How a cyclist’s death is reported in the British media, versus the reality

Road.cc are reporting the trial of a driver who killed a cyclist on the A442 Telford bypass in July last year. Tragically, the cyclist, Arthur Platt – who had recovered from a serious spinal injury which had prevented him from joining the army – was attempting to cycle from John O’Groats to Land’s End, to raise money for Help for Heroes.

The driver, Stuart Cook, admits causing the accident, by taking his eyes from the road to replace a satnav device which had fallen into his footwell. However, he maintains that, in so doing, he was only driving ‘carelessly’, rather than ‘dangerously.’ Pesonally, I don’t think removing one’s eyes from the road for a long enough period that you plough into the back of a human being in front of you, at such a speed that you kill them, could ever be considered ‘careless’, and to their credit, the CPS agree, and are pursuing a charge of dangerous driving. The prosecution also seem to have evidence that Mr. Cook

not only leant down to pick up the sat-nav device, but went on to check that the screen was lit up.

Careless?

The outcome of the trial will certainly be interesting. But in googling around for information on this case, I was struck by how the death of Mr. Platt was reported at the time.

The Hampshire Chronicle – which covers the region where Mr. Platt lived and worked – had this to say -

A Hampshire cyclist who overcame a spinal condition that threatened to put him in a wheelchair has been killed on a charity bike ride. Arthur Platt was cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End in aid of the Daily Echo-backed Help for Heroes organisation, which helps injured servicemen, when he was in collision with a car.

I appreciate the need for neutrality in reporting, so as not to prejudice the outcome of any subsequent trial, but this isn’t quite good enough. Why not ‘when a car was in collision with him’, which is equally neutral, but rather more likely, given the circumstances of the accident? The ordering implies that ‘the collision’ involved Mr. Platt cycling into Mr. Cook’s car.

But the BBC report is… beyond words.

A charity cyclist has died in road accident [sic] while on a trip from John O’ Groats to Land’s End. Arthur Platt, 37, from Lyndhurst, Hampshire, died in hospital on Tuesday after his bicycle crashed into a car on the A442 in Telford, Shropshire.

UPDATECycle Of Futility has drawn my attention to his (?) correspondence with the BBC on their reporting of cyclists’ road deaths. Apparently the BBC

always think hard about the way crash stories involving cyclists and pedestrians are written.

If they were ‘thinking hard’ when they wrote that Arthur Platt’s bicycle ‘crashed into a car’ on a national speed limit dual carriageway, how would the BBC report a cyclist’s death when they’re not thinking quite so hard? Perhaps we should be grateful they didn’t report that Mr. Platt chose to arbitrarily fling himself under the wheels of the car that killed him.

UPDATE (2) - I am pleased to be able to report that Stuart Cook was indeed convicted on the more serious charge of causing death by dangerous driving. I hope the sentence he receives reflects the severity of his crime.

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7 Responses to How a cyclist’s death is reported in the British media, versus the reality

  1. Kim says:

    But didn’t you know the drivers are always innocent, because pedestrians and cyclist always jump in front of them? The seems to be a problem in some sections of the media that they do not understand that a licence to drive is not a licence to kill, this is a culture we need to change.

  2. The BBC is quite strongly anti-cyclist, as many have noticed. I presume that Mr Platt was wearing a polystyrene hat, as the BBC report doesn’t have the usual “the cyclists wasn’t wearing a helmet”. Note that the balance isn’t restored by “the cyclist’s helmet proved to be of no practical use in a collision with a fast-moving car”.

    Normally the faster-moving object would be considered to crash into the slower object. How many trees have crashed into cars, I wonder?

  3. dougie says:

    Here in Australia the police keep referring to cyclists “colliding with car doors” whenever car occupants open their doors on cyclists. They are currently having a blitz in Melbourne to prevent pesky cyclists from deliberately riding into open car doors. http://melbourne-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/cbd-bicycle-blitz/

    • In Sydney, it’s “in recent months several cyclists had been injured after riding into car doors on St Kilda Road.”

      I quite like the idea of a cyclist choosing deliberately to ride into an obstacle, as fanciful as it sounds.

  4. Pingback: Blameless road deaths: the BBC “think hard” « Cycle of Futility

  5. Pingback: The Futility Of Culture Change Through Exhortation » Sweat365 » Fitness Community | Do The Right Thing

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