The Curious Case of Anne Savage and The Revolution

The Revolution
It was the perfect tag team act. Anne Savage, Australia's highest profile cycling lobbyist, locked in a Tour de Force partnership with Cycle Law, the Australian law firm which specialises in cyclists who are injured in road accidents. Together they administered Australia's largest Facebook group devoted to fighting any and all threats to the cycling cause. By October 2019 the group was huge with tens of thousands of photos and videos posted by members. Just three days later it was all gone without any warning. Matt Wallace writes about the Curious Case of Anne Savage and The Revolution.

For most people,  riding a bicycle is a simple pleasure.  But not for cycling activists like Anne Savage.  The modern social justice cycling warrior is  obsessed with social media conflict.  They live for it.  And they love nothing more than to hang out in places where they can engage in recreational outrage.   They simply love recreational outrage  –  it’s an addiction.

In October 2019 the Admins of an incredibly popular Facebook group called The Revolution grew very sick of the “recreational outrage” problem.  They grew so sick of it they deleted every single post. The Revolution had thousands of cycling members nationwide.  Over the course of three days the Admins deleted at least thirty thousand posts, and they removed the ability for anyone to write a new post without Admin approval,  effectively shutting the Group down.  To describe the event ‘as a shock to the Australian cycling community’ is an understatement of massive proportions.

Originally created with good intentions,  The Revolution became astonishingly popular astonishingly quickly.  However it didn’t take very long for a crisis of purpose to manifest itself.  What Cycle Law wanted from the Group was very different to what Anne Savage wanted.  Adding to the confusion,  over time it also became apparent what Anne Savage wanted from the Group wasn’t what her employers (Bicycle Queensland) wanted either.  With hindsight,  it’s reasonable to suggest Anne Savage was looking for legitimacy in the form of a well regarded national law firm to validate her aspirations as a cycling lobbyist.  Cycle Law,  conversely,  were hoping to drum up business if possible.

Meanwhile The Revolution also became famous as a place where cyclists could engage in defamation and doxxing towards members of the public  –  in a Facebook group run by a national law firm no less.  Worse yet,  the group was a closed group and that meant members were writing things which,  under normal circumstances,  would have resulted in countless defamation law suits.  Quite correctly McMinnes-Wilson became thoroughly sick of running the group. It was costing THEM time and money to administer yet it was bringing in zero business.

Anne Savage from Bicycle Queensland
Over time, both Cycle Law and Bicycle Queensland became increasingly uneasy with the confrontational approach being taken by Anne Savage in her media statements and appearances.

Our source at Cycle Law  –  a highly respected solicitor and a specialist in Personal Injury matters  –  says the experience was extremely draining.  “Anne came to us in January 2018 and sold us on the idea of working together.  She had recently been appointed as CEO at Bicycle Queensland and she was a whirlwind of energy.  So we created The Revolution in good faith and the next day Anne announced our collaboration on the Bicycle Queensland Facebook Page.  In a matter of days the Group was inundated with thousands of cyclists from all over the country who were completely fixated on portraying cyclists as permanent victims of persecution and police discrimination.”

Originally we didn’t want to go there,  we just wanted a group where people could come and ask questions about what to do if they were injured by a motor vehicle,  how to start a claims process,  that sort of thing.  But Anne convinced us to have faith,  a decision we later came to regret.  Her idea was to create a safe place where cyclists could talk about their problems getting police to act on their complaints.  But her other idea was to create a safe place where cyclists could talk about all the hate speech they were seeing.”

McInnes-Wilson agreed to let Cycle Law run the FaceBook Group as the basis for their new relationship with Anne Savage,  but it didn’t take long for things to become quite uncontrollable. 

“It was the hate speech angle which caused so many problems for us.  Too many people in the group believed there was no such thing as legitimate criticism about cycling   –  there was only ‘love speech’ or ‘hate speech’,  with no in between.  If you said the slightest negative thing about cycling you were automatically a ‘hater’ and Anne definitely promoted the idea if you were a hater you deserved whatever you got.  It was so exhausting.”

“We would remove people from the Group for inappropriate behaviour and Anne would let them back in.  Eventually we removed Anne as an Admin of the Group.  We tried to keep people on track with the stated goals of the Group,” continues the Cycle Law source.  “But they wouldn’t listen.  We warned them they couldn’t keep saying the things they were saying,  we warned them not to engage in personal vendettas.  Some of the defamation that was being written was scandalous.  Over time some really incriminating screenshots started leaking out into the public domain and that put us  (McInnes-Wilson)  firmly on the hook.  So we shut it down.”

The Revolution was also the place made Cameron Frewer famous. A tragic story, Frewer was a YouTube cycling advocate who specialised in filming dangerous close passes while riding his bicycle. In November 2018 Cameron Frewer was killed while riding on a 100kph motorway.

Frewer inexplicably had a shocking amount of bad luck with aggressive drivers wherever he rode a bicycle.  Of course most ‘normal’  people would naturally think “Dude,  if it’s so dangerous just find something else to do.  What’s the point of being right if you’re dead?  How will your kids benefit from that?”  The truth however was a bit darker when it came to Cameron Frewer.  The truth is he chose the most dangerous roads he could find because that’s where the best action was.  Also he was very fond of the notoriety he was afforded by his fans in The Revolution.

When Anne Savage saw what he was doing on his YouTube channel,  he was instantly elevated to cult like status.  After all,  this was a guy who was prepared to die to prove how dangerous cycling can be. Anne Savage used her media contacts to get Frewer into the news,  whereupon he quickly morphed from being an obscure cycling novice to the ultimate “martyr in waiting”.  For his part Frewer happily courted the adulation and yet oddly,  nobody ever seemed to notice Cameron Frewer had a “close pass rate” almost 15 times higher than the average.  

Ironically,  Dave Sharp himself recognised The Revolution was failing to achieve anything meaningful,  as noted here in this quote by Sharp from September 2019 in one of his final posts in “The Revolution” before it was shut down.

There's no evidence to suggest deterrence (in the form of fines) is having an effect on the number of close passes being experienced by cyclists. Just ask the Admins of The Revolution. There are literally thousands of videos showing close passes in this Facebook Group in just 18 months. Obviously the legislation has failed to achieve it's goals.

Dave Sharp, Safe Cycling Australia
In June 2019 Bicycle Queensland made the shock announcement Anne Savage had reluctantly tendered her resignation. Within a week Australia's most famous cycling lobyist was completely gone from cycling. Totally MIA.

It’s unclear exactly why Anne Savage resigned from Bicycle Queensland,  however what is known is she was failing to meet her KPI’s  –  specifically,  building their membership base and getting more members to sign up for BQ’s bicycle insurance protection.  Her arrival as the CEO of Bicycle Queensland was mostly unexpected in the cycling community.  Anne Savage was openly anti-car and she refused to own one.  If BQ were unsure what they were in for,  it’s reasonable to suggest the next bit of information should have been a red flag.

Prior to her role as CEO of Bicycle Queensland,  Savage had resigned from a 10 year job as a Communications Officer with the Queensland Cancer Council  –  and not on good terms.  She was instructed to remove pro-same-sex marriage literature from the Cancer Council’s website that she had put up without permission,  and that didn’t sit well with Anne Savage at a personal level.  Put another way,  it appears Anne Savage is not “easily told”.  It’s fair to say Anne Savage and BQ were uneasy bedfellows at the best of times,  and it seems her inability to focus on why she WAS hired is ultimately why she was discreetly asked to step down from her six figure wage after 18 months in the role.

For most people within The Revolution,  Anne Savage was a rock star  –  the ultimate in-your-face cycling lobbyist.  A few whispers floated about after her ‘resignation’,  however her membership in The Revolution ended shortly thereafter,  and quietly in the background her many posts were deleted without announcement.  If you’re looking for evidence Anne Savage was actually pushed from her role at Bicycle Queensland,  perhaps none better exists than the immediate change in tone of BQ’s social media content after Savage’s departure.  Gone were the relentless confrontational “Us vs Them” television appearances in which she would constantly attack police and constantly attack politicians,  immediately replaced by a new softer BQ tone which was subtle,  reserved and measured.

“Anne was very good at promoting Anne,”  says a source within Bicycle Queensland who has requested anonymity.  “But she wasn’t all that good at promoting Bicycle Queensland,  which is why she was hired.  On top of that,  she was openly aligned with Dave Sharp from Safe Cycling Australia,  and we’ve all had a run in with Dave Sharp (at one time or another) and lets just say he can be hard work at times.  At first we tolerated the relationship,  but over time it became unmanageable.  She kept going off the reservation and not doing the job she was hired for.  The first example of that was her ridiculous push for Presumed Liability Legislation.  It was obvious PLL was an idea she and Dave Sharp had cooked up to help Dave Sharp become relevant again.  Meanwhile we were in the office thinking “what the f**k are you doing?”

The “quid pro quo” relationship between Dave Sharp and Anne Savage was a source of great angst among the Board Members at Bicycle Queensland.  In April 2019 Dave Sharp was nominated by Savage to join the Board at BQ as a full time paid employee  –  a career option which would have suited Sharp given he was struggling to find work as a truck driver at the time.  “It was frosty” says the BQ source.  “Sharp walked into our Head Office smiling and wanting to shake hands with everyone.  Within 10 seconds he found out just how much everyone disliked him.  This was a guy who had mercilessly claimed each and every one of us had blood on our hands for the last 5 years because,  in his eyes,  we weren’t supporting his ongoing bitter war with the Amy Gillet Foundation.  So yes,  we had to go through the process,  but that was the beginning of the end for Anne Savage at Bicycle Queensland.  We couldn’t believe her judgement was so poor.”  

For all the good Dave has achieved within the cycling community, he’s also damaged the cause. He’s turned many cyclists and supporters off, and/or away, for many years. Which is another way of saying you dare not have an opinion which differs with his.

By October 2019 "The Revolution" was also gone. A noble experiment by McInnes-Wilson which basically didn't work out.

“Very soon after Anne disappeared from the cycling scene,  we found ourselves running a massive Facebook Group which was of no use to us,”  says the Cycle Law source.  “It wasn’t bringing us any business,  literally not one post in all the time we ran the group asked us a Personal Injury question.  We found ourselves asking why are we doing this?  How did we get stuck with this?  With hindsight,  knowing about the symbiotic relationship between Anne and Dave Sharp,  it’s obvious Anne created The Revolution to help her push for Presumed Liability Legislation.  They both wanted that as the next ‘Big Fight’ in their careers.  That was good for Anne and Dave Sharp but it was of no interest to us at Cycle Law.   After she left it was costing us so much time and effort to administer,  and to what end?”

At the time of shutdown “The Revolution” was averaging 10 new posts a day and roughly 50-70 comments a day.  Without warning everything was deleted.  Thousands of photos,  gone.  Thousands of videos,  gone.  Nick Hortovagni,  and his incessant bleating about tradies parking on Hedges Ave,  gone.  Perhaps most importantly,  gone was the defamation and the doxxing and the conspiratorial collaboration by the Group’s worst offenders.

“The defamation stuff caused us so many headaches,” says our Cycle Law source. “The Revolution was a private Facebook group so I guess a lot of the members thought they could say whatever nasty stuff they wanted,  and then get away with it.  But the problem was some of the people who were being targeted were OUR clients and we could see first hand the pain and anxiety they were experiencing,  and that’s what infuriated us the most.  It was like a feeding frenzy at times.  The worst culprits were just so shockingly righteous and hurtful.  It was awful to watch in real time.”

“So,  even though all the posts have been deleted,”  she continues,  “we still have them in backup form.  If any of our clients ever proceed with defamation litigation we’ll be supporting our clients and there’s a reason for this.  Dave Sharp for example was simply ruthless the way he’d make all these horrible false claims about people,  and he’d do that specifically to damage a person’s reputation.  But he was smart  –  he’d defame people inside The Revolution where he could enjoy the protection of the Group’s privacy settings,  but he’d do it knowing full well his followers would repeat his claims outside the Group.  It took us a while to work out what he was up to,  but it was basically a form of defamation by proxy.  And it was the same deal with Michael Kater.  He was doing the exact same thing.  They were both using the privilege of The Revolution to manipulate group members into targeting non members for online abuse outside of the Group.  That’s why we saved everything.”

Michael Kater targeting a member of the public.
An example of Michael Kater targeting a member of the public from within the privacy of a Facebook Group. The goal of posts like this is to disseminate defamation in a private context which then gets repeated by other people outside the privacy of such groups. It's a practice known in legal circles as 'defamation by proxy' and people like Michael Kater are particularly good at it. Because the defamation emanates from a private source, the victim has no idea where the defamation is coming from.

While McInnes-Wilson never intended “The Revolution” to end up becoming what it became,  the worst excesses of the group’s members went far deeper than a mere bunch of cycling zealots in their 50s with nothing better to do with their lives.  As the description in the title said,  it was a “Safe Online Place For Cyclists”.  Which was commonly interpreted to mean it was a place where cycling extremists could collaborate together (in private away from media scrutiny) to target people for online abuse outside of the Group.   And ultimately that’s why it was shut down.

Perhaps the defamation aspect explains why “The Revolution” became so famous so quickly.  It was a place where Australia’s cycling extremists could engage in limitless personal attacks and limitless doxxing,  but they could do it without getting caught.  Indeed,  if there is a flaw in the Facebook business model it’s the fact Facebook still promotes secret Facebook Groups.  If you’ve ever had the misfortune to comment on a cycling news story anywhere in the world,  you might have noticed the same “usual suspects” instantly show up and try to engage you in conflict.  It’s the secret FB groups like The Revolution where they coordinate their online abuse from.  These sorts of people love recreational outrage  –  they live for it.  And really,  that’s the problem cycling tends to face nowadays.  The typical citizen doesn’t see normal people talk about cycling,  they only see the “social justice warrior” crazies.