“His bike… his tucked in trousers into his socks and his general deportment marked him out as One of Us.”
York has lost one of its cycling legends. Paul Hepworth, AKA ‘Pedalling Paul’, was a tireless and doggedly polite campaigner for the rights of York’s cyclists. Many would have come across Paul in his various guises, not only as a lifelong cycle activist, but as a volunteer and active contributor to numerous causes in the local community: be it the Holgate Windmill, Poppleton Road Community Hall, Jo-Ro Theatre, the York Cycle Rally or with Visit York.
But it’s as a cycle activist that we shall remember him here – one of the longest serving members of our campaign in all its guises. Writing under the moniker ‘Pedalling Paul’, he earned huge respect among in our movement for the way he set about defending the cyclist’s corner in the otherwise nasty online environment of the comments sections of the local media. Paul always deployed polite, well-reasoned, fact and evidence-based argument in the face of bad-tempered and oftentimes personally-insulting invective. Indeed, Paul must have had the skin of an alligator to shrug off some the abuse that was levelled against him from the rag-tag online clique of climate reactionaries, petrol-headed crackpots and armchair traffic Napoleons. It is characteristic of the man that he never rose to their bait; that he was a ‘real gentleman’ has been often remarked since the sad news broke. His influence was such in those columns that a curious phenomenon began to emerge. In any debate about transport, the subject would inevitably come round to what ‘Pedalling Paul’ thought. The column inches taken up hypothesising Pedalling Paul’s take on things, be it advanced stop lanes, cyclist’s misdemeanours or, every cycle advocate’s all-time favourite ‘induced demand’, was the best compliment they could have given him. In becoming the story, ‘Pedalling Paul’ stalked those columns and reached a mythic status amongst friend and foe – but he was far too nice a man to accept that he had any of the latter.
We will miss his quiet and persistent campaigning presence, his wry sense of humour, and yes, those tucked in trousers. RIP Pedalling Paul, railwayman, community stalwart and cyclist.
York Cycle Campaign shall be starting a fund to create a fitting and practical public memorial to Paul’s lifelong contribution to our cause.