A letter to the landlord of the Bathurst Arms

Over the weekend, someone picked up on a Facebook status update by James Walker, landlord of a pub in the Cotswolds. The comments went viral, as cyclists on Twitter were none too happy about his claim that he would hit a bike whilst doing 60 mph. As Mr Walker had emails, tweets and opprobrium piled on him, he apologised. However, his comments show the kind of abuse casually thrown at cyclists, so I felt the need to reply.

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Dear Mr Walker

I realise that by now you have apologised for your remarks. I realise that they’ve ‘gone viral’ and that you’ve had a hard lesson to learn. I know that many, many people have emailed and tweeted you. Nonetheless, I will have my say because it seems to me that the lesson you most need to learn is that cyclists are people with a voice. We will talk back and speak up. You may have felt that you could threaten us with impunity but you need to realise, fully, that this is not the case.

I find your jealousy quite striking. You have a need to belittle cyclists physically as ‘weak kneed’ and hiding behind hi-tech gear. Oh Mr Walker, do you not see the irony of then threatening to smash them with a 4×4? What is that, if it’s not ‘thousands of pounds of hi tech gear’? How much athletic ability does it take to operate a car, Mr Walker? How much do you reveal your need to feel powerful, your need to override your impotence by overriding their bicycles. There you are sitting behind the wheel of your car, and there are those cyclists, out there, in front, and what can you do other than sit there and fume and fantasise that you are fast and powerful when the sad reality is that you are nothing without your car, and you know that.

And to add to your violent threats we have a nice little line in racism. Good old Brits, they don’t cycle. No, that’s for those pesky Latin types. Oh but Mr Walker, you went viral on the wrong day to make that jibe, very much the wrong day Mr Walker. Your little diatribe about weak kneed cyclists hit the web just as Chris Froome battled with Mont Ventoux. Do you know about Ventoux, Mr Walker? It’s a mountain, nicknamed the Giant or sometimes Beast of Provence.  It has a Storm Pass though I prefer the French “col de tempêtes”. Near the summit of Ventoux is a shrine to a cyclist. Not some weak-kneed individual mown down by an idiot in a 4×4, but a shrine to Tom Simpson who, when climbing the Ventoux in the 1967 Tour, rode beyond the point of exhaustion. Such is the toughness of the Tour de France, Mr Walker (do you live up to your name, I wonder, do you walk anywhere?) such is its toughness that even fit young men such as Simpson felt the need for a cocktail of brandy and amphetamines that in the heat killed him.

Thus just as your mocking, jibing jealousy went viral, Chris Froome, a gallant Brit, showed the Spanish and the French and the Belgians how you tackle a mountain such as Ventoux. The cyclists now are clean, after what happened to Simpson that kind of drugs use was banned. But Froome needed oxygen once he’d finished. Do you know what it’s like to put that much effort into anything, Mr Walker? Well do you? Do you have any idea, a single inkling, a tiny soupcon, a smidgeon of a suspicion about what it feels like to push past a pain barrier and to keep battling, fighting on and up to reach the top? I suspect, Mr Walker, that your pace is more sedentary, that your knowledge of physical effort is a little limited.

And so, well, you know now, don’t you Mr Walker. You’ve been told about car tax. You’ve been told about who pays for the roads. You know that 80% of cyclists also drive. You know that cyclists like pubs and that they are less likely to drink in yours these days (personally, if I owned a pub near North Cerney right now, I’d be offering every cyclist a discounted lunch and a free soft drink, and greeting them with a big sign telling them they can watch the TdF and stuff themselves silly, because cyclists, as you would know if you were any kind of businessman, are basically just big wallets on wheels).

And so you apologised. You say it is unreserved and then go onto explain yourself. You wanted to raise the issue of harmonious road use, when you threatened to plough into vulnerable road users at 60mph (9/10 people hit by a car at 40mph will die. What do you think happens when you’re going 50% faster, Mr Walker?) And you were concerned about safety, whilst you threatened people. Threatening someone whilst purporting to be worried about them is the preserve of the worst kind of manipulative bully, Mr Walker. You felt this group were putting themselves at risk. At risk of what? An act of deliberate, unprovoked violence?

Your apology shows your true colours. One group of cyclists did something you felt was unsafe, or was it really their nonchalance that annoyed you? That seems to bother you, fit young men, able to take risks, is that what really bugged you? Either way, you saw a few cyclists and you then denigrated all of them. You saw fit to lump together millions of individuals as if they were just one, giant irritant that you could knock aside.

And you say you respect athletes. How about you just respect human beings? Those soft, squidgy, easily killed human beings you have suddenly found some regard for, now you know they will answer back.  Because today in London, another cyclist was killed. Another person trying to get from A to B died when a lorry was driven into them. Our roads should be safe and if you really want to debate harmonious road use and you really want to make them safe, start by checking your own attitude, Mr Walker.

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12 thoughts on “A letter to the landlord of the Bathurst Arms

  1. Gold silver and bronze to you Helen
    This is wonderful. I am actually moved to tears – you have so succinctly rallied for common sense and for goodness.
    People who think like Mr Walker usually have a captive audience … here’s another side splitter he is quoted for in the good pub guide…

    “The food and setting were nice, but sadly the same cannot be said for the service. asked where they got their beef from, one of the male staff (we think possibly the Manager) shouted out from behind the bar ‘ a dead cow’ ”

    Nice

  2. To quote you “I find your jealousy quite striking. You have a need to belittle cyclists physically as ‘weak kneed’ and hiding behind hi-tech gear. Oh Mr Walker, do you not see the irony of then threatening to smash them with a 4×4? What is that, if it’s not ‘thousands of pounds of hi tech gear’? How much athletic ability does it take to operate a car, Mr Walker?”

    In his defence He actually completed the Marathon de Disables… So he is quite physically fit. (He is a massive bell end though for publishing such a comment and thinking it wouldnt have an effect).

    I dont condoln his actions at all but i dont think he actually meant he would mow cyclists down and it is ridiculous that this should get so much attention!

    Non cyclist speaking

    1. Thanks, Danny. Good to know about his completion of the marathon. Yes, he is getting a lot of attention. Not sure why some things take off on the internet, though in this case I think it’s because what he said sums up so much of the abuse that cyclists get.

      It’s very difficult to tell when drivers make such comments, exactly what they mean. Whilst I suspect the vast majority would not actually want to hit a cyclist, the fact remains that cyclists share the road with people who think it’s OK even to talk about such actions. It is also a kind of victim blaming, as if it would be the cyclist’s fault if a car hit them. That I also find highly problematic.

    2. Unfortunately it is becoming more and more common to read threats, real or otherwise, against cyclists. Try following @cyclehatred on Twitter for your daily dose. This influences other people’s thinking to the point it becomes almost trendy to talk about knocking people down just because they don’t drive a sacred car. It shouldn’t be tolerated or it risks being viewed as an acceptable attitude.

  3. Alistair, you are so right – really worrying this misimformed tripe some people are ranting and displaced anger – really violent stuff.
    I’m no goody gumdrops so I have to follow the path of speaking as well as possible and hopefully then empathise with people. I tried my best to not put a death wish on the 40 mile-an-hourer playing chicken with us a few months back… he needs educating!
    Helen humanises cyclists here – applauds their achievements and spirit.
    Mr W. may have spoken like a bell end (what’s he like…) aggression spreads. This hatred on the roads I feel is growing – like it’s acceptable. It is not.
    Our language is so important – it can breed bigotry and hate or tolerance and empathy. It’s always changing – cyclist (and other sub society) hatred culture must clear off soon.

  4. My theory on those paper circles in car windscreens is that they cannot possibly be anything to do with road use. Why would a 4×4 pay more than a small hatchback? The road use is the same. My theory is that all the tax from those circles is ring fenced and goes on child benefit. YES child benefit! They are “Say Sorry Circles” and every year depending on how much you are going to muck up the children’s planet you have to pay to atone for the mess you will make. Also every year as a car owner you should feel deeply that this payment is not enough to compensate for the mess. It is time to think of the children around you as you pay. It is an opportunity to move to a smaller car or get out of it and use some other transport. I vote that “Say Sorry Circles” should be color coded with the biggest polluters having their circle ringed in black (possibly with “most polluting “ also typed on the ring) I do not think the color green should be used for any car even Electricity seems to generate some pollution.

    On the other hand the roads are for everyone, so the tax must come from something we all use, like toilet paper and kettles. Yes I believe the roads are paid for by Kitchen and bathroom equipment. So anyone complaining of the state of the roads should be altruistic and buy an expensive toaster to benefit us all.

    Cyclists rise up and carry a kettle with you at all times to demonstrate the VAT on kitchen goods that paid for road maintenance.
    Possible carry loo roll to mop up the Bull**** from any vocal motorists.
    Thanks – Dave Vanes

  5. Having just read that I’d say you are as bad as he is in your overly flamboyant language for effect; large levels of ignorance / assumption and also massively over egging a relatively small pudding that is significantly our of context. Everyone loves to stick and oar in and have their say on the matter.

    That is all.

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