Comment & Analysis: The Irish Times is being strongly criticised for publishing an article this evening which said that the death yesterday of a person using an electric bicycle who was in a collision involving a truck driver “prompted questions around the safety of e-bikes and e-scooters”.
In the aftermath of the collision yesterday the truck involved was pictured some distance away from the mangled bicycle. The truck was an articulated truck with six axles and a trailer designed to carry aggregate.
But the headline on The Irish Times article today is “E-bikes: What are the regulations and what can be done to make them safer?”
The fifth paragraph of the news article includes this stunning line: “The incident in Dolphin’s Barn has prompted questions around the safety of e-bikes and e-scooters – so what are the facts and figures on safety, and what is the law?”
It’s unclear what the relationship between electric bicycles and e-scooters which promoted a news reporter or editor to link the two issues together in regards to a death involving a truck.
The article is being called victim-blaming and, with the available information, it’s hard to see how it’s not. It is to me at least very odd to be linking an explainer-type article to a road traffic death which little has been confirmed about how it happened. If The Irish Times knows more, they have yet to feel sure enough to report on the details.
The article instead covers a confused jumble of issues edited together. It starts with the acceleration of the plans for legal changes mainly aimed at motorists, outlines the number of overall road deaths this year, and then acts as an explainer article of the legal situation regarding electric scooters and bicycles. It feels like something that was supposed to be at least two separate articles but was cobbled together.
In the middle of the article, readers are treated to an apparently random list of collisions involving both electric scooters and electric bicycles. What connection do these have to each other or what could possibly be gained from linking very different types of collisions and anybody’s guess.
As if the article was not bad enough, there is also a lack of clarity around some of the issues of the explainer part of the article, defining what is a bicycle or not. This is minor compared to the very striking linking of things which are not related to apparently make the issue about the safety of electric bicycles rather than the safety of large trucks.
The day after the death, just after midday, the Dublin Cycling Campaign tweeted: “We in the Campaign are deeply upset at the tragic loss of life at Dolphin’s Barn Bridge yesterday. Someone’s friends and family are struggling in shock and disbelief that will bleed in to years of grief. We extend heartfelt condolences.”
It’s very hard to understand how editors in The Irish Times around the same time were greenlighting an article of the nature of which they published just after 7pm.
If you value our journalism, please subscribe today.
The response from The Irish Times needs not just to be a retraction of the article, but to issue an apology. Sadly The Irish Times has a history of rarely standing up and admitting its mistakes. This bullish attitude will do more damage to the newspaper than it thinks.