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Edinburgh council leader probed for tweet taking aim at pop-up infrastructure critics

SNP’s Adam McVey had shared tweet about cyclist injured by wire on path in Edinburgh and said protesters needed to reflect on consequences of their behaviour

The ​leader of Edinburgh City Council is being investigated by an ethical standards in public life watchdog after sharing a tweet of a cyclist injured by a wire stretched across a popular cycle route.

Sharing a tweet linked to an STV report about the incident in March, SNP councillor Adam McVey said: “Those spewing a poisonous campaign against children cycling safely & #SpacesForPeople projects need to take responsibility for their behaviour, reflect & change.”

His tweet sparked furore among opponents of pop-up infrastructure including Conservative councillors, with their leader on Edinburgh City Council strongly criticising his remarks in a column for the Edinburgh Evening News.

Now, the same newspaper reports that following a number of complaints made to the Ethical Standards Commissioner, an investigation is to be launched into Councillor McVey’s tweet, which followed a 47-year-old cyclist being injured by a wire stretched across a path on a cycle lane in Newcraighall public park.

> Cyclist seriously injured as wire strung across Edinburgh cycle path

The Leith councillor’s tweet followed months of opposition to the city’s Spaces for People initiative, brought in as a response to the coronavirus pandemic, and aimed at giving over more space to cyclists and pedestrians. The measures may become permanent subject to the outcome of a consultation.

Referring to the watchdog’s investigation, Councillor McVey said: “Unfortunately I’m not allowed to comment at this stage but I look forward to doing so when this concludes."

In his column for the Edinburgh Evening News published in March in response to Councillor McVey’s tweet, Conservative leader Councillor Iain Whyte, wrote: “If we take his argument to its logical conclusion what are the results?

“Does he think that youths terrorising Lothian Buses staff and passengers are a politically driven guerrilla brigade of anti-public transport activists?

“Is their ‘opposition’ to public transport somehow inspired by ‘Tory Scum’?”

Often, traps laid for cyclists, whether on cycle paths or mountain bike trails, are assumed to be the work of antisocial youths, and at times police appeals even refer to the perpetrators of such incidents believing that they are engaging in “a harmless prank.”

However, over the past year, with some politicians, both local and national, as well as elements of the press whipping up opposition to active travel measures such as low traffic neighbourhoods or pop-up cycle lanes, it is clear that some of the more extreme opponents to such initiatives are prepared to take matters into their own hands.

For instance, in a number of London boroughs including Hackney and Ealing, planters used to mark out LTNs have been vandalised or overturned, and CCTV cameras used to enforce them destroyed, and there have even been death threats made against councillors.

> Hackney councillor sent death threats over support for low traffic neighbourhoods

We have also reported in two cases in recent months in which traps were set for cyclists which, far from being the work of unruly youths, were actually carried out by older people – including one last month in Glasgow in which a couple admitted laying traps on a path because they “didn't want cyclists in the park.”

> Glasgow “pensioners” admit laying traps for cyclists in park

Meanwhile, we have also seen a complaint against a column by Rod Liddle in The Sunday Times in which he said that it was “tempting” to string piano wire across roads used by cyclists at neck height, defended by the newspaper which said it was “not intended to be taken seriously.”

> Sunday Times says Rod Liddle “piano wire” column “not intended to be taken seriously”

The fact is, however, that such traps can maim or even kill, and one interpretation of Councillor McVey’s tweet is that rather than associating them with all critics of cycling and other active infrastructure, he was highlighting how such opposition can embolden some to take the law into their own hands, and that the sometimes toxic language employed can have real-life consequences.

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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