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Newspaper was wrong to identify cyclists as ignoring social distancing, says ruling

A British newspaper was wrong to identify cyclists as ignoring social distancing rules during the initial coronavirus lockdown last year.

This is the ruling of IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation, who has come to a decision regarding an article from the Mirror published in April 2020 headlined “Cyclists ignore UK coronavirus lockdown rules as they ride together in the sun”.

“Photos have emerged this afternoon of friends failing to socially distance as they cycled, walked or ran in close proximity to each other” read the article underneath the photo, which appeared to show six cyclists stopped at a junction in Regent’s Park in London.

The complainant in the case was one of the cyclists pictured, Glen Tarman, who said he had been cycling with one other member of his household, as government guidelines permitted. As for the other riders pictured, Tarman says he didn’t know or engage with them, and always maintained a two-metre distance, saying the photo gave a “distorted impression” of how close together they were.

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The Mirror didn’t accept it had breached the Editor’s Code of Practice, the rules that newspapers signed up to IPSO have agreed to follow, arguing the photo did not distort the position of the cyclists.

IPSO has upheld Tarman’s complaint against the Mirror, with the newspaper willing to remove the image and publish a correction.

In March 2020 when lockdown began, cyclists were banned from Richmond Park due to the volume of riders and lack of social distancing.

Box Hill was then closed during Easter weekend following pictures emerging in The Times newspaper that suggested cyclists had been flouting social distancing rules while tackling the Surrey climb.

As the coronavirus pandemic rumbled into 2021, a popular forest park in Devon asked riders to “keep within your limits” after a cyclist was injured in crash, requiring medical attention.

The crash prompted more discussion about the government’s “stay local” guidance for daily exercise during the coronavirus lockdown. 

Management at Haldon Forest asked the public to keep well within their limits when exercise in the woodlands and to stick to places they know well.

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