Monday, 4 March 2013

Cambridge News Still Hate Cyclists

Sadly, they're at it again.

It started with this news story here. Cambridge Cycling Campaign said many things to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. It would have been great for the main headline in the paper to be about how our local cycling campaigning body went down to London to give evidence, how the cycle campaign group from a pretty small city went to Parliament to provide evidence because Cambridge is viewed as getting a lot of things for cycling right, and being the only city in the UK you can arguably name as a success story for cyclists also hilights all of the other things we still need to do to improve things. No matter what the outcome of the enquiry representation there by CCC is a good thing - for Cambridge, for cycling.

But no. The headline they chose to lead with was all about one small part - the suggestion that hatred directed purely on the basis of people choosing to ride bikes ought to be considered 'hate crime'. To argue otherwise has always seemed obtuse to me - prejudice is prejudice, it doesn't matter WHY someone chooses to act aggressively or insultingly based on an arbitrary characteristic, if they choose to do so they're committing a moral wrong which we can define as a legal wrong if as a society we choose to do so. To exclude a grouping based on the fact that they don't deserve the protection other groups get is in itself a simple and crude display of prejudice and there is no rational or moral argument to do so. All that aside, this wasn't the big picture on display, it wasn't the main message anyone following the enquiry would have taken from Cambridge Cycling Campaign presenting to the enquiry.

This seemed almost like another hit and run troll, especially as accompanied elsewhere on the site by a more balanced (but way more low-key) article on the subject. But Cambridge News weren't done with us yet. Not by a long way.

A day or two later we saw this story. Wow. Cyclist assaulted in what looks like a brutal road rage incident - but for some reason the story appeared three WEEKS after the incident. Conveniently cashing in on the 'argument' that had been sparked by the first story on cyclist hate being defined as a crime. And although it sounds brutal, although it sounds utterly terrifying, the victim in this incident felt the need to add further to the story in the comments section:
I've just had a quick browse through the comments. For the record: - I had front and back lights, they were functional and they were switched on at the time of the incident. The photograph in the article was a pose taken 3 weeks later by a Cambridge News photographer after the newspaper contacted me asking to run the story. - The person I was in the process of overtaking started overtaking the person in front of him without checking to see if there was anyone behind or next to him. I rang my bell to warn him but he just kept moving into me so I had no choice but to move into the carriageway. - I expressed regret to the reporter about flipping my finger but he omitted this in his article (presumably because it doesn't help fire up controversy, which sells papers). - In any case, you have to understand that the driver arrived very suddenly (was clearly speeding) and honked repeatedly (I'd say at least 5 or 6 times) right next to a group of cyclists, none of whom were swerving erratically nor taking up much of the carriageway (I was out by 1 foot at most according to a colleague who was cycling behind me). This is a pretty aggressive act, especially in the UK where honking is so infrequent. - Given the assailant's subsequent actions, it is clear that he was an intensely violent person. Intensely violent people often behave aggressively while driving so I don't think anyone should be in any doubt that his initial behaviour was provocative and aimed to intimidate a vulnerable group of cyclists on the road.
Lets strip the crap out of the article - a cyclist overtaking another cyclist found himself in a pickle when the other cyclist pulled out. He would have had a split second to decide what to do to avoid a collision, and he pulled out further. Was he right to do so? Probably - if the cars also trying to pass are allowing a margin of error as required by the highway code it'll be safe, but it might give the motorist the willies. Did he handle it ideally from that point on? At this point I don't care - nothing else that happens - gestures, words - can possibly justify physically assaulting him. Nothing. This is not open to discussion, if the motorist assaulted him there is no justification or mitigation for that. At all. Do not justify statements to the contrary by addressing them - they can only come from people who believe, fundamentally, that a cyclist deserves to be assaulted for being in the way - a strong argument in favour of the 'hate crime' label being applied here. And this chap deserves to be better treated by the journalist covering the story than he obviously believes has been the case.

Conveniently CN used this story to hilight the whole cyclist-hate-crime thing three weeks AFTER the incident happened and immediately after cherry picking 'cycle hate' from Cambridge Cycling Campaigns contribution to the APPCG.

But wait, it doesn't end there. Presumably being aware that Cambridge News were whipping up more cyclist-hate, Cambridgeshire Constabulary apparently called for calm after the incident. I can't immediately find said call for calm among local plods press releases, mind you. But thats not what this non-story is about is it? Just read this bit...
Tensions between cyclists and motorists have been played out in other attacks.
In June last year, a taxi driver clashed with three cyclists in Hills Road – with one rider ramming his bike into the cab.
The incident happened as taxi drivers claimed clashes with cyclists were increasing, as road users in the city jostle for space.
And in April last year a cyclist assaulted a motorist in a road rage attack at traffic lights in Milton Road
Yes, the same paper did unquestioningly report that a cyclist had rammed a taxi driver. So someone with no kind of protection rode a flimsy metal object into a ton or more of gleaming hard metal and glass. As if that might achieve something other than self harm. And they're re-reporting these incidents why, to balance out the fact that someone was on the receiving end of a terrifying assault? What? You can only report a cyclist being assaulted if you also come out with equal or greater abuse thereof?

Cambridge News, you've got prior form. But you've gone further here than before - way further. With this incessant trolling for hate you have declared yourselves the sworn enemy of cycling and cyclists in Cambridge - you are not PART of the problem of cyclists being hated here, with your inflammatory coverage you seem intent on become the greatest component of that problem. You hate us, thats fine - just be open and clear about it.

And Cambridge Cycling Campaign? For as long as you collaborate with Cambridge News, how can you possibly claim to be a force for good in this city?

1 comment:

  1. Well said. It's sad that a once-decent newspaper like the CEN should be going down the same path as The Daily Mail now.