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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

TELEGRAPH, BAD WRITING AND THE IGNORANCE AROUND CYCLING

When I read the Telegraph's article http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/recreational-cycling/10323653/War-declared-on-the-Lycra-louts-on-wheels.html , I let it go. I simply regarded it as yet another example of pretentious journalism, with a cheap sensationalist headline.
But this morning something happened on my commute to work and I hold journalism like that responsible for it.

While riding to work, I was going through Battersea, in London, the green lights came on, the cars in my lane and the outside lane moved forward with me, while the cars on the left lane are supposed to turn left. Not so. A car overtook me from the left at full speed, barely making it before hitting a curb (and me). The car then slowed down to let me catch up alongside it (in a cycle lane). The passenger wound the window down and started filming with a mobile phone while the driver (her boyfriend/husband/friend) proceeded in shouting abuses at me, all the while laughing her head off. Then, the usual repertoire of ignorant ranting, like "where's your road tax?", to which I shouted back "In my car"... he didn't see the irony of it and stepped up the language to full-expletives. I was still a bit shaky by the near miss but my anger was not all towards this stupid couple, but towards the irresponsible journalism which flares up this type of behaviour. It empowers already ignorant readers with a voice they know will be heard and written about. No doubt experiences like mine are not going to end up in that newspaper, but those of a little lady in the countryside who couldn't wait and absolutely had to overtake a group of cyclists, will.
The journalist, Harry Wallop, writes his article full of contempt for cyclists, enriches the paragraphs with insults and is not even remotely worried about researching the other sides of the story.
No matter that as cyclists we pollute less, spend less on health care, give more gold medals to the country, and mainly exercise our right to use the mode of transport we prefer....no, what matters is that a very small minority of Surrey residents who cannot possibly make ado without the car for one day every now and then draw up a petition against racing in the county and cycling in general.
The hundreds of thousands of people who poured on the Surrey roads to watch the Tour of Britain go by and the kids let out of school to witness this great sporting event, are testimony to the popularity of this great sport which needs encouragement not curbing.
I find it a bit ironic that the Telegraph supports a minority for once.
Mr Wallop proceeds in calling cyclists with every possible name and nickname he could find in the urban dictionary in order to make sure the reader knew which side he was on (another journalistic blunder): lycra louts, mamils, bicyclists, veloists and so on.
These Lycra louts, as the army of amateur cyclists have been nicknamed.
By whom? He doesn't say.
Wiggo-wannabes, clad in skintight clothing, trying to emulate Sir Bradley, Chris Froome, Mark Cavendish and other world-beating British veloists. 
So, anyone in a car is emulating Hamilton and Button?
They come to Surrey as a direct result of the Olympics cycle road race.
No, cycling has always been aplenty in Surrey.
We feel it is Londoners coming down, filling up our roads, with no benefit to us whatsoever.
I didn't realise these people owned the county and if I walked, rode, drove on it I had to make sure they benefited from it. I thought the countryside was everybody's. Perhaps, next time these people come up to London they should drop by my house and leave a fiver?
So often you come across 150 cyclists racing down these roads, with no prior warning
Let's call that an exaggeration, the biggest club run I've been in has been 80 and we had 5 or 6 groups, not all riding together.
We have had three road closures this year 
That's it? Is that what bothers these people? THREE DAYS?!?!?
Spitting and insulting might be what some idiots cyclists do, I'm not going to defend all people on two wheels. But we risk our lives in order to pursue our passion and to keep healthy. What cars do to us far outweighs what that lady had to put up with while she had to WAIT to overtake. We're reminded daily that a mistake by a car could cost us our lives.
Respect has to come from both sides, there's no denying that.
Reporting has to reflect both sides of the argument.
Shame on you Mr Wallop, you deserve to be half-wheeled for a whole ride.

2 comments:

  1. You'll like the counter article from the Guardian in direct response: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2013/sep/22/cycling-daily-telegraph-lycra-louts

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    1. I could have saved myself writing this morning had I seen that! Damn! But I had to get it off my chest

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