Angry 'car enthusiast' targets 'butthurt' cyclists in counter-protest

Beinn Chapple-Law
Beinn Chapple-Law, a shot from the event page and cyclists on the Harbour Bridge in May. Photo credit: Facebook/Beinn Chapple-Law/Newshub.

Police say they're aware of an upcoming protest to "liberate" a cycle lane, and will be ready to respond if anyone tries to drive on it. 

Organiser Beinn Chapple-Law says he's angry none of the cyclists who rode across the Harbour Bridge in May have been charged with any crimes, because "they are Herne Bay, Ponsonby, North Shore residents who are white, wealthy and have connections to politicians". 

"I was upset the police and NZTA basically let the cyclists onto the bridge... it's just sad that illegal protests can get out of hand and the police sort of bow down. Like that councilman in south Auckland said, if this was a Samoan rugby game people would have been arrested."

Only one person was arrested when hundreds of cyclists took over a lane on the Harbour Bridge nearly two weeks ago - the person who initially broke the police cordon. They were let off with a caution, police telling Newshub it was "rare" for charges to be laid at peaceful protests. 

Auckland Councillor Efeso Collins told 1News the next day it would have been a different outcome if rather than "wealthy and in lycra" they were "poorer people out south". 

Chapple-Law, a photographer who in 2019 made headlines for his own antics on the Harbour Bridge - hanging out of a moving car trying to get a good shot of a trailing vehicle - is organising a counterprotest, dubbed 'Liberate the Lane - Cycle Lane Special'. 

More than 100 people on Facebook have so far indicated they'll be attending the event, set down for this Sunday on Tamaki Dr. 

"Everyone in the country knows that three MPs did something illegal, yet no action has been taken. Some cyclists are comparing it to the Springbok tour, which I think is just ridiculous. They are not a racially injustified group [sic]." 

While Chapple-Law insists it will be a peaceful protest, that's not how some have understood it - among those blogger and documentary maker David Farrier, who wrote "its purpose is to encourage cars to drive down an Auckland bike lane". 

After Farrier posted about the event, noting its cover image on Facebook is an injured cyclist, Chapple-Law changed the wording of its description, which originally said the protest would "show what a great surface it is to use". He told Newshub it was a misunderstanding. 

"I used the wording 'we will use the cycle lane', and because I have a large following of car enthusiasts and I am a car enthusiast myself, everyone just assumed that meant driving in the cycle lane. But we would never do that, because that is illegal.

"I changed the wording because apparently it wasn't clear enough. I personally thought that it was clear enough, but there was a bunch of people on Facebook and Twitter who got very, very offended by it, and didn't understand what we meant. I just thought I would make it extremely clear."

As for the image, he says it was one of the first that came up when he googled 'cyclist'.

"I thought it was somewhat comedic... to me it more symbolises the 'arrow to the knee' if you will of what their protest did to their own image in Auckland," he said, referring to a decade-old popular internet meme.

"They have taken a lot of criticism about it. It's more of a metaphor than an actual cyclist being hurt. It's more of a butthurt cyclist, than a hurt cyclist."

Cycling groups Newshub contacted either didn't respond or declined to comment. The police said they've been in touch with Chapple-Law, and understand it will be a "peaceful protest".

"In general, police's role at protests is to ensure everyone is kept safe and we can respond if required," a spokesperson said.

"I think it would be really concerning if there was any violence or aggression," Green Party MP Julie Anne Genter told 1News, saying it was "funny" that car enthusiasts would be protesting something that takes cars off the road.

Beinn Chapple-Law.
Beinn Chapple-Law. Photo credit: Beinn Chapple-Law/Facebook

Chapple-Law denied the protest was a troll, saying he just wants to see everyone on the roads treated equally.

"The road should be a fair place. Everyone should have the same benefits and the same punishments for breaking the same laws." 

His YouTube channel includes videos titled 'Cyclists - The Real Pandemic', in which he pulls up alongside cyclists and tells them to "get off the road".  In another part, he can be seen using a phone to record video of a man riding with a young child in a passenger seat, driving close behind the pair.


Chapple-Law told Newshub he wasn't charged or fined over the 2019 Harbour Bridge incident, but in the latter video, says he received a $150 fine "which I was happy to pay since I was facing a lot more than that".