I’m the first to applaud the fact that Bradley Wiggins, the newly crowned darling of British sport, does not appear to have been to the School of Media Blandness, like so many other high-profile sportsmen and women. He wears his heart on his (Lycra) sleeve; put a microphone in his face and he answers and speaks as though he actually means it. Never mind that a few choice expletives have been known to slip through – he speaks the language of the ordinary man. My guess is that the ordinary man will actually listen to what he says. Make no mistake, this is a good thing.
Hot on the heels of Wiggo’s astounding win in the Time Trial yesterday, we were shocked to hear of the death of yet another cyclist on the road. The tragic irony in yesterday’s case was that the victim died under the wheels of an official Olympic bus. While we absorb and revel in the magnificence of those rides by Wiggins and Froome (please, let’s not forget this year’s quiet and unassuming nearly-man), cyclists around the country will have been instantly brought back down to earth by the bad news of this horrific accident. Of course, we don’t know the details and the circumstances, and it would be dangerous to jump to conclusions, but the fact remains that cyclists face life-threatening dangers every day.
For some time, I’ve been convinced that the British public simply need to be educated on the risks faced by those of us on two wheels, but the pragmatist in me realises that education on road safety is not seen as a topic of discussion. It’s just not cool. Or is it?
This morning I saw a brief clip on the television where Mr Wiggins was speaking about cyclists’ safety; then I heard the same excerpt from the press conference on the radio. While he mangled his words somewhat, suggesting that helmets should be legalised [sic], it was a first step in the right direction. Paradoxically, here is where I would like Bradley to have some form of media coaching. There is a message here which needs to be carefully co-ordinated, carefully communicated and carefully targeted.
Has there ever been a better time to have Hoy, Pendleton, Cavendish, Froome, Millar, Stannard and their ilk joining forces with Mr Sideburns to explain to other road users that cyclists are vulnerable and need some time, space and respect? With the media power enjoyed by Sky, surely here is the conduit to disseminate the message, but I wonder if I am naive to imagine a day when 70′s style Public Information Messages appear on our television screens or in our tabloids and broadsheets. The cost to Sky would be minimal in real terms – they have the TV output hours; they have the column inches. I’d like to see them working with British Cycling, the CTC and other cycling bodies to fund a joined-up policy fronted by these successful, high-profile, charismatic men and women who have brought British cycling to the masses. Is that so much to ask?