Like this site? Help us to make it better.

"Ill-informed" Spectator writer under fire for coverage of manslaughter sentencing for pedestrian who caused cyclist's death

"Reading this article, it's hard to believe someone died," one reply came to Mary Dejevsky's piece about Auriol Grey, the woman found to have caused the death of an elderly cyclist in Cambridgeshire during a pavement cycling dispute...

Mary Dejevsky, a writer for The Spectator, has attracted criticism for a piece claiming cyclists have "been given licence to ride on the pavement" by Auriol Grey's three-year manslaughter sentence for causing the death of an elderly cyclist during a pavement cycling dispute.

Grey was convicted by a jury at Peterborough Crown Court last month and sentenced last week for causing 77-year-old Celia Ward to fall into the road and the path of an oncoming vehicle when she gestured in a "hostile and aggressive way".

A snippet of CCTV was released from the scene, and the police have asked people to "think twice about commenting in relation to this case when they are not in possession of all the facts".

The detective who interviewed Grey opted against making the entire CCTV clip available, describing it as "not appropriate for wider release" and so "horrific" it would make much of the noise about "appropriate responses [...] null and void".

With that context highlighted, Dejevsky — a former foreign correspondent — said her first reaction to hearing about the sentence was "there but for the grace of God go I" and she admitted to shouting at cyclists riding on pavements, having "a tendency to put my hand out to keep an intruding cyclist at bay" and "standing my ground, to force a cyclist to dismount at the barriers designed to stop them slaloming through narrow pedestrian passageways."

> Remove conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, urge campaigners in wake of manslaughter case

"As a driver stuck in a single lane, reduced in size to accommodate those on two wheels," she continued "I might also have been guilty of hooting at a cyclist, taking one hand off the wheel to point demonstratively at the mostly empty cycle lane that has been expensively paid for with my taxes. Why has he or she swerved into 'my' lane? To avoid the red light that would fractionally delay their progress in their own."

Explicitly stating that she has never said or done anything that has "forced a cyclist into the path of another vehicle", Dejevsky went on to again claim "cyclists will henceforward have a free pass" to use pavements.

"The unusual feature in this case is that both the cyclist and the pedestrian were women, and women, what is more, of a certain age," she wrote. "They were not heedless teenagers, nor were they Lycra-clad racers. It may also be, as the detective in the case insists, that if the public did see the full CCTV, they would accept the verdict as 'cut and dried'. 

"For the time being, however, the message I and other pedestrians will hear is that anyone on foot who objects to a cyclist in his or her pavement path risks not just the wrath of the cyclist, but a criminal record." 

Dejevsky's piece has drawn criticism, with some of the reaction on social media labelling it "ill-informed", "barely-disguised hatred" and "using such a tragic offence to seed hatred against cyclists".

In court, judge Sean Enright said the path was a shared cycleway, something the police nor Cambridgeshire County Council have confirmed, the council saying it is aware it is used by cyclists and "we are looking at this location to see if there is any work required to make things clearer".

Celia Ward falls into path of car after being confronted by Auriol Grey (via Cambridgeshire Constabulary and BBC News)

As per the National Police Chiefs' Council's advice for officers responding to people cycling on the pavement, "The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users.

"Chief police officers, who are responsible for enforcement, acknowledge that many cyclists, particularly children and young people, are afraid to cycle on the road, sensitivity and careful use of police discretion is required."

A 2021 study by by Jonas Ihlström of the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) concluded that pavement cycling should be "viewed as a sensible outcome as seen from the cyclists' perspective" and that "avoiding the space of the car was the most pronounced reason for cycling on the pavement".

"Cycling among motorised vehicles was related to feelings of fear or discomfort, thus choosing the pavement instead of the road was a strategy adopted for managing this perceived risk. Riding on the pavement was therefore connected to a local context and an aspiration for a mobility without risking accidents and injuries," researchers found."

Dan joined 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, 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.

Latest Comments