Tuesday 7 February 2012

Cycling and the BBC

Yesterday I received a message from the BBC to call them. It was with regards to an article that they were going to run today. They wanted to check that it was ok to use some of my footage. At the time I was busy cooking dinner for the family (a rare event), so I agreed, being assured it would be a reasonable and balance article.

Here it is.

Having the reporter/researchers e-mail address who contacted me, I decided to send the following e-mail.

I managed to watch the report this morning, It was reasonable in a lot of aspects. However, myself and a large number of cyclists feel that the balance is a bit skewed. This criticism is not aimed just at this article, but at a lot of similar articles on the BBC.

Would you be interested chatting about this at all?

The biggest problem is the victim culture that the BBC appears to support in this and in similar reports. In every report about cycling and cycle safety, red light jumping cyclists, Hi-Vis clothing and bike lights seem to get mentioned. It is indeed correct that some cyclists run red lights, they shoudn't. It is indeed correct that, 'in certain circumstances' Hi-Vis can help make a cyclist more visible. It is indeed correct that a cyclist should have lights at night.

However, if there was a hypothetical report on car drivers being bulled and put at risk by irresponsible HGV and bus drivers I am sure the article would not mention drivers using mobile phones, drivers speeding, and drivers tailgating. By focusing on red light jumping cyclists, hi-viz and lights (the cyclist in the piece was very visible despite not having lights) the BBC is blaming the victim.

'The victim didn't have hi-viz on, so they are partly to blame.....

This is where the reporting is skewed. By far the biggest effect on cycle safety comes from proper infrastructure such as there is in Amsterdam and Copenhagan (you don't see cyclists with Hi-Viz on there!) and from better driver awareness of what cyclists require, and better enforcement of the law with regard to careless and dangerous driving. Cyclists and of course pedestrians are by far the most vulnerable road users. We have every right to be there ( I won't even mention the 'Road Tax' argument.)

I was interested in the comments on lack of space for decent infrastructure, in fact this is generally not true. Look at how tight the space is in sections of Amsterdam!

There is a significant upsurge in cycling at the moment and this is likely to continue. However, if we are to truly see a significant increase in sustainable transport we need a change in attitude from all road users. It's not easy for many to stomach, but we need a change of focus, we need to make cycling easier and it will cost money. However, what we never seem to get across in the media is that one more cyclist equals one less car. More cycling, means less congestion. I'd really love if the BBC would show other videos I have (or parts of), such as these ( http://youtu.be/z8t3tAlBl4I or http://youtu.be/VW0vSPA5-V4).

I think there is lots of potential for a follow up piece to this. I think the BBC has an opportunity to set the record straight and to take the debate further forward. I, and many other cyclists like me, feel that the time has come to stop blaming the victim and to start looking at how we can make the roads a better place for everyone to use.

As with many of the e-mails I send to companies and individuals on this subject I will be posting this e-mail on my blog (later). Rest assured though, that I would never post any identifiable information.

I look forward to your reply.

I'll let you know if I hear back.


  1. Might be interesting to note that hi-viz isn't in the consciousness here at all. I've never read a news article that here even mentioned them, nor people talk about it when discussing cycling safety. It wasn't until I read article from the UK that I ever saw them mentioned.

  2. Perhaps we need to get David Hembrow involved somehow? Get a satellite/phone link up with the BBC. This myth that "there's not enough space on the roads" is missing the point. There isn't the space because no-one is being brave enough to say "lets have a safe route and restrict the motor vehicle"

    Somehow we need to get across the point WHY cyclists dont always use the off-road cyclepaths
    ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6_U4xdZh0hs ) Glass, bollards, pedestrian abuse...

    Somehow we need to get across that cyclists dont like to be buzzed and tailgaited. Good driving is appreciated.

    This testing nonsense. Fiat and Gerraint Thomas working together recently on a share the road campaign - Gerraint said something like: "..83% of adult cyclists have a full licence.." So its a myth that cyclists are untrained - plus most of us did the old cycle proficiency, many are now doing Bikeability.

    My own views on the BBC and co here:

    Lastly the legal system needs a kick up the arse. Your own experiences with that very Tanker driver say a hell of a lot.

  3. The BBC forget the we have the right to use the roads on foot, riding a bicycle or riding a horse, but drivers are only there by license. A driving license is a privilege and not a right, it comes with a number of responsibilities which are often, sadly, ignored.

    If we swapped the term cyclist for pedestrian, then their attitude become clearly unacceptable. Looked at realistically cyclist are really just wheeled pedestrians. The real danger on our roads comes from drivers, but most drivers are in deep denial about the potential risk they pose to others.

  4. Aaargh. It fcks me off so much when people say there isn't enough space for cycle lanes in London. There's plenty of space to put parking everywhere on the streets. Get rid of parking on one side of the street and put in a two-way cycle lane.