Last week a drunk driver in Carolina, USA, killed father and son cyclists David and Trey Dolittle.
In a follow-up news story, published online earlier today, a piece by reporter Katie Harden was headlined:
"Cyclists involved in deadly accident not wearing helmets."
The first paragraph of the news story said:
"Investigators say Trey and David Doolittle were not wearing protective helmets at the time of the car accident…that killed both cyclists. Highway Patrol Trooper B.R. Phillips says David Doolittle was wearing protective gloves as well cycling shoes and spandex but neither cyclist had on head protection."
This story was pulled within hours of a Twitter backlash against the story started by BikeBiz executive editor Carlton Reid.
His tweet early this morning was ‘retreated’ so many times it was picked up by the popularity algorithms of Twitter.com and pumped out by Twitter-owned feed @toptweets. This account has 1.1 million followers.
Soon after this tweet, the original story was pulled by WWAY TV and visitors to the URL were presented with a ‘page not found’ message.
WWAY TV news director Scott Pickey told BikeBiz.com:
"We’re updating it."
Bicycle helmets are not designed for smashes involving cars although many mainstream media outlets, and sometimes other agencies, often run stories similar to the one carried by WWAY, as if only cyclists wore bicycle helmets they wouldn’t die in collisions with speeding vehicles.
In one of the earliest cases of its kind, cyclist Ben Clough was killed, in 1998, by a motorist running a red light in Austin, Texas (she eventually got community service) but in a press release from the Austin police department there was no mention of the red light running or the fact the driver had been drinking prior to the incident. However, the press release did mention that Clough was not wearing a bicycle helmet.
There have been many similar cases since then, both in the US and the UK.
Cyclists’ organisation CTC fears that a UK judge may one day rule against a cyclist injured in a road smash, citing their non wearing of a helmet as contributory negligence.