“Lycra Louts” and “Hogger Joggers”: A Daily Mail & Trinity Mirror Anti-Cycling Hate Campaign
Perverting the Course of Justice Ahead of Charlie Alliston’s Unprecedented Prosecution for Manslaughter
This is part one the first in a multipart series looking at the future of cycling focusing on the two week lead up to Alliston’s Trial. Part two looks at the show trial itself. Part three looks at other transport modes caught in the media’s headlights, and hopefully I’ll conclude by explaining the future of the Road Traffic Act.
At the beginning of August the British media has been obsessed with a particular story, but for some reason a jogger pushing over a woman walking, to be nearly hit by a bus, became all about the evil’s of cycling.
August 8th, 2017
Early to the mêlée was Adam Boulton, political opinion haver for the Sunday Times, Sky News news-actor, and former son-in-law to British Steel chairman, Julian Mond. After failing his first marriage with adultery, guests at his second wedding to Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Anji Hunter, included the devil himself sans Cherie; Labour MPs David Blunkett, Tessa Jowell, and Peter Hain; former Eastender’s actor & Labour Lord Michael Cashman; and British Petroleum boss, Lord Browne.
In a direct response to the jogging assault, Boulton twaddled the following about cycling:
Joggers and cyclists don’t fit on inner city thoroughfares. Find a park or track. Inner city cyclists and joggers routinely treat others (pedestrians & motorists) inconsiderately. Lycra does not superheroes make. I think adult cyclists should be tested, licensed and taxed like other road users.
A man jogging is accused of deliberately pushing over a women and this is used as a platform demanding bike licenses. Jogging has no place in London but a gridlock of murderous multi-tonne vehicles made of steel and powered by petroleum choke London without comment.
This crabbing sidestep from feet to bike spread on social media. Faker Jeremy Kyle, Radio 4, angry cab drivers but maybe former Eastender’s actor, Leslie Grantham was one that stood out. After enlisting into the British Army in 1965, he murdered a West German taxi driver serving his prison time in the United Kingdom. During this he was encouraged into acting by a Labour politician, also in jail but for fraud. Fast tracked through the BBC he was later outed as a pervert with Peter Pan and animal sex fantasies.
The Telegraph published Chas Newkey-Burden’s “The Rise of the (very) Angry Runner” in which he had this to say about cycling:
These fury-filled runners […] remind me of those obnoxious “Lycra lout” cyclists who cause havoc by whizzing through the byways and highways at the weekend with not a care in the world, beyond beating their fastest time.
The Daily Mail’s Jan Moir fired a hysterical opinion piece that stretched the very meaning of words if not the hyperbolic universe. She speaks for herself, well, not really, she’s another commodity:
There seems to be an increasing amount of joggers who think they have a divine right not to deviate from their chosen path as they thump-thump along city pavements.
But cyclists are the worst.
I’m mightily sick of cyclists, always male, with nostrils flaring like raging bulls and calves as big as ostrich eggs as they surge through our cities and towns on roads that were never built to accommodate them.
Sort out the law-breakers in the swarm, who sail past ‘no cycling’ signs, ride two abreast and mow down straggling pedestrians when they move off before the traffic lights turn green. [Editor’s note: cycling abreast is completely legal.]
Also, something must be done to appease fed-up motorists who argue that cyclists should have to pay road tax, have third party insurance and be identified by licence-plates, just like them. [Editor’s other note: if legal parity is desired then let people cycle side by side much like driver and passenger.]
Cycling is a one-way street, it seems, where the needs of the two-wheeled trump the wants of everyone else. The Lycra Louts are the same people who drive their cars badly, talk loudly in the cinema, recline their seats on planes, manspread on the Tube, beep their horns for no good reason and eat the last Rolo.
They spread the Marmite of casual vandalism on the muffin of civilised society, bulldozing their way through life without thinking of anyone but themselves, and with no regard for the personal space of others.
For those wondering, no I really didn’t make up that last line, it was that fantastical.
In the Mirror, former ITV commodity news-actor Fiona Philips, opined in similar fashion, wildly exclaiming that:
Pavements are for pedestrians. Roads and cycle lanes are for cyclists, as outlined in various local by-laws which, if they’re contravened, can result in sanctions or punishment, but in reality are rarely enforced by local councils.
That’s a shame because an appearance in a magistrates’ court resulting in a criminal record and a fine would be a sobering experience, if not a lesson in civility.
It IS criminal to endanger another person’s safety just because you can’t be arsed to use the road.
It’s as if Philips and Moir are trying to speak directly to a jury: be a hero, bring justice where councils will not. As if by magic and on the same day, Arwa Mahdawi of the Guardian appeared with the so called counter opinion that promoted all the ideas presented by her tabloid opponents, even directing traffic their way:
“Not all villains wear Lycra — cars are literally killing us”
‘Hogger joggers’ and Mamils aren’t the only ones hurling us into the path of danger. There’s a bigger and more normalised culprit on our streets.
Okay, so some “villains” wear lycra then, and people cycling are “hurling us into the path of danger”. Is this meant to be legal aid for the defence or a continuation of the private and paid prosecution? The rest of Mahdawi’s piece is basically a lecture on the existence of “the Mamil” reinforcing negative stereotypes.
The Mamil is often the subject of light mockery; the term “midlife crisis” is often bandied around. However, research found: “they aren’t cycling to relive their youth but motivations are tied to the desire for good mental and physical health.”
Which all sounds well and good, except for the fact — as Moir reminds us — that Mamils can be hazardous to everyone else’s health. In fact, anyone attempting to do some exercise is an automatic danger to society. Ladies who lunge; tykes on bikes; schoolkids on scooters; yoga bros; weekend warriors … our streets teem with an entire ecosystem of fiendish fitness fanatics. And, I hate to say this, but to some degree Moir has a point.
Cut through the branding and The Guardian is in explicit agreement with the Daily Mail. This is not the first time these two seemingly antagonistic publishers play good cop, bad cop on the matters of cycling.
Peter Walker will have you believe these trends are a product of feature writers giddy on internet memetics. Automobile Association favourite, Carlton Reid, will claim this is journalistic “wind sniffing” and following the breeze. Former cycling tzar and current something or other for a road haulage cold war lobby group won’t even try to explain things, he says it’s not even possible. Chris Boardman is probably dead weight as well.
What is going on?
Trial By Media Means Trial By Court
In an unprecedented trial Charlie Alliston is standing accused of not only death by furious cycling, but also the manslaughter of Kim Briggs which could mean a life sentence. This is a gross asymmetry to the leniency enjoyed by motorists who are allowed to kill whilst driving on the pavement and be involved in eighty hit n’ runs per week in London alone without media outcry. My personal experience of this is of a Crown Prosecution Service who downgraded a driver deliberately trying to maim or even kill me through crushing, from attempted grievous bodily harm endangering life to just a driving offence. Court proceedings have not yet concluded.
For the Mail Alliston’s case was not just news but headline news.
The story was prime time national TV news it was deemed that important. So far reporting has seen saturation over two days, and micromanaged by the Press Association. Typically one sided, the negative character of Alliston and the virtuousness of “mother of two” Kim Briggs has been accentuated. No mention of pavement cycling, no mention of red lights. Reading around the issue one gets the impression Briggs stepped into the road without signal priority whilst using a mobile device just prior to their collision. Speed is estimated to be between 15–20mph.
The lack of a front brake according to media reports is the only legal infraction, but that doesn’t mean Alliston had time to stop nor was without the ability to stop with his rear brake. Neither does that necessarily mean he would stop slower than faster, steel and petrol propelled drivers who kill people all the time. When they do, newsprint hauliers are very quick to condemn the victims as “zombie pedestrians” according to the Mail and automobile associations. Not so here.
According to the standard driving theory test, a driver travelling at 20mph needs 12 metres to stop. As reported by the Irish News, the “crash investigator” claims Alliston had right of way, and only 7 metres to stop after Briggs walked into the road possibly distracted by her mobile, and having ignored use of a pedestrian crossing some 10 metres away. The “investigator” also claims that if the bike had a front brake Alliston would have been able to stop within 3 metres. This seems seems a hypothetical stretch not a practical reality when one considers the likelihood of being catapulted over the handlebars.
Alliston is accused of manslaughter yet his bicycle had the same stopping distance of the average car at the same speed. However, drivers would be usually travelling 30mph or more, so need at least 24 metres to stop. The measurably safer behaviour of Alliston is considered maximally more prosecutable and if he had chosen to drive that day and gone faster, all else equal, the case wouldn’t even have gotten to court. No charges would even have been attempted.
Sporty male knocks female over in London nearly causing fatal head injuries on the eve of a precedent setting court case where sporty male knocks female over causing fatal head injuries. What great luck has the prosecution! What great luck that newsprint hauliers reliant on car advertising used this parallel event to demonise cycling! I’m not sure of the frequency at which joggers push random women over but someone should run the statistics.
Raising suspicions further, and if you wanted to cover for some dodgy behaviour you would look to push as much misinformation as possible. The newsprint cartel aggressively promoted the wrong identity of the jogger, even after the police had released him without charge. The Daily Mail’s Evening Standard was notably guilty of this and the exposure might be enough to have made any sort of prosecution impossible.
Opportunism is of course Occam’s razor, but the MET police might want to pursue the idea that the jogger and perhaps even victim were actors should all other leads go nowhere.
Let’s start with a far less extravagant hypothesis: newsprint haulers (reliant on car advertising) like the Mirror and the Daily Mail are running a media operation to pervert the course of justice. Why care so much? What would be their motivation? Who benefits? And if we look can more evidence be found? The last question I’ll address first.
Trinity Mirror and the Automobile Association
Fourteen months ago and with much media fanfare, the Automobile Association published a Highway Code specifically targeting cycling. It appeared in the Mirror and the Mail, with Press Association promotion.
For some reason in the week leading up to Alliston’s trial, the Mirror has ran a staggered regurgitation of this old news across their fake local brands presented as new news.
- Bath Chronicle: “Dedicated highway code for cyclists published by AA provides all the rules of the road”
- Bristol Post: “Do cyclists need a Highway Code? AA publishes guide for ‘riding safely’ on two wheels”
- Coventry Telegraph: “Cyclists now have their own Highway Code — all you need to know. The AA has now launched this first-of-its-kind bible.”
- Derby Telegraph: “New Highway Code for cyclists published — plus rights you didn’t know they had”
- Gazette Live: “A new Highway Code has been released — but this one is for cyclists”
- Somerset Live: “The AA has produced a Highway Code for cyclists with full rules of the road”
- Get Surrey: “Highway Code dedicated to cyclists published ‘as more people cycle to work”
- Leicester Mercury: “Cyclists now have their own Highway Code — but should it be enforced?”
- Get Reading: “Cyclists have been given their own highway code to make the roads safer”
It’s odd that this obvious PR campaign didn’t leverage any cycle magazine nor medium. That demographic might actually purchase the book, if indeed this was ever about some crappy 4.99£ effort that’s essentially all available for free on government websites.
A Mirrored Pattern of Perjury
Outside this direct automobile association there were several other odd stories across the Mirror that manufactured cycling as a public safety threat in need of regulation.
Leicester Mercury headlined:
They sent a team of photographers into the field tasked with filming this great conflict. Instead they produced the most mundane of two minute montages where people quite safely cycled with others walking. Perhaps trying to make up for the lack of drama they went with the title: “RIDERS HURTLE DOWN CYCLE FREE WALK”. It’s worth a watch just to realise how much the video isn’t worth watching, let alone paying the team a day’s wage or whatever. The same video was used on another piece attacking cycle couriers:
“Dangerous Deliveroo and UberEATS cyclists ‘a menace’ for way they hurtle around Leicester city centre”.
That poor woman pushing her baby looks absolutely terrified.
I’d laugh if this wasn’t such a serious perjury campaign inciting violence and getting people killed.
Elsewhere, The Bristol Post and newsprint hauliers in general saturated themselves over a person punching a driver in reaction to being hit with their car following a dangerous manoeuvre. In fact there were two such heavily promoted altercations in different parts of the country.
Before most of the AA stories had gone out, Cambridge News ran the headline:
The payload of the article was actually a video captured 300 kilometres away in Manchester, two years ago, and of a person who couldn’t stop at a red light because their brake cable snapped. This isn’t explained and I asked the author Anna Savva why, but I was refused an answer and quickly blocked. No corrections have been made a week later even though the Mirror is well aware of the context of the collision.
Gloucestershire Live ran the peculiar: “Confession of a (stupid) Cheltenham cyclist”, which is a nothing story about their journalist who failed to lock up a bike properly, and seems little more than an excuse to connect cycling with stupidity.
With a Wider Angled Lens
And so the newsprint cartel drove this theme of cycling and danger since the beginning of August with contrivances and amplitude much higher than normal. Cycling and machismo, cycling as foreign, cycling as violent, cycling as clownish. The cycling Caliban is coming for our women in some Shankspearean novel of nothing new, but as this is capitalism, someone is going to prosper.
It’s going to be the Daily Mail:
It’s going to be Road CC Cycling Magazine:
And many others, still all in August:
One particular non-news story came from Newsquest’s Swindon Advertiser, where legal cycling was presented as illegal stunts. In fact a video showing drivers bullying people trying to negotiate a roundabout was spun as people cycling endangering the same drivers. War is peace, Britain has a free press, Orwell was a snitch, etc, etc.
A Grand Theory of Ground Traffic Control
Why is it so hard for people to take newsprint hauliers and the motor industry at their word? Is it because they get to pick their opposition, whether it’s Reid, Wright, Walker, Kyle, or Gilligan?
Hauliers represent 5% of total road traffic but cause 20% of cycling fatalities, and face urban bans around the EU, but also London. It’s incredibly helpful if juries already hate cycling before they’ve entered the court room. The RHA, explicitly tasked with risk management for the industry, has consistently lobbied for mandatory helmet laws, reflective clothing and headphone bans. The IRHA want full cycle licensing.
One also has to realise the obvious: media companies are newsprint hauliers reliant on car advertising whose HGVs run on diesel and often over vulnerable roadusers. Guardian, Daily Mail, Newscorp, or whichever, already have a vested interest to hate cycling as an economic threat. They also already have various cartel-like structures in existence which standardises reporting across seemingly antagonistic brands. Most significantly is the “public relations” firm Press Association, in which the biggest media companies all have shares.
Conveniently for this haulage cartel, the punitive legal measures will raise the business costs of cycle couriers, inhibit bicycle hire schemes especially for tourism, and shift blame to the victimised group. Along with character attacks, when the inevitable happens and a Guardian truck runs someone over a jury is already primed to have no sympathy for people who cycle. In fact “cycle licensing is needed because safety” is everything a haulage industry powered by petroleum could want for anti-competitive legislation wrapped up in plausible deniability. Under capitalism if it’s cheaper to run black propaganda campaigns to inhibit cycling than pay out compensation to those killed, then they’ll move as far towards banning cycling as politically possible. Likewise, for every person forced out of cycling that’s one more customer locked into cars and petroleum.
Hauliers have also told us the dronification of their HGV fleets don’t work well with people cycling, people jogging or even walking. Volkswagen have developed their technology in concert with mining operators like Rio Tinto, where all people have to be radio tagged like vehicles but also wear yellow vests. A centralised ground traffic control is then used to oversee operations, and similar systems are already being scaled to whole cities. (Essentially the idea that vehicles with be “autonomous” is marketing, that’s why I used the word “dronification”.)
A century after Henry Ford brought in mandatory IDs for his company towns, people hauliers like Uber want all those cycling wearing radio transmitters and plugged into the global positioning system. Google cars have a problem with seeing those cycling. Volkswagen and others want all children to wear yellow bibs. Jeff Peters of Vehicle Tech Venture Capital, went full Exxonmobil alt-right and proposed a eugenic road environment where all people are radiotagged and low value targets are killed to save superior lives:
People who use the Moral Machine can see how their results compare to everyone else’s. So far the outcomes suggest that people intervene to save younger, fitter people with higher perceived social values (doctors over criminals, for example).
To handle these relative preferences, we could equip people with beacons on their cellphones to signal nearby cars that they are a certain type of person (child, elderly, pedestrian, cyclist). Then programmers could instruct their autonomous systems to make decisions [on who to kill] based on priorities from surveys or experiments like the Moral Machine.
How much traction have these ideas received?
In 2016, Toronto council actually voted on a bill to introduce cycle licensing and RFID tagging. Olympic cyclist and Sky promoter, Chris Boardman was made Manchester’s cycling commissioner, and the first event of significance under his watch was the implementation of a government subsidised cycle tagging scheme which relays positioning in real time. The Irish government is already making moves to force yellow bibs on all road users whether walking, cycling, jogging, or horse-riding. Perversely, people cycling have long funded their own fully functioning real time surveillance system. It’s called Strava, and that already is a beacon emitting your perceived economic value to ground traffic control because for many, it’s connected to their credit card and social media accounts.
Alliston is going down unless he moves for a mistrial. Perhaps someone can contact his legal team. Regardless of outcome though, in the near future there will be legislative moves to suppress cycling and don’t count on Sustrans, British Cycling or the usual cycle voices to stop that from happening. Cycle lanes have already been killed off in similar cycl-ops, and cycling will be made so difficult (if it isn’t already) that you’ll say “fuck it, I’m taking uber”. Full road privatisation with limited liability is the end game.