Tuesday 29 August 2017 07.00 BST
When cycling reaches newspaper front pages it’s usually the sporting kind. The last couple of weeks have been an exception, with blanket coverage of the trial of Charlie Alliston, convicted last week over the death of Kim Briggs after he struck her on his bike.
This piece isn’t about the facts of this very tragic case. It’s about the aftermath, more specifically the repeated call in some part of the media for something to be done about what these articles believe is a particular problem of reckless and law-flouting cyclists.
Much of this is perhaps predictable – I’ve written previously on the particular way cycling and cyclists are often dealt with in the media and public debate – but it’s worth pointing out the peculiarly one-sided and fact-avoidant tone of much of the recent discussion.
It’s also worth countering some of the myths again propagated about cycling, because it’s not just pundits who have been making themselves look silly; a few politicians who should have known much better have also got involved.
Two points before I begin. First – and this cannot be stressed enough – I am not seeking to excuse or mitigate Alliston’s actions, or those of other riders who behave in a potentially reckless manner. I have utter sympathy for the loved ones of Kim Briggs.
This piece is only intended to provide context as to where the problem on danger on the roads really lies.
I am not seeking to excuse or mitigate Alliston’s actions, or other riders’ who behave in a potentially reckless manner
Also: when I refer to a cyclist, I mean someone who happens to be riding a bike at that moment. They are not different, or apart, or special. The great majority of regular adult cyclists in the UK also drive cars. Like me, they’re also very likely to use trains, buses, planes, all the rest of it. This is a debate about modes of transport, not tribes.
The anti-cycling backlash is disproportionate and ill-informed