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Bike riders take over anti-cyclist group on Facebook

Online cycling community acts after social network site refuses to remove group

The global online cycling community appears to have taken matters into its own hands after Facebook rejected calls to remove an anti-cyclist group that had attracted more than 33,000 fans on the social network.

Called There’s a perfectly good bike path right next to the road you stupid cyclist, the group – which seems to have originated in Australia last November – has as its icon a photo of a cyclist swerving to avoid a car door being opened in front of him, accompanied by the statements, “No matter how far to the left you are, you're taking up my road,” and “My car is hard, and I am not slowing down!”

Among content added to the group in its early days were photographs of the aftermath of crashes involving cyclists, including one showing a drunken driver from Texas ploughing into a road race in Mexico, killing one rider and leaving three others in hospital. Some of the anti-cyclist comments those attracted demonstrated clearly that there's a lot of anti-cyclist sentiment out there, albeit in most cases not expressed too articulately.

More recently, however, the group’s photo page has been inundated with pictures of bicycles and other bike-friendly images, while the vast majority of comments, many from the UK, are reasonable ones from cyclists, with the anti-cycling brigade who originally populated the group now mainly absent. As one user put it, “at first I was a little upset by ths site but I really like it now. Seems to be become a friendler place now more cyclists are joining in a talking to each other!”

A UK-based spokesperson for Facebook told road.cc: "The page in question was created in humour and does not violate our Terms of Use as it is a not a direct attack on a specific person and the admins are not advocating violence towards any one person."

We're not sure about the humour element - certainly, many of the group's original members seemed to be pretty serious when saying what they'd like to do to cyclists, and it seems that it's okay to advocate violence against groups of people, so long as you aren't naming individuals. 

US cycling website Streetsblog also asked Facebook to clarify whether the group contravened its terms of use, specifically those relating to “Safety,” which state “You will not bully, intimidate, or harass any user” and “You will not post content that is hateful, threatening, pornographic, or that contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.”

Streetsblog received a response from Simon Axten of Facebook, who said that the social network had reviewed the group and concluded that it did not violate its terms of use.

“We take our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities very seriously and react quickly to remove reported content that violates our policies,” he explained. “Specifically, we're sensitive to content that includes hate speech and/or actionable threats of violence. The goal of these policies is to strike a very delicate balance between giving Facebook users the freedom to express their opinions and beliefs, even controversial ones, and maintaining a safe and trusted environment.”

Mr Axten added: “We've reviewed this group and determined that it doesn't violate our policies. We encourage users to report anything they feel does violate these policies using the report links located throughout the site. Thanks.”

Groups removed by Facebook in the past include one that advocated the assassination of the president of Bolivia, another that celebrated Serbian war crimes, and a third that targeted Australia’s Jewish community, suggesting that the website only acts when an identifiable individual or ethnic group is the target of abuse.

Bike riders are continuing to press for Facebook to remove the group, however, and have set up a separate group, Help remove this hate group against cyclists, that has built up a membership of more than 17,000 in just a few days. 

Meanwhile, US-based campaign group Cyclists Against Reckless Drivers (CARD) has set up its own fan page on Facebook, and has highlighted another anti-cyclist group on the social network.

Named I hate cyclists, this one appears to be from the UK, given its founder’s references to cat’s eyes, pubs, country lanes, Lycra rather than Spandex, and, yes, the non-existent “road tax.” CARD is asking its fans on Facebook to help educate this latest group’s members, although it urges them to “be polite. Diplomacy always works better.”

 

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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