The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Rob Spedding Headshot

Why Andrew Mitchell's Bad Behaviour Has Nothing To Do With His Bike

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

I can't say that I've been following the Andrew Mitchell story especially closely but from what I gather the Government Chief Whip appears to have come across as a boorish, short-tempered snob. Oh and that, for one particular reason, he's inherently evil.

Forget his alleged repeated use of the F-word or his supposed refering to a police officer as a pleb, what really seems to have annoyed commentators from both sides of the British political spectrum is that the right honourable member for Sutton Coldfield rides a bicycle.

Some notable members of the British media have taken it upon themselves to link Mitchell's unpleasantness with his choice of transport. According to one respected broadsheet, the British public had "just grown to love cyclists - and then Andrew Mitchell came along."

Yep, they reasoned, the Tour de France success of Bradley Wiggins plus his and other Olympic and Paralympic cycling triumphs had all been undone because Mitchell was having a hissy fit because he wasn't allowed to wheel his bike out of a gate.

I don't really see the logic, especially as their incredibly poorly received diatribe - you'll struggle to find a supportive comment underneath the article - quickly forgets Mitchell and soon berates 'neon Lycra louts'. Needless to say, the picture accompanying the article shows Mitchell riding his basket-equipped bike in a suit.

But it isn't just they who've decided that Mitchell is a cyclist and therefore all cyclists are bastards. Step forward one of the UK's best selling tabloids. Now, if I was being unkind I'd say that it seems that they have read the aforementioned piece and then thought "You know what we can't be bothered to write anything original this Sunday". Either that or they aren't as different as perhaps they'd like to think they are. They both make the leap of logic that because Mitchell owns a bike everyone else who owns a bike have "have never had such preening contempt for everyone else."

The tabloid is soon bemoaning "moronic Lycra louts that, no matter where you live, you see every day of your life - riding on the pavement, ignoring red lights, screaming abuse at anyone who raises an objection."

Now, before I go any further, I'd like to put on record that yes, there are some absolute idiots out there riding bikes. Yes, people do ride on pavements, and jump red lights and they shouldn't. My guess, and it is a guess, is that these idiots also drive at 40mph past schools, barge past you on busy pavements, don't take their bags off of seats on crowded trains... In short an idiot on a bike, is an idiot in a car, is an idiot on roller-skates. They aren't made into a rude, reckless and arrogant person because they cycling - that's just how they are.

Yet to the lazier members of the media it seems that people who ride bikes are an easy target. Slag them off and you'll wind up people who ride bikes and make all the other people who slag off people who ride bikes happy. Win win!

This is nothing new of course, two years ago another journalist must have written something just as ill-informed because I asked Cycling Plus columnist Rob Ainley to muse on the subject. Read it here and you'll see, unlike the haters, it's funny but has a point.

Someone on a bike mugs an old lady and they're a 'cyclist'. No they're not - they're a robber who just happens to be on a bike. They're no more a cyclist than I'm an F1 driver when I head to the supermarket in my 10-year old Mazda. If the same criminal makes his getaway on foot in a pair of Nikes he doesn't make the headlines as a 'runner' does he? So, Andrew Mitchell's behaviour has nothing to do with him being a cyclist. He isn't.