Friday 1 November 2013

Media Hall of Shame - Worst articles on urban cycling

Summary: The mainstream media publishes a lot of articles on urban cycling that are not based on proper evidence and are filled with illogical conclusions and simplistic claims. Many articles on urban cycling recycle the same myths and anti-cycling opinions and are regularly written purely as click/comment bait. I'll use this post to keep track of salient articles, both for accountability and because culture and norms (and thus public policy, laws and infrastructure) are affected by this practice. For example: cyclists and pedestrians continue to be unnecessarily injured and killed because the dominant ideas, behaviour and policy relating to cars and driving haven't changed.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Federation European Cyclists'

1. Regulate bicycles off the road - Michael Pascoe (The Sydney Morning Herald)

- Michael claims that urban cycling simply amounts to "playing a dangerous sport on the road" while motorists aren't on the road for sport, they actually "need to go somewhere". He says cycling is "a bit like smoking, if the idea of riding bicycles on the open road was invented today, it would be banned." He argues we should have consistent safety policy and thus that lightweight cars with less safety features should either be unbanned "or extend the culture of enforced safety to greater regulation of where and when people are allowed to cycle... on public roads." He asks cyclists to simply accept "the terrible truth that theirs is a dangerous sport and will remain so, even without motorists."

- Clearly, Michael has simply ignored cycling for transport and focused purely on cycling for sport and recreation. By doing so, his article contains so many self-evident falsehoods (e.g. cyclists don't need to go somewhere; cycling is an irredeemably dangerous sport even without cars on the road) that there's no point detailing them. His suggestion that we regulate bicycles off the road for safety reasons therefore becomes impossible as there is no way to ban cycling for recreation but allow it for transport.

- However, let's narrow the focus to what was on Michael's mind: the recent spate of cycling deaths in NSW, most of which involved sport/recreational cyclists on road bikes and some where cyclist error caused the accident. The most notable being Casey Kinniard who while practising for a triathalon lost control when coming down a hill at high speed, crossed to the wrong side of the road and hit a car head on.

- Surprisingly, Michael was actually onto something interesting, though his click-bait article heading and careless generalisations ensured the usual motorist vs cyclist arguments ensued. The interesting aspect is which types of cyclists are predominantly dying on Australia's (especially NSW's) roads and how. The answer is that it is sporting/recreational road bike cyclists who are typically riding at higher speeds and taking risks with significant consequences.

2. 14 reasons we hate cyclists - Chris Bartlett (The Courier Mail)

3. The menace of urban cyclists - Editorial (The Australian)