Slow news day? Looking to boost your page views, perhaps? No problem. Just run a story on a cyclist being hit by a car – ideally with a provocative headline that may or may not reflect the actual piece itself – then sit back and watch social media go into a Chernobyl-esque meltdown. And, hey, if you really want to create a shit-storm of ignorance, aggression and general loathing, why not throw in the old bicycle registration argument to bait the cycling community even more, just for good measure. It’s guaranteed to create hours if not days of chaos and hatred, from all sides of the debate.
It’s the same every time, which perhaps begs the question, “why are cyclists so bloody sensitive?” The answer to anyone who rides is obvious. It’s because we’re so bloody vulnerable on the roads, that’s why.
Editors, journalists, bloggers and content managers are very much aware of this, of course, which makes the proliferation of the same stereotypical story lines so disheartening. Yes, it’s a very raw nerve. Right now there is a clear appetite – and need – for content on this important and increasingly hard-to-ignore subject. As someone from within the media game myself, I just wish more of my peers would seek to tell the deeper and broader stories associated with the strained and often dangerous co-existence of cycling and motoring in 21st Century Australia, rather than far too often taking the lazy journalistic option and simply perpetuating tired ones.
Whilst loathe to do their editorial jobs for them, how about the following as just one example – given it won’t seem to go away, surely a valuable story might be an in-depth study into the bike registration argument? Not just the usual superficial ‘user pays’ garbage from motorists and flat out rejection from cyclists, but a genuine exploration of the pros and cons and practicalities of such a system, with opinions from experts both here and abroad? Heaven forbid, it may actually stimulate some intelligent conversation rather than simply throw more petrol on an already-smouldering situation?