A reply to Celia Walden: You owe Tom Barrett a profound apology

I’ve never heard of Celia Walden* before, but my Google Alert on “cyclist” and “killed” has just drawn my attention to her. She’s the author of just another rant against cyclists which has been published in the “Daily Telegraph”.

Celia is describing a close call with a female cyclist who

swerved into the middle of my lane without signalling. There was no helmet, of course, and no high-visibility gear – which would have marred the whole sunny tableau. The worst accident she could think of was that her skirt might flutter up to reveal a charming pair of white cotton knickers.

In the next paragraph Celia confesses:

basically I loathe all London cyclists. (…) these people live in a fantasy world. (…) Traffic signals don’t apply to London cyclists, up there as they are on the moral high ground with their officially endorsed sense of righteousness. Sociologically, polls have shown that they tend to be a preening, upper-middle class bunch.

The most shocking sentence comes in the third paragraph:

At least she, after a near-death experience with a London bus or the onset of a little light drizzle, will permanently withdraw from the roads.

Apparantly, this Celia Walden thinks that near-death experiences for cyclists are a good thing which teach them a lesson. I wonder what she would tell the father of Jayne Helliwell, 25, who had a more-than-near-death experience with a bus last year (the bus driver was charged with dangerous driving after the crash).

Reading Celias article in a week where another London cyclist has been killed by a lorry is not just unsettling. It’s utterly disgusting. Until today, according to my statistics at least seven cyclists have been killed on London roads in 2011.

Maybe I’m expecting too much from a Telegraph journalist but some research before writing an article might be a nice idea. Well, I’m here to help:

Celia, do you seriously think that Barrett (he commanded a squadron in Iraq and Afghanistan and was awarded an Order of the British Empire), Mason ( he was “notable for his iron chin, stout heart and thunderous punching power”, according to the Telegraph) and Hawkes ( “one of Britain’s leading child protection experts”, listen to him on Radio 4 ) “have lived in a “fantasy world”?

Do you think they deseve to be loathed?

Do I deserve to be loathed?

One thing is for sure: Tom, Gary and Colin have permanently been withdrawn from the roads, if I may use your words.

Celia, I’m really shocked by your degree of callousness. I don’t understand how the editors of the “Daily Telegraph” dare to print such highly cynical stuff.

In the name of Tom Barrett, Gary Mason and Colin Hawkes (as well as all those other cyclists who have been innocently killed and injured by dodgy drivers in London) I expect a profound apology. Otherwise I would conclude that you just think they just got what they deserved.

* That’s why I’ve misspelled her first name as “Celina” in an earlier version of this article.

My spreadsheet with detailed information on fatal cycling accidents in London since 2006: http://bit.ly/cycling-london

My map showing the locations for fatal cycling accidents in London since 2006: http://bit.ly/cycle-crash-map-london

5 facts about Boris bikes – and one example of unfair journalism

“The Independent” has recently published some interesting facts about London’s Barclay’s Cycle Hire scheme. Unfortunately, my dear colleagues did a rather poor job interpreting those figures.

Boris Bikes at Southwark Street in London (Photo by Green Lane from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the Independent, which draws on figures from Transport for London (TfL) since the launch of the “Boris Bikes” in August 2010:

  • seven million miles have been cycled
  • 100000 people have signed up (I’m one of them, BTW)
  • 3566 bikes (30 per day) have had to be repaired
  • 180 bikes have been vandalised
  • 10 bikes have been stolen

To me, these figures underscore the huge success of the scheme given that here had been widespread concerns about theft and vandalism prior to the launch of the cycling hire scheme. But since only bad news are good news, my dear colleagues at the “Independent” are trying to give a negative spin to those figures:

Two-thirds of London’s “Boris bikes” have had to undergo repairs in their first six months of operation. (…) Critics claimed that the high rate of repairs was a result of TfL opting for “unwieldy machines” over more sophisticated bikes.

I think this is quite an unfair and distorted interpretation of those numbers. Are  3566 repairs since August 2010 really resembling a “high rate of repairs”?  As we have also learned by the TfL figures, the Boris bikes have been done 7 million miles since August. This means there are on average  0.0005 repairs per mile traveled (In fact the real figure is much lower because we’re only talking about the bikes which actually had an issues).

I’ve done around 1500 miles on my Brompton since August 2010 and had four punctures which equals 0.0027 repairs per mile. Perhaps I should use the Boris bikes more often…