ran by the Mail was "misleading"...
The national media seems to have been having an open season on cycling ever since 2011! The Daily Mail was the latest to join in by getting its teeth into a health-and-safety-gone-mad style rant about guidance dossiers compiled by UK police forces to be used by officers on bikes.
Give yourself a pat on the back if you remember this, and if you've stuck with us ever since — don't be shy, go ahead, you deserve it!
The tale of the CTC (now known as Cycling UK) President Jon Snow being papped by the Mail and being accused of poor cycling behaviour is as old as time (in road.cc years). So there's no chance of it being forgotten or buried under the sands of the interweb, we are brushing the dust and the cobwebs off this story and pushing it back out into the world.
Bonus points if you also remembered the time we papped our very own Oli to riff on the DM article, and show how easy it is to bend the truth...
We are just going to let this one be. Best not to comment anything on this one. You know, for obvious reasons...
BONUS: And finally – The headline wasn't cycling-related, but it was a bike shop that came up with an interesting response to it...
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.