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Police social media team face backlash for "victim blaming" posts reminding cyclists to wear helmets

The West Oxfordshire branch of Thames Valley Police said its officers attended a collision between a "cyclist and a car", and urged cyclists to remember to wear a helmet...

The social media team for the West Oxfordshire branch of Thames Valley Police are facing fierce criticism for their choice of wording on posts about a collision. The posts say that officers "attended a collision involving a cyclist and a car", after which the cyclist was transported to hospital by helicopter, and end by reminding those out cycling to "please remember to wear a helmet!" 

On Twitter particularly, over 200 people and counting have left comments under the post, with many criticising the lack of clarification over whether the car was being driven by a person or not at the time of the collision, and suggesting that the closing reminder about helmets could be irrelevant, considering that regular cycling helmets are not rated to protect against impacts from vehicles. 

> Only one in five competitive cyclists aware helmets don't protect from concussion, according to new research

Despite all this, and most importantly, it appears the cyclist suffered no major injuries from the collision on the Burwell estate in Witney, Oxfordshire, with his mother saying: "This was my son. A HUGE thanks to all who stopped and helped him and called me, some truly lovely kind people in Witney, it’s very much appreciated. All the Emergency services and JR have been amazing. He’s now home, battered and bruised, and realises he’s a lucky lad, someone was looking down on him today." has contacted Thames Valley Police and asked for comment. 

As has happened numerous times in the past when police decide to remind cyclists about wearing protective gear and/or don't quite clarify whether the vehicle they are referring to had a person operating it, the debate over collision reporting seems to be rearing its head more and more regularly. The Road Collision Reporting Guidelines launched last year, that strives to adhere to, asks journalists to refer to 'drivers of vehicles' and not the vehicles themselves, and to consider "whether language used negatively generalises a person or their behaviour as part of a ‘group’." 

> “Language matters” – Road collision reporting guidelines launched

It could be argued that Thames Valley Police fell foul of both of those recommendations here; and while the guidelines are aimed at journalists, the media relies on police communications departments to generate a lot of its news. 

Adoption of the guidelines has been far from universal so far, with one local news editor in Brighton going as far as to block anyone on her social media for "language policing" when it came to criticism of collision reporting on the Brighton & Hove News website. 

Arriving at in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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