Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, today (21 December) has written to demand a retraction and apology from The Sunday Times following columnist Rod Liddle’s anti-cycling piece published on 18 December.
Liddle’s article praised the recently reported actions of Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling MP, opening his car door in stationary traffic, resulting in Mr Jaiqi Liu being knocked off his bicycle. Liddle called this strict liability offence “a beautifully timed manoeuvre” and suggested he regularly repeats the same offence, claiming he is making “London a safer place for normal humans” in doing so.
Under current UK law, it is a strict liability offence to open “any door of a vehicle on a road so as to injure or endanger any person”, meaning that the offence does not have to involve an actual collision.
Cycling UK has written to Craig Tregurtha, managing editor of The Times and The Sunday Times, calling the article in “poor taste” as Liddle’s views support actions that result in people being killed, such as teacher Sam Boulton who died this year following a ‘car dooring’ incident in Leicester.
Calling Liddle’s comments “inflammatory and dangerous”, Cycling UK expressed its concern that his apparent celebration in “car dooring” could incite others to commit a crime that has potentially life-threatening consequences.
The cycling charity also pointed out that the article runs contrary to the ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign run by The Sunday Times’ sister paper, The Times, which followed the serious injury of news reporter Mary Bowers in November 2011.
Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK’s Chief Executive, said:
“Liddle’s comments endorsing and celebrating the injury of a cyclist run totally contrary to the ethos of a family of newspapers that has campaigned so hard to make our roads safer after one of their own reporters was very seriously injured while cycling to work.
“This article is in shockingly poor taste, as cyclists have died due to ‘car dooring’ incidents where people have not looked. In a national newspaper, Liddle revels in the suggestion that he actively tries to copy these actions – that’s inflammatory and dangerous and we respectfully request The Sunday Times to retract this article and apologise.
“Despite its potentially lethal consequences, ‘car dooring’ is treated as a minor offence with a maximum £1,000 fine. Liddle’s flippant attitude clearly spells out the need for Government to include ‘car dooring’ in its ongoing review of road traffic offences and sentencing, to help prevent more tragic incidents like that involving Sam Boulton from happening in the future.”
Cycling UK is aware that a separate complaint has been made by May Hamilton, the bereaved wife of cyclist Robert Hamilton, who was also killed due to a “car dooring”.