Misleading photos prompt press complaints from Cycling UK

Shooting photos on a long lens can make cyclists appear bunched up Picture: Stock Image
Adrian Wills's picture

Misleading photos prompt press complaints from Cycling UK

Cycling UK has complained to the press watchdog over misleading photographs in at least two national newspapers which purported to show cyclists breaching coronavirus restrictions, as Adrian Wills reports.

The images which appeared in the Mail Online and the Mirror appeared to show groups of cyclists huddled closely together in London’s Regent’s Park.

In the Mail, the photographs were captioned: “Cyclists in Regent’s park have been ignoring the government's social distancing rules by riding in close proximity to each other.”

Similar captions were used in the Mirror, suggesting cyclists were flouting strict social distancing rules.

However, it is clear from a closer examination of the pictures that they were taken on a long lens, a technique that has the effect of foreshortening a shot and making it appear the cyclists are bunched together.

In his complaint to IPSO (Independent Press Standards), Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns, said: “…the photograph of the cyclists in Regents Park is taken from a narrow perspective from head on.

“A photograph taken from the side view with a wide lens would have shown that the cyclists in question were observing the social distancing guidance (riding at least two metres apart), and would not have supported the contention that they were riding in a group.

“The photograph has been taken to create a misleading impression and support a factually inaccurate narrative.

“Publication of the photograph in the context of an article which inaccurately implies that exercise outdoors is somehow in breach of the regulations and guidance, unfairly and inaccurately suggests that those cyclists, others cycling in parks for their permitted and recommended exercise, and people choosing to cycle during the COVID-19 crisis were or are behaving irresponsibly, and potentially either illegally or contrary to guidance, all of which is incorrect.”

“The photograph has been taken to create a misleading impression and support a factually inaccurate narrative.

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns

Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, is advising people to continue to cycle for exercise, essential shopping trips and where they need to commute to work, but they should not be cycling in groups unless the group is made up of household members.

Cycling is an excellent form of exercise and transport, as recommended by the Government which has exempted cycle shops from closing under its COVID-19 lockdown measures.

Mr Dollimore said: “On the whole, cyclists have been behaving responsibly, avoiding riding in groups and remaining at least two metres from other cyclists and pedestrians.

“These photographs in the national papers give an incredibly misleading impression that somehow cyclists are behaving above the law when nothing could be further from the truth.”

He explained the distorted and compressed nature of the images is apparent when looking at the road markings, particularly the white dashed lines in the middle of the road and the shadows from the cyclists which clearly don’t overlap because they are some distance apart.

Mr Dollimore added: “The effect and implications of using a telescopic lens would have been known to the photographer. It has been used to bolster an inaccurate story and dangerous narrative, namely that it is somehow wrong and in breach of guidance and regulations to cycle outside during the COVID-19 crisis, and that groups of cyclists are routinely breaching the social distancing guidelines.

“None of this is supported by the facts reported or the images used [in these articles].”

IPSO is expected to respond to Cycling UK’s complaints within 15 days.

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The article "Misleading photos prompt press complaints from Cycling UK" has missed two important factors in its objection to the newspaper photograph.

1. The Calderdale CTC appear to have chosen to ignore Cycling UK's request to cancel all group rides till further notice.  The photograph shows what is clearly a group ride.

2. How far apart were the riders?  Whilst the two in front are OK, following riders need to be much further apart than two metres.  Studies have shown that following someone at walking pace one needs to be at least 5 metres behind to avoid catching droplets in the slip stream and at running speed at least 10 metres.  So even very gentle cycling pace it is getting to probably 15 metres and beyond.

Whilst it right to complain about misleading photographs and articles, I feel in this case the more important point is that Calderdale CTC appear to have been behaving irresponsibly in light of both Cycling UK and British Cycling advice and requests.

I think the purpose of the photos is to show the distortion achieved from a telephoto lens, not an example of how to ride during Covid-19, but the author should make this clear if it is the case.

The CtC guidelines on cycling during covid-19 clearly state that you shouldn't go cycling with anyone unless you live with them (https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/coronavirus-qa-it-safe-cycle)



The photo has snow on the ground. It was clearly taken before the current outbreak.

If you look at the photographer's (public) Facebook feed, she was out with Calderdale CTC on 26th February, when it was snowing. That's almost a month before lockdown began.

Unfortunately it is Cycling UK that has published a misleading photo. Their article is about cyclists in Richmond Park in April, but for some reason they have decided to head it was a photo of Calderdale CTC taken in February. (The snow is a clue!). The social distancing guidelines weren't announced until 16 March. So, appearances can be deceptive!

Cycling UK have shot themselves in the foot with this - it clearly contravenes their own Q&A on page https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/coronavirus-qa-it-safe-cycle#friend2

Q: Can I ride with a friend if we don’t live in the same household?

Cycling UK: No

I think Cycling UK are coming across as hopelessly out of touch and indignant that some cyclists are, without a doubt, completely ignoring the governments ruling and Cycling UK's interpretation.

I'm pretty disappointed that my subs are now being used to write articles in defence of the indefensible... It's not about being 2 metres apart, it's about more than two people NOT FROM THE SAME household meeting as a group.

I think the purpose of the photos is to show the distortion achieved from a telephoto lens, not an example of how to ride during Covid-19, but the author should make this clear if it is the case.

The CtC guidelines on cycling during covid-19 clearly state that you shouldn't go cycling with anyone unless you live with them (https://www.cyclinguk.org/article/coronavirus-qa-it-safe-cycle)

See my response to pjhorner

see the snow on the hills?? I'll say no more - just pull your head in.

So I've just started following the work that Cycling UK are doing and I'm really surprised and disappointed at this article. Whether they're at 2 metres or not is irrelevant, they're contravening government advice and giving cycling a bad name in the process. Frankly I'm wondering if supporting Cycling UK was a mistake if this is how they spend their energy in defending cyclists interests ....

I really think that Cycling UK has started a campaign to try defend a poor choice of photo on the cover of their magazine. The press would not have been aware of the picture if a sensible decision had been taken to either use a different photo or if due to tight schedules pulled the magazine.

Using a group photo of riders on the front cover of the magazine during an epidemic that has killed over 12,000 people at a time when the UK government was instructing us to ride in two's or with family members only....well it was a major mistake. 

You should be putting up your hands admitting you got it wrong and once again advising people to follow government guidelines. 

Stop campaigning on this subject I don't believe the majority of your members support you never mind the general public!

I agree, I posted a similar statemnt yesterday but Cycling UK have censored it and taken it down which is a shame.

When making arguments, credibility is key. 

Cycling Org obviously has no compassion, understanding nor are they aware of the law and it is apparent that they have simply stolen an image and claimed that it is a "Stock Picture" - as funny as a cyclist going through a red light and nearly running you over when trying to cross the road.

Equally, a proper press photographer would do their homework, know their subject. A photographer would never shoot a picture set up of a cyclist riding a bike back to front unless it was for a circus or something - so why has Cycling dot org not only seemingly stolen and published an image without permission but since when did Canon make a left-handed camera?

The image has been flipped. 

I guess the response to oh well everyone has used that picture so we will too is as law-abiding and intelligent as the answer that 100 cyclists pass through the pedestrian crossing on Kings Road every day so we shall too. 

Psychologically, cyclists are only moaning as they are being caught out. Rather like Burglars dot org moaning about CCTV. Only proper heist criminals keep their heads down and find ways around CCTV and don't go venting their spleen in true keyboard warrior fashion.

Photographers are there to document, but they are easy targets. People were lead to believe the 'media' killed Diana, hence people spitting and name-calling photographers during their grieving of the Princess, but now the truth is out, people are more intelligent with their rational behavior. Laws are laws for a reason. Yes, there are some lovely cyclists but sadly many give their group a bad name by failing to adhere to highway law. 

The obvious message is cycle alone and there is no excuse that there is bad traffic at the current time. 

No one likes getting caught and thus moans like crazy




Stop blaming photographers, putting them in danger from angry mobs.


The photographer will usually be freelance, and have taken a number of photos documenting actual scenes.  
How those photos are used in the context of a newspaper article are down to the publisher, not the photographers.


Vent your (unjustified) anger at the picture editors, not photographers.

Fair bit of ranting on here. Esp in the know - you appear to have a big axe to grind.

It might be fair to comment on the relevant picture. However riding in a group cannot be a good idea at this time even if you keep 2 metres apart. If you are moving as a group over any sort of distance I think it would be well nigh impossible to ensure things stay that way.

My local cycling group has said that, in line with national policy, that group rides are cancelled and advising not to cycle in groups.

I do not think pursuing this one is a good idea.