You are a terrible journalist, so naturally enough you are struggling for something to write about. Maybe you’ve run out of things to say about your private life that might actually interest the reading public. Maybe you can’t think of some petty criticism to make of someone in the public eye for being too fat. Or too thin. Or too vulgar.
Maybe you are just lazy.
Well, thank heavens, help is at hand. Here it is, your free guide to writing a shabby article in five minutes flat, one that’s guaranteed to get published no matter how awful it is. Yes, bicycles are your meal ticket.
Have bicycles appeared in the news recently? It doesn’t matter how, or in what form, or how tendentiously a self-propelled object with wheels relates to the actual news story. As long as there is some tenuous link to a bicycle, you are all set, and ready to go.
Did someone famous do something bad/good while riding a bicycle? Perfect.
Did someone do something bad/good while having a bicycle near them? Perfect.
Did someone do something bad/good while someone else was riding a bicycle nearby? Perfect.
Any of these scenarios will do, so long as somewhere, somehow, a bicycle is visible in the far distance. You have your starting point.
Your next step is to make some positive-sounding noises about how you actually love (some) bicycles. This makes you seem open-minded, even though you are not.
The technique is very easy, especially at the moment, when the Olympics give you an excellent template. Everybody loved the Olympics, and some people who competed in the Olympics used bicycles. Say you liked these people, even if you don’t have really have a clue what it was all about. A couple of paragraphs will do, no more than that. Chris Hoy’s sideburns. Bradley Wiggins’ huge thighs. Blah blah blah.
You can also say that you’ve been so inspired, you’ve even considered taking up using a velocipede (it doesn’t matter if riding a bike is the last thing you would actually consider doing – no-one is going to know you are lying).
You might even use an exercise bike in the gym – conclusive proof that you have nothing against the activity of ‘cycling’.
Having safely established that you aren’t a prejudiced moron (when of course you are), you can then move on to step three, which is to talk about the bicycle (and its user) featuring in the news. The golden rule here is to focus on the negative.
If the person on the bicycle has done something bad – yelled at someone, dropped litter, robbed a bank – then find a way to link that to their use of a bicycle. Make it obvious that it is the use of the bicycle itself that has somehow precipitated the bad behaviour. If the person on the bike has done something good, then point out that this is the exception that proves the rule. (If the person in question isn’t riding a bicycle, but has one near them, or has only been using a bicycle recently, or is planning to use a bike, or is known for using a bike, the same rules apply. This is really very easy).
It might, of course, be the case that the person on the bicycle who features in the news is a victim. Don’t let that stop you! Insinuate that he or she might actually have been at fault, and that the fact we’re all jumping to conclusions proves that cyclists are uppity, spoilt and weird.
Having got this far, you’ve done the hard work, and you are now free to wibble on about how all bicycle users are innately bad, because they ride bikes, and how this latest incident of yelling/bank robbery by someone on a bicycle only serves to demonstrate this fact. It doesn’t matter if you’ve still got hundreds of words to write to fill out your copy; the field is now open for you to crowbar in as many of the trite and overused clichés about bicycles as you can. You might even start your article with a story about how your mother had an affair with a cyclist, which can be used to excuse away any prejudice that follows.
This step is the best bit, because you don’t even have to do any work. All of these boring tropes have been used before by many other terrible journalists; they’ve been recycled so often you should consider yourself free to just copy and paste their articles, perhaps switching around some sentences and adjectives. No-one will care.
The genius bit is that if you give it a year or so, you can recycle your own article (also known as ‘Doing a Petronella’). It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Of course, if you are such a terrible journalist that you can’t even be bothered to do that, here are some helpful phrases and words you can just pop straight into your article to get you up to your word limit. It helps if you can get them all in. Your editor will be especially pleased.
Cyclists are superior/entitled/smug
(Hint – try adding the word ‘race’ or ‘tribe’ or ‘species’ whenever you can. It makes cyclists sound exotic and foreign, and allows you to use the kind of language that you would never get away with if you were writing about an actual race. Articles like this are the ideal way for you to sneakily get latent prejudice out of your system!)
Cyclists wear lycra
(Of course not very many cyclists actually wear lycra, but wearing lycra is weird, and so helps to reinforce the impression that cyclists are weird, even if they’re not)
Cyclists are louts.
(Perfect when used alliteratively with the above)
Cyclists wear luminous clothing.
(See above point about lycra. It’s weird. Cyclists are weird. Everybody loves this stuff)
Cyclists don’t wear luminous clothing, which means they are irresponsible and have no regard for their own safety.
(Obviously this slightly contradicts the above point, but no-one actually cares about consistency. In this vein, you can also label cyclists who don’t wear helmets as ‘irresponsible’, and also say they look weird for wearing them. Cyclists can’t win. It’s perfect.)
Cyclists are angry
(And nobody knows why! It’s completely inexplicable! It helps here if you have an anecdote about how, just the other day, you were driving along when a cyclist suddenly appeared on your bonnet, red-faced and yelling at you like a maniac. You had to swerve to get him off your car, and speed away. For your own safety)
Cyclists are foul-mouthed
(You merely held down your horn for five seconds to get a cyclist out of your way, and you were quite unreasonably met with a swear word! How dare they!)
Cyclists are sensitive
(You can use this both in the article, and in the inevitable flood of angry responses to your article, which will usefully prove your point that cyclists are angry, and sensitive, and that you were right all along)
Cyclists have no regard for the law
(It doesn’t matter if you don’t actually have any data or figures on law-breaking rates, or how this might compare with how often motorists break laws. Say you saw a cyclist going through a red light the other day. That will do)
I saw a cyclist on the pavement/in the middle of the road
(Helpfully, there is only a tiny, miniscule sliver of space in the public realm that cyclists are legitimately allowed in – ‘the cycle lane’. If a cyclist is not in ‘a cycle lane’, they are fair game for criticism)
Cyclists are slow
(They hold me up, and create traffic jams. And also ’cause’ accidents when I try to overtake them, as I am entitled to, whatever the circumstances.)
Cyclists ‘bomb down the road’
(They’re so fast, they come out of nowhere. Like Bradley Wiggins on the A5209. The important point to remember is that whether a cyclist is fast or slow, they are always at fault. Again, this is an open goal.)
A final tip – be creative. You might even manage to come up with some stereotypes of your own!
And remember, if anyone objects to your rubbish, you have two foolproof lines of defence.
The first is to write about how angry/sensitive/self-righteous cyclists are, and that only cyclists would not realise that you were never meant to be taken seriously – ‘The Parris/Nye defence’ (this works even if you’ve said they should be killed!).
And your second defence? Remember how you once rode a bike about a decade ago in France in the grounds of your friend’s chateau? Or how you stood over a bicycle once for a photoshoot that you had been chauffered to and from? Or how you use a stationary exercise bike?
You are a cyclist, and some of your best friends are cyclists too!
This post was updated on the 11th November to include more helpful tips from the Sunday Express