BBC TV "War On Britain's Roads" programme misrepresents cyclists, putting lives at risk

The London Cycling Campaign has strongly condemned a BBC1 primetime TV programme to be shown today because it misrepresents London’s cyclists in a way likely to create tension on the streets, putting vulnerable road users at greater risk.

Creating animosity and tension on our streets among road users is a barrier to improving behaviour, which puts pedestrians and cyclists at most risk.

The hour-long programme, which claims a "war" is taking place on UK streets, uses footage taken from helmet-mounted cameras worn by some commuter cyclists to document their journeys, including incidents of bad driving.

It intersperses genuine commuter cyclist video with snippets from a commercially shot video of professional cyclists engaging in death-defying street racing, passing off the latter as normal behaviour.

LCC’s chief executive Ashok Sinha said, “The BBC should be embarrassed to reduce itself to sensationalist journalism of this kind: the Dutch, Danes, French and Germans abandoned the notion of a ‘war’ between road users decades ago, yet the BBC is prepared to ramp up tension on our streets just to gain ratings.

“We reject the entire tribalistic premise of the BBC’s War On Britain's Roads programme, which seeks to divide people into those who cycle and those who drive, when in fact evidence shows that these are often the very same people.”

Surveys show that up to 90% of UK cyclists also drive, with an increasing number of Londoners choosing to commute or make local journeys by bike.

Ian Austin, the Labour MP who co-chairs Parliament’s All Party Cycling Group told the Guardian that the programme could make cycling more dangerous:

"I don't really see the point of broadcasting something so stupid, sensationalist, simplistic and irresponsible. It doesn't reflect what Britain's roads are like for the vast majority of people who use them."

The programme has been most strongly condemned for using six-year-old commercial video footage of professional cyclists riding recklessly through traffic and dodging pedestrians, presenting this as if it were from the headcam of a typical cyclist.

LCC campaigns officer Charlie Lloyd said, “The preview version we have seen presents these professional cyclist stunts, enacted six years ago, as the real behaviour of London cyclists, which is as false as suggesting a James Bond car chase is how the average person drives to work. The programme lacks any credibility.”

War On Britain's Roads could have been an excellent programme, exposing the grief and damage to families caused by  an unforgiving road system whose very design and rules exposes cyclists and drivers to the kind of danger of collision with each other that would be virtually unheard of in countries like the Netherlands, 

“Drivers don’t want to collide with cyclists, and cyclists don’t want to be killed or seriously injured in such collisions,” said Lloyd. “It’s unacceptable that the BBC has chosen crash TV over a serious exploration of how to reduce the toll of death and serious injury to cyclists – and pedestrians.”

Replies

  • By Hassan at 05:35pm 06 Dec 2012

I watched much of the programme in disbelief, there were cyclists there who are doing us no favours, though I couldn't tell how faithfully their comments were portrayed within context.

With the significant increase in cyclist numbers over recent years, it is my experience that drivers, especially the professionals, eg taxis, buses, vans, are more aware of us - and from our side, simple things like hand signals, eye contact and the occasional courtesy wave go a long way to making the streets a calmer and thereby safer place for us all to be.

There are still idiot drivers, and there are still idiot cyclists. I hope to see LCC continue its' sterling work in campaigning, including increasing safety awareness among cyclists.

My heart went out to the mother featured in the programme. I'm sure her story might have filled the entire hour and been more thought-provoking and constructive than what was offered. I doff my hat to her.

This programme was below the BBC. It was inflammatory, misguided and behind the times. Thanks to LCC for putting out this statement.

  • By frpac at 04:37pm 11 Dec 2012

Has anyone noticed an increase in road rage since the programme? I had my first unprovoked incident of anger the other day - complete with chasing, honking and shouting! I hate to think what might have happened if I'd actually provoked the guy...

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