Auto Express axes anti-cyclist article after threats to boycott new cycling magazine

Dennis Publishing has removed an anti-cyclist story from its Auto Express website after a flurry of complaints from, among others, London Cycling Campaign staff and members.

The article, which can still be read here (thanks Susie M) and in the latest Auto Express magazine, was removed from the website around 8.30pm on Monday 20 August 2012 on the orders of Dennis chief executive James Tye.

The feature, by reporter Julie Sinclair, purported to show that three out of four cyclists broke "road rules", based on results from an unscientific two-hour survey at Highbury Corner.

To the astonishment of many, cyclists were judged to have broken "road rules" if they were not wearing a helmet, weren't wearing high viz, or were wearing earphones – despite the fact that none of these is illegal.

Legitimate offences such as jumping red lights and pavement cycling were also included, but the combination of blatant anti-cyclist bias and poor journalism sent the cycling community – as much as there is one – apoplectic.

Criticism came thick and fast, not least in this excellent dissection of the article's faults on road.cc., which also took the time to point out that according to Auto Express's figures, one quarter of all morning rush-hour traffic through Highbury Corner was bicycles.

This blogpost from the Alternative Department for Transport didn't mince its words either.

Worryingly for Dennis, owner of Auto Express, it appears the rogue story could cost the company advertising revenue and magazines sales because the anti-cyclist tirade was published – yes really – just weeks before Dennis launches Cyclist magazine in mid-September.

In moves reminiscent of the #boycottAddisonLee scandal in April 2012, when thousands cancelled their taxi accounts and deleted the private hire company's smartphone app, a Facebook group has been set up calling for cyclists to boycott the as-yet unlaunched Dennis cycling magazine. 

On Monday morning we contacted Dennis chief executive James Tye (pictured wearing cycling gear on his Twitter profile) as well as Pete Muir, editor of the still nascent Cyclist magazine, to express our dissatisfaction and to point out that many of our members had contacted us suggesting we take part in the boycott.

By Monday evening, as we polished our consultation response to the GLA's cycling scrutiny, we were notified by a series of tweets from Tye saying the article would be withdrawn:

"as cyclist and ex-journo there is too much wrong with AE piece. It comes down ASAP"

"although survey facts are right, summary and representation is misleading"

We're delighted he's taken this action, and although the Auto Express magazine version of the article will still circulate to 60,000 people in the UK, removing the worst of it from the Auto Express website does mean much fewer motorists wlll be exposed to this piece of anti-cyclist propaganda, which means perhaps we're all a little bit safer for it.

And – at least for now – it appears that Dennis has taken the impetus out of moves to boycott its new magazine, into which it has no doubt already poured tens of thousands of pounds.

A good day all round...