29 May 2010

What is a 'cyclist'?

"Woman dies as bus avoids cyclist in Manchester".  This is the BBC's damning headline today.  The police are looking for this 'cyclist', we hear - and therefore, in the eye of the community at large, any of us could be the monster who appears to have caused this tragedy.

But of course, look at the image the BBC has released and what you see is not a 'cyclist' - not if by this we mean a person who takes cycling seriously as a sport, a mode of transport or a passtime.  This is a youngster in a BMX - the kind who you often see jump pedestrain traffic lights, ride dangerously on pavements,  or indeed harass other cyclists, as it happened to me a couple of years back. 

Of course, I know nothing about this particular 'cyclist' - apart from his photo and the fact that GMP are looking for him.  He may be inocent, a scapegoat.  I don't know, and shouldn't assume that riding a BMX makes him automatically guilty.  My point is more about how loaded the term 'cyclist' can be, and whether perhaps the BBC and the media in general should mind these nuances, lest they stoke negative attitudes towards us, the cyclists.

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