On the 27th of December 2007, under the heading "What's smug and deserves to be decapitated ?", Matthew Parris, a one time Conservative Member of Parliament working as a journalist for The Times, wrote the following in a rather unpleasant article:
"A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing
piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists. It's not just
the Lycra, though Heaven knows this atrocity alone should be a capital
offence; nor the helmets, though these ludicrous items of headgear are
designed to protect the only part of a cyclist that is not usefully
employed; nor the self-righteousness, though a small band of sports
cyclists on winter's morning emits more of that than a cathedral at
evensong; nor even the brutish disregard for all other road users,
though the lynching of a cyclist by a mob of mothers with pushchairs
would be a joy to witness."
There was, understandably, quite an outrage about this. If such an incitement of violence had been against a different minority group then it might have resulted in a different outcome, but Matthew had the support of his editor. A week later, Matthew Parris issued an apology and the Press Complaints Commission decided that their code of practice had not been breached. To this day, Matthew Parris still writes for The Times newspaper.
Click through for an analysis of The Times' Eight Point Manifesto for Cycling
In both 2006 and 2008 we contacted The Times, amongst other British newspapers, to invite them to take an interest in our study tours of infrastructure in the Netherlands. There was no reply.