A Cirencester pub landlord at the centre of a social media storm about anti-cyclist remarks on Facebook has apologised unreservedly for his comments.
James Walker of the Bathurst Arms says he had intended to highlight the risk he felt cyclists were taking while riding three abreast, after he encountered a group of riders on the A435.
But since then he has been targeted by angry cyclists who have called for a boycott of his pub and even threatened him and his family.
Among the comments Walker has received:
“Unbelievable a person with your callous and wreck less (sic) views on human life still exists.”
“I hope your restaurant burns to the ground with you in it and your 4 by 4 rolls in a ditch while cyclists laugh and then go on their merry way.”
“Hoping something very nasty happens to you and your family. Scum.” (From someone pretending to be Bradley Wiggins)
“Unless you make amends, action will be taken against you.”
“I have contacted the police about you, you ignorant twat.”
Walker told road.cc that he later realised how bad his comments looked. He is an ultra-marathon runner, who has competed in the 150-mile Marathon des Sables.
“This was between me, a runner and some triathlon and cyclist friends. It wasn’t meant to be a cars versus cyclist thing,” he said.
In his original posting Walker wrote: “Cycling is for weak-kneed individuals who hide their lack of athletic ability behind thousands of pounds of hi tech gear. Your need for a low impact form of activity will be rudely negated when I smash my four by four into your rear tyre at sixty miles an hour on a surface paid for by me the motorist. The impact will be far from low I tell you. Buy some trainers and go for a run in the fields. Cycling is for the French, Belgians and Spanish. Leave it alone.”
Doesn’t sound good does it? But Walker explains that the cracks about weak knees and hi-tech gear were aimed at his friends, and the three-abreast riders were a group he’d encountered while out for a drive.
Walker saod that he had been doing 60 mph on the A435 when he came round a bend and there was a group of riders in front of him. He just slowed down and went round them, but it got him thinking how bad a crash would have been if someone were speeding along there and hit them.
A screenshot of his posting was copied to another Facebook group and spread rapidly from there.
Walker comes across as genuinely contrite and deeply embarrassed.
“I am not anti-cyclist at all,” he said. “My best man is a cyclist and last night I even gave a cyclist a lift home because he was going to try and ride home without working lights.”
“I have made a big mistake and I have publically apologised on Facebook. I am also responding personally to everyone who is contacting me via email over the issue.
“I am taking this extremely seriously and am very regretful.”
And while the hostile comments he has received have not been any fun, “On the plus side, I have had a lot of pleasant correspondence with people who took the time to contact me properly and I am grateful for their more measured responses and genuinely admire the spirit of camaraderie that seems to exist in the world of cycling.”
Walker asked road.cc to publish this statement in full:
“The comments made on my private Facebook page were taken out of the closed circle for which they were intended by a third party and posted without my knowledge. I have the utmost respect for athletes of all disciplines and all road users.
“The anti cycling banter is between some cycling/triathlon friends with dodgy knees and me, an ultra runner. I met some of these guys doing the Marathon des Sables last year. I take athletic endeavour seriously. I stand ashamed and now corrected over the issue of road funding. I am sure that this ignorance annoys cyclists all the time.
“Everyone has a right to use our roads and with that right comes a responsibility to use them safely whatever your preferred method of transport.
“I know that there are those that will not forgive what has been written but I am very sorry for any upset that this has caused amongst the cycling community. It was never my intention. This was initially meant to be rival banter between runners and cyclists not cars and cyclists.
“I take full responsibility for what was written, just wish I had written it a little differently. A lesson in the power of social media learned. The hard way.”
Acknowledged by the Telegraph as a leading cycling journalist, John Stevenson has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc editor Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013 and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.