Some basic rules for journalists and broadcasters covering cycling

While there are plenty of honourable exceptions, I think it is fair to say that presenters, journalists and broadcasters in the UK do not do a particularly good job when it comes to covering cycling as a mode of transport.

Some of this might well be down to outright malice, but a large proportion of poor journalism and broadcasting is simply down to laziness and an unwillingness, or inability, to address these issues from someone else’s perspective, or even to think slightly differently.

With that in mind I’ve drawn up a fairly simple list of rules and advice for covering cycling in a sensible, constructive and fair way. There may be others – let me know in the comments – but I think if journalists, broadcasters and presenters are following these rules it’s more than likely they will be doing a good job.


1) Do not use them/they language

By this I mean referring to people who are using a mode of transport as ‘them’ or ‘they’, and everyone else as ‘us’. One example (and this from a BBC radio journalist) –

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-08-05-46

Who is ‘they’?

For starters, this kind of language is incoherent. It makes no sense to divide human beings up by mode of transport when we will all use different modes of transport on a daily basis.

Someone who is cycling at one moment will of course have been walking the same day, and will drive or use public transport. Someone who is on a train or a bus may well have cycled to the station, or to the bus stop. Human beings – all of them – are multi-modal. Referring to ‘cyclists’ in this way is exactly equivalent to asking what it is about ‘trainists’ or ‘busists’ that annoys your audience. If you think that would be deeply silly, then you should reflect on why you think it is acceptable to do so about another mode of transport. Your audience will not divide up neatly into ‘trainists’ and everyone else; nor will it divide up neatly into ‘cyclists’ and everyone else.

But much worse than this incoherence, using this kind of language is divisive and unpleasant. It contains the starting assumption that people cycling aren’t ‘us’; that your audience have some kind of grievance against ‘them’, and indeed that your audience isn’t composed of ‘them’. There is no ‘them’.

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-12-42-06

‘Them’?


2) Do not engage in antagonism; focus on solutions to problems

This kind of antagonistic ‘journalism’ takes many forms when it comes to cycling. It might be of the form above – how do ‘they’ annoy ‘us’. This could be cycling on pavements, or cycling in ‘the middle of the road’, or breaking rules in general. Alternatively it might take the form of a ‘war on the roads’ or ‘who is to blame’ narrative.

As above, this is divisive and unpleasant, but perhaps even worse it is not constructive. Once you’ve written your piece about how cyclists annoy everyone else, or about how there’s ‘a war out there’, or once you’ve decided ‘who is to blame’, everything will carry on as before. Nothing has changed; the same problems still exist, and you’ve done nothing to solve them. In fact, you’ve probably made them even worse, because of the antagonistic way you have framed the debate.

Some examples –

  • Instead of focusing on whether ‘lorry drivers’ or ‘cyclists’ are at fault when deaths or serious injuries occur, take a broader view and examine structural solutions (like the way our roads and streets are designed) that will prevent these deaths and injuries from occurring in the first place.
  • Instead of simply echoing complaints and annoyances like pavement cycling, or the way people are cycling – again, try to examine what is giving rise to the conflict, and what might solve it.

In other words, focus on long-term solutions to problems, rather than the usual merry-go-round of antagonism.

An obvious way to prevent pavement cycling is to create safe, attractive conditions, separate from it

An obvious way to prevent pavement cycling is to create safe, attractive conditions, separate from it


3) Empathise rather than demonise

This flows naturally from the previous two points of advice. Instead of focusing on the behaviour of ‘them’, become one of ‘them’ yourself to understand why people are behaving in a certain way. This might not even involve actually cycling; it merely involves trying to imagine what you would do if you were cycling in a specific context, or if someone you care about was trying to cycle.

What would you do if you had to cycle along this road? How would you react if a friend of yours was cycling here?

What would you do if you had to cycle along a road like this? How would you react if a friend of yours was cycling here? Put yourself in their shoes and examine how you would behave.


4) Don’t generalise from anecdotes

Seeing someone on a bike doing something a bit silly is not a good basis for an entire article about people cycling in general. At all. People do silly things all the time, in all walks of life, using different modes of transport. What you saw was an individual being stupid, not something that was indicative of ‘cyclists” (whoever they are – see point 1) behaviour.


5) Focus on sources of danger, and how that danger should objectively be reduced

Not all road users are equivalent. They do not pose equal amounts of danger to others; consequently they do not share equal responsibility.

The young children on the left not equally responsible to the HGV drivers on the right

The young children on the left not equally responsible to the HGV drivers on the right

That doesn’t mean anyone cycling has no responsibility at all – rather, that the degree of risk posed by different forms of transport should be assessed objectively. This should also mean distinguishing between the degree of risk someone is posing to other people versus the risk someone might be posing to themselves.

If we start looking at risk objectively, then we will come up with constructive, long-term solutions to danger on our roads and streets. (See Point 2). If, for instance, it is allegedly ‘too dangerous’ to cycle around in ordinary clothes (or indeed to walk around in ordinary clothes), then start asking why that should be the case, rather than focusing on the people wearing ordinary clothes and how they are being ‘irresponsible’.


6) Finally, you don’t always need to provide ‘balance’

Not every article or piece about cycling has to present an opposing view. You just need to let the facts speak for themselves; you certainly don’t need to give airtime to an idiot arguing black is white just to ‘even things up’ in the face of those facts.


 

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54 Responses to Some basic rules for journalists and broadcasters covering cycling

  1. I’d go harder on #3. Almost anyone can ride a bicycle, and if a journalist is physically disabled it is a reasonable accommodation (im borrowing this phrase from US accessibility/employment law) for them to write about something else.

    Nobody should be writing about an everyday thing like cycling without doing it. Likewise, nobody should review a film they haven’t seen or a restaurant they haven’t dined at.

    • Cloughiepig says:

      The irony is that Mark Dennison is a regular cyclist himself – I listen to him a lot and he does stick up for all road users, not just bashing people. I suspect that he used this approach with at least half an eye on the editorial.

      • Ruth Mayorcas says:

        you’ve fallen into the trap – he is not a regular cyclist – he cycles regularly. No Dutch person calls themselves a cyclists – they simply cycle. It is the language used which defines people in boxes.

    • Joe Vorlicky says:

      And I suppose it therefore follows that if you haven’t driven / can’t drive a motor vehicle then you shouldn’t be able to have an opinion on people’s driving behaviour? Come off it, ItsEasyBeingGreen…

  2. Mike says:

    Nice summary of the general tone of journalists’ attempts to report on cycling. Thanks.

  3. Joe Vorlicky says:

    Oh, stop whining! This is journalism and journalists! They write like this about everything! It just hurts more when we are a member of that minority (at any one time) on the receiving end. Sticks and stones, mate, sticks and stones!

    • pm says:

      Words very often lead to sticks and stones.

      Hence words should be objected to and not allowed to pass without challenge.

      And, no, ‘they’ don’t write like this about everyone, they have a pretty clear list of targets – generally groups with less power.

    • I think you’re off the mark. This piece is constructive and contains clear ideas without going on about the unfairness of it all. Whining is providing a complaint without a resolution.

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        What is the resolution, exactly? Do you think (the bad) journalists will become good journalists? Do not expect this, any more than you would expect bad drivers to become good drivers by inviting them to read the Highway Code…

  4. Pingback: Some basic rules for journalists and broadcasters covering cycling) As Easy As Riding A Bike

  5. rdrf says:

    I think Joe Vorlicky is both right and wrong here:

    RIGHT: Plenty of journalism is not meant to be truthful.
    1. It often falls into the trap of seeing objective truth as a “balance” between right and wrong.
    2.For some of the press, demonising is what they do.
    3. Looking at the surce of danger is what they should do (and would do if they were decent, sensitive, ethical etc.) but they don’t because the society we live in – not least with the “road safety” industry – is not really interested in doing so because it will question motorists’ sense of entitlement and privilege.
    4. They often want to pick on a group – the fact that members of this group may well spend a lot of time driving is something they are not interested in.

    WRONG: It isn’t just “sticks and stones”.
    Driving is an activity where , unless the driver is committed to being careful and working hard at it, it is quite possible to hurt or kill someone else. Generally this happens through everyday typical faults committed by drivers: lack of alertness and vigilance, going a bit too fats, not watching out enough, being a bit too tired etc. It also oinvolves typicla rule and law infractions, such as driving too close to the vehicle in front, breaking the speed limit, etc.
    What this means is that unless adriver, in current conditions, is prepared to work at driving properly around cyclists they can pose a definite threat to life and limb. In that context, negative views of cycling and cyclists have a definite incendiary and inflammatory potential.
    So it isn’t just that it isn’t nice to be picked on – personally I don’t really have an interest in that as such. It’s in the context of a propensity to hurt or kill where I worry.

    • Joe Vorlicky says:

      The article is directed at bad journalism, not bad drivers. Anyway, 99% of my interactions with other patrons of the Public Highway are neutral or positive, whether I am on my feet, two wheels or four plus wheels. The fact is, our road infrastructure is, in the main, clearly prioritised and well designed. My contention is that it is perfectly safe and possible to transport yourself in the manner of your choosing. There is no problem, people! We do not need “Cycling Infrastructure” any more than we need “Rollerblading Infrastructure” or “Jogging Infrastructure”. Stop giving the Civil Servants and their public/private industry chums reasons to spend even more of our money in stupid ways!

      • pm says:

        Constantly repeating that up is down and black is white doesn’t make it so. If its so safe why are the vast majority too scared to do it? Everyone is wrong and you. alone are right? (Are you an able-bodied middle-aged white-man by any chance?)

        As for your libertarianism – off-topic but you bought it up – as far as I can see it hasn’t been working out very well. So far that ‘roll back the state’ approach has given us Putin and Trump (and a host of far-right movements across Europe)

        Oh, and why do you assume this is seriously directed at bad journalists? Perhaps you are being a bit too literal-minded?

        • Joe Vorlicky says:

          Why do so many people SAY they are too scared to cycle?

          1. Because they love driving their expensive new cars.
          2. Because it’s a convenient excuse for their laziness.
          3. Because they don’t want to be a member of a scorned minority.
          4. Because they don’t like getting wet.
          5. Because they don’t like cycling uphill.

        • Joe Vorlicky says:

          I assume that this article is most definitely addressing bad journalism, yes! Could the author confirm or deny this, please?!

        • Joe Vorlicky says:

          And, yea, I am a mostly able bodied 35 year old white man (with early onset spondyloarthritis). Please, however, stop trying to put me in some artificial category. It’s like racism.

        • Joe Vorlicky says:

          And to address the “safety” thing in a different way…

          Would you feel safe if asked to land a Boeing 747 at Heathrow (assuming you are not a commercial airline pilot)?

          Probably you would feel terrified, but not because flying a Boeing 747 is inherently dangerous. No, rather because you lack both the experience and the skills to do it.

          Thankfully, learning to ride a bike on the public highway is not difficult. The hardest part is overcoming the fear instilled in your mind by “campaigners” who persist in bleating on about how “dangerous” cycling is, and why more millions of pounds of public money need to be spent to make it “safe”.

        • Joe Vorlicky says:

          I do recognise that some people actually believe that cycling on the public highway is incredibly dangerous. The best way to address these misconceptions is as early as possible. I remember very well the time when the local Chief Constable came to conduct bicycle training at my primary school. An early, positive experience with cycling is crucial. After a certain point, you will not manage to convince people. The only thing “cycling infrastructure” achieves is to convince people that cycling is now “safe” – then they try again after many years, and find that it has not made anything any safer, and they give up again, even more disillusioned and lacking in confidence than they were beforehand! In Leeds, I have seen several examples of this.

          • Mark Williams says:

            Leeds is not even slightly special in this regard—most of UK is replete with crap anti-`cycling infrastructure’. Also true of many other countries. If this `positive experience’ has proved so `crucial’, perhaps you could impress us by revealing what proportion of your classmates are still cycling?

          • Oh fer chrissakes…

            I fit a fairly similar healthy W(M)ASP as many other current people who cycle are. I hear your points about safety and it being a canard. You may be right on that, statistics seem to bear this out.

            But what my decades of cycling around the traffic of Trafalgar, the motorists of Marylebone and the cars of Croydon has left me _feeling_ is that despite my continued safety on the roads, without any separated infrastructure, is that it is deeply uncomfortable _to me_, personally, to cycle in this environment. I hear and read that others share this _feeling_.

            I am not immune to an adrenaline rush from sucking in a bit narrower as I navigate a valley of red (buses) or whizz around the merry-go-round of Hyde Park Corner. But similarly, I really _feel_ comfortable, at ease, carefree as I set off from a set of miniature signals or enjoy the views as I trundle along the Embankment.

            So I ask you this: Am I feeling wrong?

  6. rdrf says:

    Another point to amplify the ones above.

    What Mark is trying to do is be reasonable, sensible and logical. That’s fine and it neds to be done – but don’t expect it to work. The people who peddle inflammatory tosh aren’t interest in a decent approach to safety on the road. They defend privilege and prejudice. That’s what they do.

    • pm says:

      I took the polite, sensible and rational tone of this as being essentially satirical. I’m sure nobody is under any illusion that the professional troll class (‘opinion columnists’ and ‘radio presenters’) are remotely interested in reason and evidence, or having a rational debate.

      They are driven entirely by love of money (perhaps with a bit of genuine malevolence thrown in – though I think there’s also a kind of 6th-form-sub-Neitzchean thing going on, whereby bullying is a way of acquiring an identity for yourself).

      But responding with straightfaced politeness and reasonableness is as good a way as any of making the point. I don’t think rage works any better.

      The prevalence of uninformed, unresearched, usually malevelont ‘comment’ is the reason I never pay for newspapers or have a TV licence. I think I’d happily subscribe to a paper if it were possible to opt-out of any of your payment going to most of the opinion columnists they employ (some of them aren’t even witty or good prose-stylists, which is just a step too far, given its usually a given that the actual content will be drivel).

    • Mark Williams says:

      The previous version of this post is still available for them (and us)! 🙂

  7. Bmblbzzz says:

    Joe Vorlicky has raised a (rather obvious) point: journalists write like this because antagonism sells. This is the point that really needs addressing.

    Also, how to get these points to journalists? I don’t think many are reading this blog, but I see a link on Twitter.

    • HivemindX says:

      Right. The basic error here is the assumption that ‘journalists’ (we really need a new word) want to be useful. In fact that want to produce divisive nonsense because that it what gets responses. Either from mouth breathers who are agreeing that cyclists need to get off the road until they are taxed and insured or from outraged people who think people in multi-ton vehicles should show some responsibility and other people shouldn’t have to wear high-viz to walk to the shops if they want to avoid being run down.

      People really really want to define who US is and who THEM is so that they know what team to hate and what team to praise unconditionally. When faced with this I usually try to redefine the teams, there’s Team Asshole who cycles down the footpath and drives through red lights while checking their phones. Then there’s Team Normal who tries to avoid inconsiderate actions and follows the rules. What team are you on?

      Another example is a trick I sometimes deploy when I am looking for sympathy. If I feel the need to tell a story about a motorist who passed me then immediately pulled in in front of me and slammed on the brakes so they could run in to the shops you would think everyone could agree that’s a crappy thing for someone to do. However I found that all I would get from people on Team Car were non-sequiturs about how a cyclist had irritated them at some point or feeble excuses like “maybe he was frustrated by cyclists always getting in his way” or “maybe you were going too fast and he didn’t expect that”. I discovered that if I claimed the motorist who cut me up was in fact a taxi driver I got a completely different reaction. “All taxi drivers are scum”, “the other day one of them blocked a whole lane of traffic to let a passenger out”. Read in to that what you want.

  8. Joe Vorlicky says:

    Rules for journalists… Sounds like suppression of freedom of speech, to me! If a tiny minority choose to use some journalists’ words as justification to cause harm to other road users (as pm and rdrf seem to imply) then that is a problem. But journalists cannot and should not be blamed for their actions!

    P.S. could we have real names on here, instead of esoteric initials and weird pseudonyms, or are some people ashamed of their views?

    • pm says:

      If journalists can’t be blamed for how others are affected by their inflammatory words, Does that mean you’d be fine with a radical Islamist writing articles saying infidels are evil and that it is the duty of good Muslims to cut them down on the streets? Your position is not just that that should not be illegal, but that it would be wrong to even criticise them for doing it?
      One can argue whether ‘hate speech’ against groups currently suffering violence should be a matter for the law (absolutely – I’m by no means sure what I think about that myself). But to say those spitting hate can’t even be ‘blamed’ in moral terms, or face polite suggestions that they stop doing it, just seems odd to me.

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        I am of the view that radical “Islamists” can say whatever the heck they like. I have confidence that the majority of Muslims ignore them. A few idiots (there are idiots everywhere) will do stupid things. They always have, they always will.

        Is anyone suggesting that there are journalists encouraging motorists to “KILL THE CYCLISTS” ?

        Criticism is good. It’s what makes the world go around. It’s called a “frank exchange of views”, or “discussion”.

  9. rdrf says:

    Joe Vorlicky: My name is Dr Robert Davis and I am Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum http://www.rdrf.org.uk .

    RE- cycling and infrastructure: I guess I am used, as an ex-(bad) racing cyclist to coping with motor traffic. The problem is that, although I calculate the level of danger to be sufficiently low to make cycling a sensible choice, there is still danger presented to me cycling which can (and has) hurt me. It may exist a sufficiently low level to not deter me from cycling, but it’s still there and needs to be reduced. Those responsible for it, whether highway or vehicle engineers, police officers or individual drivers should be accountable for their actions and be pressured into reducing danger.

    My view is simply that, in a society with (perhaps excessive) concern about risk, such as with health and safety in the workplace, rail, maritime and aviation safety, we should have proper accountability with regard to those endangering others in the highway environment. At present it is totally inadequate. That is irrespective of the kind of infrastructure we have, although obviously the highway environment can be engineered to reduce danger to cyclists .

    As it happens the RDRF goes along with the moves towards cycle-specific infrastructure. But whatever the layout of the highway, cyclists at present – and on most roads where there will not be segregated cycle tracks, are at risk from drivers and inflammatory/incendiary language in the media – I suggest – exacerbates it.

  10. Joe Vorlicky says:

    Well, as we are doing intros, I cycle a total of 12 miles to work and back every working day all year round on a very heavy piece of agricultural metal. I also have a sympathetically restored 1985 Falcon Team Banana which I take into the Yorkshire Dales on 100 mile round trips when the weather is clement and sometimes when it isn’t. I have cycled since the age of four, and solo since the age of 9 or 10. I have no qualifications other than A Levels, and am proud to be of independent spirit and intellect, questioning, empirical and curious by nature and successfully self-taught in a number of fields. I am a tory. I can also be a real stubborn son of a gun, and I am happy to accept when I am wrong, because I learn better that way, I earn respect for doing so and it usually disarms my adversaries very effectively. I am married to a wonderful woman from Krakow from whom I have learned a great deal and with whom I have two bilingual kids of 4 and 6 who spend most evenings learning Scratch and constructing crazy duplo contraptions. I love driving all four of us to the south of France on a regular basis in our indestructible, Swedish academy shitbox.

    Righto.

    I trust a Dr will have heard of Cervantes’ character, Don Quixote de la Mancha…? Yes? Great. You will therefore understand what is meant by the phrase “tilting at windmills”…

    The reality is that, in this country, people choosing to use a bicycle to get from A to B are very much a minority. We can talk till the cows come home about why that is, why this situation should change, how nasty everyone is to “cyclists”, infrastructure, etc etc, but the reality is the reality. Masses of attention demanded by minorities combined with the perception of masses of expenditure being spent on minorities, usually has many more negative side effects than it does positive.

    We must measure the success of an endeavour by results, not by motivation.

    This wonderful country has some rather particular characteristics which make it very different from most of its European neighbours. Specifically:

    1. A population irrationally (in my view) in love with the prestigious suburbs.
    2. A population irrationally in love with the prestigious motor car.
    3. Great access to expensive credit, usually for new or brand new motor cars.
    4. A hard working, law abiding population who pay back their debts.
    5. A very effective and just system of Common/Precedent Law, which supports the common man in living how he chooses to live.
    6. A population which chooses to live many miles from their place of work.
    7. A population with an unhealthy desire to live near a “good school”.
    8. A rather unpleasant and damp climate.
    9. A population obsessed by acquiring ever grander houses, ever further from their places of work.
    10. Ubiquitous, powerful marketing.
    11. A very well developed and mature car industry which employs lots of people.
    12. A very well developed and mature financial services industry, which employs lots of people.

    These are some of the windmills at which you tilt. Good luck, my friend.

    Change happens “organically” (hate that word) by individuals coming to realise for themselves that there is a better way. You can’t force such things. You really cannot. Once people change, the law changes with them. Common Law. A very precious thing. Slowly, very slowly, our two wheeled minority may grow to the point where it deserves and demands more attention, respect and authority. But we are far from that time. Until then, cycle, and cycle to lead by example.

    Ride safe till dusk. Then get your lights and your reflectives, and make fu*k sure you see and are seen.

    • Ollyver says:

      In my case, the ‘organic’ change happened by Transport for London building protected tracks for cyclists across two bridges over the Thames.
      I went from “I tried cycling once and it was the most unpleasant and stressful commute I’ve ever had, never again” to “I cycle to work nearly every day”.

      So you are free to complain about these people tilting at windmills, but they’ve given me the freedom of the city through their campaigning.

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        Hi Ollyver, so are we to assume that your commute comprises crossing two bridges, and nothing more? How wide is Old Father Thames? I think you could just walk, mate!

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        In further response, I would like to reiterate something in slightly different terms…

        Perhaps the authorities in London realised they had to do something because increasing numbers of people are turning to their bicycles, frustrated by the congested road networks.

        What makes you think that you have the campaigners to thank for the presence of “cycling infrastructure”? I suggest you exaggerate their role. Perhaps it is instead the very journalism, good and bad, of which we talk, which draws the authorities’ attention to the increased numbers of cyclists in London and the situation which arises?! Have you thought of that? Not to mention the direct experience of those who make up the authorities…

        • Tim says:

          Can’t it be both – some combination? 😉 My local councillor admitted that she was in two minds about a recent campaign where police (and/or PCSOs) to jump out and harass cyclists, but said at least it gets the people who incessantly complain about red-light-jumpers, etc off her back.

          I took that as an invitation to double-down on contacting councillors about “safe space for cycling”. The new segregated cycle lanes near my home in Manchester are almost finished. They’re far from perfect, and not as good as the wide London ones that I’ve seen, but they’re a vast improvement on what was there before (imho). Personally I love them. A lot of people are using them, and I imagine numbers will increase once the scheme is complete and the weather improving, but we’ll have to see.

    • marmoytte27 says:

      “Change happens “organically” (hate that word) by individuals coming to realise for themselves that there is a better way.”

      Change happens because someone with the guts and political will sees what’s right and changes things accordingly.

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        What is “right”? The essence of Common Law is that what is normal is legal. If you think something is “right” and needs doing, just do it! That’s why I cycle. I don’t need an army of consultants and people with guts. You make it sound like a state of civil war!

        • marmotte27 says:

          What’s not right is the stae of our roads where motorized traffic pushes everyone else aside.

          I’ve ridden tens of thousands of miles on my bike, I ride every day, but I still hate it when motorised traffic doen’t resepct me and that happens every day as well.

          So that’s what’s not right, and what I want to see changed. However politicians are so much in thrall to the entitlement of motorized road users that they just don’t want do anything about it.

    • Hello Joe.

      I’d like to have a look at your list 12 reasons why the UK is different, and why so few people cycle and it is apparently fruitless to try to do anything about this. Clearly Europe is a large and diverse place, so I’ll focus mainly on Germany and the Netherlands.

      1. Suburbs also exist in Germany and the Netherlands. Whether they are as popular or not, I don’t know.
      2. I’d argue that Germany is, if anything, more in love with cars than the UK. Philip Olterman has a chapter about this in his book “Keeping up with the Germans”.
      3. Credit for cars is also available elsewhere (e.g. https://www.targobank.de/lp/autokredit.html?koop_id=seaokgo06&gclid=CJTx9JeUhtICFe0A0wodJjsHEA) whether it is as cheap and convenient I don’t know.
      4. Sounds a lot like Germany!
      5. Don’t know
      6. According to this website: http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Transport/Commute/Distance , the average commute is 3 km in the Netherlands and 3.17 km in UK. In Germany it’s 5.03 km!
      7. All the better to cycle there.
      8. Compare the climate in Groeningen (or wherever) to where you live. In know that compared to Edinburgh, Groeningen has higher annual rainfall, more rainy days, is considerably colder in winter.
      9, see 6.
      10. Adverts and marketing also exist in Germany and NL.
      11. The car industry is very large and important in Germany.
      12. Yes, but why is this relevant?

      The factors that you mention may well suppress rates of cycling, yet they are present both in the UK and in Germany and NL. Despite this, vastly higher proportions of journeys are made by bike in Germany and NL than in the UK. Why?

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        “…vastly higher proportions of journeys are made by bike in Germany and NL than in the UK.”

        Germany? “Vastly higher?” Stats please. Berlin vs London, poss-ibly. I went there every summer for 2-3 weeks for 5 years in my teens. Cycled to and from most places. My direct experience of Berlin is that quite a lot of people cycle, middle aged gents, old ladies, school kids. It’s in their culture and their training, you see. And their infrastructure and town planning has been helped by the dubious luxury of being bombed absolutely flat in WW2. Meant they could rebuild their city in a much more integrated fashion.

        Netherlands, I grant you. It’s just the way the Dutch are. Bikes everywhere. Not even locked up, a lot of the time. Love ’em for it. The problem the Dutch have is where to store all the bikes! They are the oddity which proves the rule, I am afraid, Stephen!

        Credit for using what I assume is your real name 🙂

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        Oh, and on the climate issue… our country never gets cold enough for it to stop being damp… y’ know, that clammy, clinging, penetratingly drizzly dampness…

        I prefer the cities where it gets considerably below zero centigrade in winter, and properly above 20 centigrade in summer!

      • Bmblbzzz says:

        “Clearly Europe is a large and diverse place, so I’ll focus mainly on Germany and the Netherlands.”
        Not a comment on your points, but it would be good if, just for a change, instead of comparing ourselves with the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, we chose somewhere else. For instance, we could look at places with similar urbanisation, weather, etc etc and try to work out why their levels of cycling are higher or lower: and look at places with similar levels of cycling despite differences in urbanisation, credit availability, etc, and see what it is that gives rise to these levels of cycling. Cast our net a bit wider.

    • pm says:

      Till you encounter an Oxford medic coming round a blind corner on your side of the road Or are run down from behind by a driver ‘with the sun in their eyes’. But I’m sure your super-elite cycling skills mean you are immune to all the driver errors that have killed other cyclists and yet allowed the drivers responsible to walk away with no penalty.

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        I am flesh and blood like any other road user.

        Road users other than cyclists are victims of accidents, too, y’know… People choosing to use a bicycle at any particular moment in time do not have the monopoly on injuries…

        • Joe Vorlicky says:

          … nor death, for that matter…

          • pm says:

            Do you really think people in armoured metal boxes are as vulnerable to others’ mistakes as cyclists are? Maybe you could think about the physics and go look at the statistics?

            And ‘accidents’? It’s not an accident if its down to someone else’s deliberate lack of care. Do you honestly think that things like what Helen Measures did or what this driver did – http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/carer-cleared-of-dangerous-driving-after-crash-with-cyclist-near-tiverton/story-30124888-detail/story.html
            …are pure ‘accidents’? That couldn’t have been avoided and involved no imbalance of power and concequences?

            Are you claiming its all perfectly equal, that there’s no imbalance in the situation of cyclists (and pedestrians) vs those in cars? That cyclists have as much control over the outcomes as those in fast-moving armoured metal-boxes do?

            (You also are brushing aside the tens of thousands of traffic-pollution related deaths in the UK each year. Maybe if you live in a nice rural area you aren’t as aware of that?)

            That’s on top of your earlier confusion about what ‘freedom of speech’ means. It doesn’t mean ‘nobody should be allowed to criticise what I say’ (even by means of a set of proposed ‘rules’). And blog postings don’t have the force of law, by the way, seeing as you seemed to be confused about that as well.

            And were you seriously saying nobody can ever be criticised for saying something that encourages others to do harm? Not just that they shouldn’t be prevented by force of law, but that they can’t be held morally-responsible in any way?

            Finally, as a Tory (though I’d have guessed libertarian given you seemed to be against the state paying for roads at all), I’d have thought you would prefer state spending to be efficient. Spending money as one-off capital outlay on putting in physical infrastructure to prevent drivers killing people seems to me to be preferable to the alternative of a constant outlay on huge numbers of police in order to police their behaviour on every road plus the cost of sending lots of them to prison.

            • Joe Vorlicky says:

              OK, pm, one by one…. (what’s your real name, by the way?)

              1. “Do you really think people in armoured metal boxes are as vulnerable to others’ mistakes as cyclists are?”

              Yes. Especially when it concerns the type of mistakes involving driving at 90 mph down the motorway leaving only 10 milliseconds of separation between the front of their vehicle and the back of the vehicle in front of them. Also – the armoured metal box might take the impact, but the human brain still needs time and space to stop… unfortunately, the kind of forces which need dissipating in the kind of crashes I see on motorways mean that the human brain makes impact with the inside of the front of its protective, bony casing with extreme force. It’s all to do with deceleration and inertia. Maybe you could also go and have a look at the physics and the statistics. As previously stated, people on bicycles do not have the monopoly on injuries or death. I have also seen people riding bicycles causing a great deal of harm and distress to people on foot. Just as I sometimes see people doing horrible things to people – in general. Murder is illegal, but that doesn’t prevent the wilful, premeditated killing of one person by another, does it?

              2. ” It’s not an accident if its down to someone else’s deliberate lack of care.”

              What is “deliberate lack of care”? An action is either deliberate or accidental. It can’t be both. If you mean that some people drive more defensively and more courteously than others, I would agree. Some people just don’t drive the way they drove on their test. C’est la vie.

              3. “Are you claiming its all perfectly equal, that there’s no imbalance in the situation of cyclists (and pedestrians) vs those in cars?”

              No, I am not saying that. How on earth could everyone be equal all of the time? Are you a Communist? Perhaps you should read George Orwell’s ANIMAL FARM. When you have finished, perhaps you could tell me how we are going to redesign our cities, towns and villages so that pedestrians can be separated entirely from cyclists and car drivers and joggers and tractors and lorries, cyclists can be separated entirely from pedestrians and car drivers and joggers and tractors and lorries, car drivers can be separated entirely from cyclists and pedestrians and joggers and tractors and lorries, joggers can be separated entirely from cyclists and pedestrians and car drivers and tractors and lorries….. …. ad infinitum.

              4. “Maybe if you live in a nice rural area you aren’t as aware of that?”

              No, I don’t live in a “nice rural area”. I just sometimes cycle to them. Actually, I live by the side of Stanningley Road in Bramley, Leeds, where Leeds City Council have spent £30m of public money on the abomination that is the Cycle Superhighway between Leeds and Bradford. As for “pollution related deaths”, if you have a proper look at the research, you will find that the researchers are not at all sure of an actual, positive causal relationship. Same with the reports (by bad journalists) that “living near busy roads causes dementia”. That is not at all what the researchers found.

              5. “That’s on top of your earlier confusion about what ‘freedom of speech’ means….”

              I am not at all confused about what freedom of speech means. It means you can say what you like (unless it’s a direct call to violence). Refer earlier statement about sticks and stones… And why on earth do you think that I believe blog postings have “force of law”?

              6. “And were you seriously saying nobody can ever be criticised for saying something that encourages others to do harm?”

              No. See my response against your comment at February 11, 2017 at 11:41 am.

              7. “I’d have guessed libertarian given you seemed to be against the state paying for roads at all”

              Not true. Roads are great for driving and cycling on, and a consistent, safe, ordered, nationwide network (such as we have in this country) could not be achieved with a variety of privately managed approaches. But unlike you, it seems, I am under no illusion that the type of roads built over the last 60-70 years were designed for motor vehicles. Thanks to my TRAINING, I have no problem with piggybacking this network on my bike. Especially as I am well within the law in doing so and especially as I pay road tax!

              8. “Spending money as one-off capital outlay on putting in physical infrastructure to prevent drivers killing people seems to me to be preferable to …”

              Just. Show. Me. The. Evidence! And while you’re at it, show me the evidence that the “physical infrastructure” does indeed “prevent drivers killing people”.

              By the way, pm, do you drive?

              Right. Silence from me for now. I’m off to the Pyrenees for a bit! Have a good weekend.

              • Tim says:

                In the last decade I’ve ended up in a&e twice after incidents where I was cycling. Not even been close from driving (or being a passenger in a car), and I also know I feel a lot more exposed on the bike – close passes etc – (although personally I still use it every day because for me the convenience outweighs the discomfort). Of course I appreciate this is anecdotal, but we all make life choices based on our own experiences.

                @Joe, I know you’ve shared a lot of your views and background with us already and props to you for making the effort. But, while I get that you’re comfortable getting around on two wheels (as well as using other modes), I’m interested to know if you let your six-year-old ride his/her own bike on the road, just for short distances? My two are eight and four. The older one has been competent at riding a bike since the age of four, but I still struggle to imagine letting her ride on the busy roads in the city where we live any time soon (with or without training) – with the exception of a very small number of local car-free cycleways (segregated on-road, and a particular nearby cycleway away from the road). Likewise, my tolerance for riding in traffic is vastly lower when I have the kids on my bike. While I grit my teeth and get on with it when I’m alone, I feel that it’s the family rides that have given me an insight into how many of my friends have said they feel after trying riding a bike – i.e. “screw that!”. (they happily ride at sky-rides or center-parcs).

                – And yes, of course the article is about journalism. I don’t for a minute think that inconsiderate journalism “makes” people “deliberately” endanger others, but I do think it makes them more comfortable with their selfishness – again, it normalises potentially reckless behaviour.

    • 1) Suburbs just as common (and popular) in the Netherlands.
      2) Levels of car ownership roughly equivalent between NL and UK. Dutch people like cars just as much (if not more) than British people.
      3) No different from the Netherlands.
      4) No different from the Netherlands.
      5) No different from the Netherlands.
      6) Commuting and travel distances in the UK are similar – if anything commuting distance in NL is longer, due to subsidised rail travel.
      7) No different from the Netherlands.
      8) Climate is worse in the Netherlands than in Britain. Colder and wetter, on average.
      9) Citation needed. Unlikely to be any different from the Netherlands, in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
      10) No different from the Netherlands.
      11) Well-developed haulage and HGV industry. Also see point 2).
      12) No different from the Netherlands.

      What *does* make the difference between the two countries is a substantial system of well-developed cycling infrastructure that allows anyone to cycle in safety, and in comfort. Infrastructure that was – and is – campaigned for.

      • Joe Vorlicky says:

        Carry on campaigning, then, AsEasyAsRiding! I wish you all the best. Just make sure that anything you manage to achieve actually has the outcomes you so clearly wish for.

        Talking of outcomes, could you summarise the aims of your blog?

        If I didn’t have other things taking priority right now, I’d like to teach kids how to cycle on the Public Highway. Much cheaper, and (in my opinion) far more effective at making our towns and cities much more liveable, people healthier, richer and happier than any number of pieces of “cycling infrastructure”.

        Meanwhile, I’ll take time to train my kids to take their space on the road… that is, if they do want to copy Daddy… which is something which I never take for granted 🙂

  11. Pingback: Some basic rules for journalists and broadcasters covering cycling) As Easy As Riding A Bike

  12. Jitensha Oni says:

    You do that, Joe. I did with my kids. One now doesn’t cycle on the roads since being left hooked and offed by an unlicensed, uninsured driver despite doing “all the right things”. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen to yours. He was 14 years old, he’s now in his thirties – I let him make his own decision at 14 to stop, after discussing the pros and cons with him (as an aside, some of the witnesses in cars actually blocked the driver’s attempted escape – imagine that nowadays, eh!?). On the plus side, he still likes cycling off-road, so I did something right. Meanwhile, why not have a read of the RDRF and Cycling Embassy of Great Britain websites to find out their aims.

  13. rdrf says:

    I think marmotte27 says it all in his communication with Joe Vorlicky above. While I do believe in getting out there and doing it, and don’t put all my egs in the infrastructure basket, the bottom line is that there is actual danger from motorised road users which we are vulnerable to (and don’t reciprocate). Which isn’t the same as a “civil war”.
    Joe Vorlicky just doesn’t seem to recognise this problem of the lethality differential of different types of road user. (Indeed, the “road safety” industry spends a lot of its time attempting to deny the importance of the difference in potential lethality of the motorised compared to non-motorised modes.)
    The fact is that there is a – political – problem of the relation between those with more destructive power and those without it (and more vulnerable to it). It’s difficult and unpopular to confront that issue – but you need to do so to solve the problems confronting us. Otherwise ou’re just running away.
    And “leading by example” just isn’t going to do it.

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