How Vitaliy Klitschko's bike ride took an unexpected turn

Vitaliy Klitschko riding bike

Remember Vitaliy Klitschko? He used to be a boxer - a heavyweight world champion no less - and is now mayor of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.

It might not come as a surprise to hear that the former athlete has pledged to cycle around the city, instead of being driven in a limo. But not all of the city's residents have taken kindly to the announcement, with many using it as an opportunity to lambast their mayor for what they see as his many failings in office.

His Facebook post about the new plan - to start cycling between government offices in central Kiev - was liked and shared more than 20,000 times.

But the seemingly innocuous initiative did not play well online. Why?

Well for starters there was his choice of bike - one which offers a battery-powered boost to his pedalling, and costs roughly the same as an average annual salary in the city.

Then there was the mayor's violation of a number basic traffic rules. One of the images on his Facebook page shows him attempting to turn left on a major road, which is forbidden in Kiev. And another shows him pedalling across a pedestrian crossing, when he should have walked.

But as the trend grew, residents started hectoring Klitschko for ignoring much bigger problems. They used the comments box to accuse him of mishandling construction projects, and failing to provide adequate access for disabled people.

"This reminds me of the Titanic. It is sinking, but all that bothers [the mayor] is cycling routes," one user wrote.

"Over the weekend I saw a man in a wheelchair which couldn't cross the street because the kerb was so high you'd need a 4x4 to climb it," said another.

And then the memes started.

The image of Klitschko racing forward on his new bike was superimposed onto some of Kiev's less attractive neighbourhoods.

There was the street flooded after a thunderstorm.

Mayor photoshopped in flood

And the stretch of grass - apparently turned to mud by cars parked where they shouldn't.

Mayor photoshopped in mud
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And when Ukranian newspaper Vesti published a picture of Klitschko falling over on a crossing, it spawned many more, all in groups of three. First the original shot, next the mayor "cycling past" a shabby part of the city, and third, of course, the fall.

Klitschko meme

The mayor has not responded to the criticism, but has taken to Facebook to say that he was not hurt in the fall, and that it shouldn't discourage anyone from cycling to work.

Blog by Dmytro Zotsenko

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