Cyclists aren't a menace: Spectator debate

London Mayor was once warned not to cycle

A debate staged by British political magazine The Spectator on the topic ‘Cyclists are a menace’ finished with the audience voting 96 to 45 against the motion.

The debate took place in London on Monday evening, 30 November and was chaired by BBC political presenter Andrew Neil.

Speakers against the motion included ex-Labour MP and former London mayor Ken Livingstone, London editor of the Telegraph Media Group Andrew Gilligan, and Andrew Gimson, parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Telegraph and author of Boris – The Rise of Boris Johnson.

Speakers for the motion were Labour MP Stephen Pound, author and journalist David Thomas, and Baroness Sharples.

As well as the usual anti-cyclist tirades, one interesting revelation was that Ken Livingstone was warned, when he was London Mayor, not to ride a bike in London. His special branch officer told him: "I really don't think you should ride a bike because so many people hate you. Someone is bound to run you off the road."

Daily Mail writer David Thomas declared cyclists “lycra loonies” and “louts” adding “to a cyclist, a red light is merely a way of bringing a dash of colour to a city street.”

Labour MP Stephen Pound denounced headphone-wearing cyclists, adding "Who knows what they are listening to? The Killers certainly. Definitely not the Archers."

Baroness Sharples, who once hit a red-light-jumper with her shopping bag argued that riders who flout the rules of the road are scaring old people, and pleaded for more courtesy from those on two wheels.

Pro-cyclists on the panel included Andrew Gilligan, who used more reason in his argument that cyclists aren’t the menace they’re made out to be. He told the crowd: "Instead of hating us, you should join us. You would have nothing to lose but your trains."

On the night and also in his Telegraph blog, Gilligan pointed to traffic accident statistics: “The number of people killed per year by cyclists averages less than one. The number of cyclists killed per year by motor vehicles is around 120.

“We are not a menace. We are menaced. And that explains some of the cyclist behaviour that gets up people’s noses…."

So, what did you think of the result? Let us know in the comments box below.

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