The Daily Mail and The Telegraph have today published opinion pieces slamming the incoming Highway Code changes, and launching outspoken attacks on cycling in Britain.
Florida resident and Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn's work is headlined: 'Bike lane Britain...the Great Leap Backwards. Under cover of Covid, officials have turned our city centres into crazy golf courses giving priority to Lycra-clad lunatics on racing bikes'.
In which he blasts the "mutton-headed communists" and "Genghis [Sadiq] Khan" for supporting cycle infrastructure, while also ripping into cycle lanes built during the pandemic, "Lycra-clad lunatics", "suicide jockeys", two abreast riding, the new 'Hierarchy of Road Users' and the regularly mythbusted road tax.
The Guardian's political correspondent Peter Walker called the column "unhinged, error-strewn and downright weird [...] which adds in elements of racist banter for good measure. All involved should feel deeply ashamed," and awarded Littlejohn the "cycling myth media bingo contest for all-time".
The writer drew analogy between Britain's cycling infrastructure and Chairman Mao's 'kingdom of bicycles', and accused UK transport policy of ruining 21st-century Britain.
Littlejohn claimed city centres are now "crazy golf courses, intended to frustrate freedom of movement by giving priority to Lycra-clad lunatics on racing bikes and suicide jockeys on e-scooters."
Commenting on the Highway Code changes coming into effect this week, he wrote: "Bikers are encouraged to ride two or three abreast in the middle of the road, deliberately to slow traffic to a crawl. Motorists will be expected to cede to both bikes and pedestrians when turning left."
The Code actually states riding two abreast "can be safer to do so", but that cyclists should "allow them [drivers] to overtake (for example, by moving into single file or stopping) when you feel it is safe to let them do so".
Walker also disputed the claim, amongst many, that "pro-bike extremists were given a blank sheet of paper to write their own rules."
Also: LittleJohn’s claim cyclists were “given a blank sheet of paper” to rewrite Highway Code notably echo comments of @IAMRoadSmart on radio yesterday. It’s not true, and such sentiments have probably helped make life on the road for me & loved ones a bit less safe this morning.
— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) January 25, 2022
It is not the first time the Mail has been accused of misrepresenting Highway Code changes.
Last week, a MailOnline story told readers that one new rule "tells cyclists to pedal in the middle of the road" when in fact it provides advice about road positioning in certain situations such as on quiet roads or in slow-moving traffic, and riding in primary position has been encouraged by cycling instructors for decades.
The Telegraph too published a provocative opinion piece this morning, titled 'Pedal-pushers have taken over British roads – even as a cyclist, I think it’s time to rein them in'.
The introduction read, "The Highway Code’s new hierarchy of road use (sic) is taking things a bit too far in favour of the smug 'bikeltons' who manage to annoy everyone."
Last week, the Evening Standard was accused of running a misleading headline on a story titled, 'New Highway Code rule will fine drivers £1,000 for opening door with wrong hand'.
The Express went for 'POLL: Do you support new fine for opening car with wrong hand as cyclists given priority?'
Duncan Dollimore, head of campaigns at the national cycling charity, told road.cc: "A government led public awareness campaign should have started by now, with simple, accurate and memorable messages.
"Instead, less than a week before major Highway Code changes are being introduced, too many people are hearing about them through inaccurate news reports like this from the Evening Standard."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.