"Tie piano wire at neck height": Cycling UK submits formal complaint to Sunday Times

Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle. Photo: Paul Murphy (Creative Commons)
Cycling UK issues complaint after Sunday Times columnist Rod Liddle says it’s “tempting” to stretch piano wire at neck height to catch cyclists.

Writing in the Sunday Times (24 May, 2020), regular columnist Rod Liddle wrote “it’s tempting” to “tie piano wire at neck height across the road” with a view to catch families of cyclists legally riding in his neighbourhood.

Cycling UK has now registered a formal complaint with the paper, arguing that “the article in question is inflammatory, in seriously poor taste, and implies that a seriously dangerous and criminal act is somehow an acceptable course of conduct.”

Writing to the editor, Cycling UK head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore said:

“Only two weeks ago, a retired teacher and councillor were spoken to by the police after laying traps for cyclists on a woodland path.

“Irresponsible articles in a national paper such as Mr Liddle’s on Sunday give the impression that behaviour such as this is fair game, because cyclists are annoying, however whilst humour, satire and irony have their place, I would politely suggest that a line has been crossed.”

Irresponsible articles in a national paper such as Mr Liddle’s on Sunday give the impression that behaviour such as this is fair game.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK's head of campaigns

Stretching piano wire, or similar type obstacles across the highway is not only a specific offence under section 162 of the Highways Act 1980, but also potentially attempted grievous bodily harm with intent.

Currently police in West Yorkshire are investigating the latter offence following an incident last month when a man cycling with his son was injured after wire was deliberately placed across a path with the aim of causing injury.

Similar incidents have left other cyclists with potentially life threatening injuries in Stretford, Greater Manchester.

Mr Liddle has a history of encouraging violence against people cycling, having said he regularly seeks to “car-door” them when he takes a taxi in London in an article from December 2016.

The cycling charity issued a complaint at the time, which was dismissed by the paper saying no retraction nor apology was necessary, as Mr Liddle was using “heavy irony”.

The Sunday Times’ sister paper, The Times, faced similar controversy in December 2007, when columnist Matthew Parris wrote “A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists.”

Cycling UK (then CTC) and many other members of the public wrote in complaint of Mr Parris’ suggestion, and following public pressure he issued an apology.

***UPDATE 1724hrs 26/05/2020***

Since Cycling UK submitted its complaint to the Sunday Times, the charity has subsequently learned via WalesOnline, "wire traps and logs were found blocking trails and paths in Swansea and Cardiff" over the bank holiday weekend, resulting in the injury of Neil Nunnerley (47), who had to make a visit to A&E consequently on Saturday, 23 May.

***UPDATE 02/06/2020***

The Sunday Times published a letter highlighting Cycling UK's concerns in their letter's page on Sunday, 31 May (£). Currently the charity is still waiting an official response.

If you have found Mr Liddle’s article offensive or in poor taste, Cycling UK encourages you to make your views known by filling in the Sunday Times' online complaint form.