The Media vs Cycling
You might be forgiven for thinking that cycling is a dangerous past time. That to step outside the house and mount two wheels requires extensive safety equipment, that the roads are hostile, that you’ll be among a pack of law-breaking mavericks, or that you’re almost guaranteed to be knocked off if you even dare as to set wheel on a main road. Far better to walk, or wrap yourself up in an impregnable metal fortress (aka the car).
You’d be forgiven because this is what the media reports. It was a few weeks ago now, but this page in the of the Evening Standard made me sigh a frustrated sigh. Oh, how the media loves a cycling death.
The reader’s lasting impression from this page will be the words ‘Cyclist killed’. That’s it. All you need to know. The top two words of the page, in far bigger type than anything else. Brian Barnett was, tragically, the 11th cyclist to be killed on London’s roads this year. The crash that led to his death involved a lorry, a frustrating reflection on all the Safer Lorries campaigning that groups such as the London Cycling Campaign are pushing so vociferously.
The issue, however, is the column opposite. In much smaller type, we are told that safer buses could prevent pedestrian deaths. The (much shorter) article goes on to tell us that 73 pedestrians were killed on London’s roads last year. Seventy three!! Did any one of those make the front page? Do we wear protective clothing and helmets to walk around on the pavements? Are we scare-mongered into not getting around on foot?
On the exceptionally rare occasions when a cyclist causes serious injury or death to another person, it is headline news. The majority of similar incidents involving motor vehicles go unreported. Any cyclist who loses their life is proclaimed far and wide – quite rightly, as any death is one too many, and publicity surrounding these tragic occurrences go some way to supporting calls for better facilities, extra training, segregation and safer lorry design. But it shouldn’t be used as a method of shifting papers, or reported in a way that implies cycling is dangerous. Riding a bike is one of the safest ways to get around London, and we need to do it more, not less. So please, The Media, stop painting a picture of cycling as a dangerous thing. Stop showing cyclists to be lawless and deserving of vitriol. We need more cyclists if we are to survive as a city, from congestion to air pollution to obesity to accessibility. The bicycle has long been an instrument of freedom, a way to unlock a city, and by reporting in this way you are not only doing a disservice to the many people who tragically and needlessly die on our roads, you are preventing a wider audience from being included in the experience of cycling, with all the benefits that brings.