There’s no doubting that plans to build a bi-directional Cycle Superhighway along Chiswick High Road have divided Londoners.
Not just the local community that CS9 will directly affect necessarily, but Londoners who are pro-cycling whatever the impact locally, versus those who are concerned about its impact on the local community where they live and work.
Unfortunately, the current debate over CS9 which is pitting the pro-cycle lobby against Hammersmith and Chiswick traders and residents, comes with a catalogue of endless and unpleasant bullying, nastiness and damaging misrepresentations which has escalated in recent days.
Local traders along Chiswick High Road who have made plain their hopes to redesign the scheme have been labelled “murderers” in a public meeting, called “posh cunts” in the street and one had a Redesign CS9 poster torn from the wall of his shop. Another individual has been spat upon for having the temerity to his vocalise how CS9 will adversely affect his particular community.
More recent, pro-cyclists have take to Twitter to attack the local bakery and café Outsider Tart which opposes CS9 in its current form, calling for a boycott of the business and maligning the business by incorrectly alleging that it has “food hygiene” problems, a statement which is untrue. Another individual has since used a mock-up of a Mobikes hub outside their shop to share a video via a different online forum which shows a missile blowing up the pavement and the business.
Naysayers have rushed to claim that this video has “nothing to do with CS9”. The creator however has said it is associated with CS9, so we are not guilty of conflating (as charged by pro-cyclists).
As a business, Outsider Tart has been subjected to escalating online and offline abuse, due to its opposition to CS9 and has been persistently branded “anti-cycling”. To suggest that this video of an air-borne rocket bombing a local shop has nothing to do with its opposition to CS9 is disingenuous and naïve in the extreme.
Some have tried to reason with some of those responsible, as follows:
Message to the London Cycling Campaign, from David Lesniak, Outsider Tart: Please could you speak to the direct and violent language cyclists use towards others? Without doing so you imply theirs’ is behaviour beyond reproach.
My partner and I have been called murderers.
Our business has been threatened.
And when neighbours have taken cyclists to task for riding on the pavement, they have been called “posh cunts” which, I believe, is technically anti-social behaviour.
To lay blame solely on another for the dynamic of a debate is erroneous.”
One pro CS9 supporter who is hiding behind a “parody” account on Twitter has “joked” that the congregation of Our Lady Grace should “be gassed” by cab fumes. If the religious building in question had been a Synagogue, this would have been denounced and classed as a Hate Crime.
The unpleasant, bullying nastiness is relentless, a fast and furious flow of repetitive messages and sneers intended to wear recipients down. Most of it is perpetrated by men who cycle, but often live elsewhere in London and not in the affected postcodes.
Their strategy is to twist arguments to try and make local people look ill-informed. For example, one anti CS9 commentator has repeatedly been accused of saying “cycle lanes cause pollution”. What she has actually said is that “TfL’s modelling shows CS9 will increase congestion and congestion causes pollution”.
Another tactic is to retweet the incorrect statement, often adding further unpleasant comments. This behaviour is designed to humiliate or draw out an angry response – that they will then criticise.
Some local election candidates have remained silent, while others like Darren Moore and Ruth Mayorcas have also chosen to attack local businesses and Redesigners, which we find curious given this is a community, rather than a political issue. In doing so however, they have successfully turned CS9 into an election issue.
All of this behaviour is beyond the pale, elements of it representing of the kind of online hate speech that the Mayor of London says he is seeking to stop.
In his #endthehate campaign, the Mayor says it’s on all of us to tackle this problem. Social media companies, governments, politicians, the media and the public alike. He says let’s work together to end this hate. It’s time to act on hate speech.
Threatening lives, businesses and communities with air-borne rockets however isn’t the path forward.
Those who oppose CS9 in its current form have genuine and growing concerns about being able to express their views freely without being publicly vilified and accused of being anti-cycling.
The fact that the owners of Outsider Tart have gone public, and have been subject to such hate and abuse, has put many other people off going public too. They simply feel unsafe in the online and offline world.
Given this appalling state of affairs, we are calling upon the Mayor of London, Tfl, the Cycling and Walking Commissioner Will Norman, our local MP Ruth Cadbury, and all councillors and candidates representing the Conservative, Labour, LibDem and Green Parties to:
- Actively tell their representatives, campaigners and relevant local election candidates to cease any damaging, aggressive and irresponsible behaviour towards traders and local people in Chiswick and Hammersmith who oppose CS9 in its current form.
- Join together and sign an open letter to encourage a better quality of civic discourse, but eliminate hate speech, hate crime and threats of violence.