‘Decapitate cyclists’ article is most complained about story of 2008

Times columnist Matthew Parris prompted storm of protest

Press Complaints Commission

An article in The Times which suggested piano wire should be strung across country lanes to decapitate cyclists prompted almost 600 protests to the Press Complaints Commission.


The organisation has just released its annual report for 2008, which shows the comment piece by Matthew Parris was the most complained about story of the year.

As we reported at the time, it was headlined “What’s smug and deserves to be decapitated?” and called for cyclists to be punished for supposedly littering the countryside with plastic drinks bottles.

Of a total of 4,698 complaints about British newspapers and magazines, 584 were about the article published on 27 December, 2007.

The Commission said the article had not breached its Code of Practice, but it was pleased Mr Parris had apologised for his comments.


After the article caused a furore, the former Tory MP said: “I offended many with my Christmas attack on cyclists. It was meant humorously but so many cyclists have taken it seriously that I plainly misjudged. I am sorry.”