It turns out I’m not the only one to invite Matthew Parris for a bike ride. Jack Thurston, presenter of The Bike Show podcast wrote to Parris via The Times:
“Someone once said that journalists should write about what they know. In that spirit, may I invite you out on a gentle afternoon ride (town or country) so you can find out what all the fuss is about. I’ll even lend you my spare machine. How about that for turning the other cheek?”
Andrea Casalotti of London bike shop Velorution isn’t in the mood to forgive. He writes: “Forget about inviting him to ride a bike; Parris should spend time in jail.”
Casalotti cites the guilty verdict in the case of two Muslim youths chanting “Bomb Denmark” at a London demonstration.
“How can anyone argue that what Umran Javed shouted was worse than what Parris has written? One claims it was a slogan, the other says it was humour. If anything, it is the latter who can have more nefarious consequences.”
The Crown Prosecution Service’s Sue Hemming said she was mindful of the rights to free speech when considering cases such as this.
“However, when we examined the content of Mr Javed’s speech it was explicit that there was direct encouragement to those present and those watching via the media to commit acts of murder against the Danish and Americans.”
BBC.co.uk, January 5th 2007
I’ve never thought Matthew Parris meant what he wrote. His satire was weak but it was clearly satire.
His apology is welcome, now to show him that cyclists did not cause the litter that kicked off his tirade. Let’s get him on a bike. If Jack Thurston’s letter bears fruit maybe Parris will appear on The Bike Show? Riding through London as a first timer is almost suicidal so, if he survives, that ride should be punishment enough for the columnist.
I’ve also sent an invitation via The Times but I’ve also sent a personal letter to the former MP’s country home. The internet is weird – thanks to Google Earth I can actually zoom in to the hedgerows that Parris said were full of “empty cans of hi-energy drinks” thrown by cyclists. Didn’t see any mind, Matthew Parris must have been out with his bin-bags again.
We all know that cyclists use bidons via water bottle cages, they do not carry cans of fizzy pop.
“Forgive me, but pedestrians were not the culprits here,” said Parris. Yep, it was most likely passing motorists. On the way to the gym perhaps? But, stop me, I mustn’t malign a whole group on zero evidence.
Here’s my letter. I wonder if Matthew Parris will take one of us up on the offer.
Dear Mr Parris
Thank you for the piano wire apology in your latest column.
I made the following suggestion to James Harding, editor of The Times:
In the spirit of reconciliation and to show Mr Parris what a bottle cage is for, I’d like to invite him on a bike ride. He’s a fit guy. I believe he runs marathons. If he agrees, I’ll arrange a ride along a country lane using a top-of-the-range bike and as much or as little of the Lycra he seems to so deplore. Would you please pass on this invitation? I can arrange a bike and kit anywhere in the UK. I promise not to booby trap the route.
If this invitation didn’t get to you, please let me make it again, and personally. I’m the editor of BikeBiz magazine.
We’re not all litterbugs. In fact, it’s rare for a cyclist to litter, unlike, say, youth motorists or fly-tippers (pretty difficult to do that on a bike). We’re not all smug, but we have to be tough, it’s dangerous out there, city motorists kill hundreds of cyclists each year.
Countryside cyclists – the kind who wear Lycra, not maids freewheeling to church – tend to go out singly or in pairs. On an evening or two per week and on Saturday and Sunday mornings, bigger groups will go out for long-distance training, and perhaps a swift half or a cup of tea and a cake in a rural cafe. If they are ‘real’ cyclists, they’ll carry carb drinks in ‘bidons’ (water bottles) attached to the bike. I’ve never known anyone ride with a can of Lucozade or Gatorade. From your column’s description of the detritus, your local litterbugs aren’t cyclists.
So, back to the invitation. I’d gladly line up a really smart bike for you to ride (Tour de France sleek, or country gent style) and, if willing, get you in some sporty bike gear not made in China.