Monday 17 December 2012

It Could Have Been So Different

It is generally agreed, in cycling circles at the very least, that the inclusion of the Allecat racing in the War on Britain's Roads documentary was irresponsible. Not only was it effectively fake and filmed as part of a race with a prize at the end of it, it just wasn't in any way representative of how people actually use the roads with bikes. It was in the documentary to create controversy, and to get a few extra viewers.

Shame on the BBC.

Notice I say BBC here and not Leopard. I have my suspicions that it was only when the first edit was shown to the BBC that they decided to spice it up a little with footage such as this. I could be wrong, but that is my impression.

Of course I could just continue the rant, but that would just be wasting everyone's time. What I want to show here is an example of a different approach.

What could we have replaced the Allecat footage with? How about this?

 Not quite as controversial is it. So let's imagine that the Allecat footage had been replaced with the footage above, and that the interviewees, including myself had a chance to comment on this. How might it have gone... (for this part you need to imagine the narrators voice).

 ...with the amount of cyclists increasing in our towns and cities some suggest that the battle is set to escalate. Cyclists and drivers are set to compete and fight over ever reducing amounts of space on our roads. However, others suggest that it doesn't need to be that way, and that we only have to look to our continental neighbours for the answer....'
 Footage starts playing

Angry Taxi Driver
I'm not sure we have enough space here for lanes like that. They'd have to take away a lot of the parking to make space for those lanes. Mind you, that might not be a bad thing, more business for me perhaps... (focus on big smile)

Lorry Driver
You know what, if the roads were designed like that I think I'd go and buy a bike myself and cycle in to work occasionally. I like the fact that in the busiest and more dangerous areas that the cyclists and other traffic are separate. That means there are a lot fewer opportunities for conflict.

Older Taxi Driver
(draws in breath...). That'll cost a few bob to put in 'ere. I suspect those in charge wouldn't want to spend money on that....very costly....Still, it does look like it would keep everyone that little bit safer
Dave, Scientist, 39 (i.e. me!)
This is how Britain's roads could look like, if only our politicians were willing to invest in our infrastructure. As it stands Britian's roads are just designed for cars. Our continental neighbours have shown that with the right political will we can make our roads safe for all.....Look at the lack of hi-vis jackets and helmets. There really is no need for any of that when the roads are properly incident with the HGV would never have happened if the roundabout in question had be designed to Dutch standards....

Ok, so it wouldn't hit as many headlines. You wouldn't have any Daily Mail hatelines...sorry headlines the following day. What you would have though is a documentary that not only looked at the issues, but also started the debate on what the solution might be. We could have had discussions on the 'space' issues, or lack of. We could have talked about the funding issues, the environmental issues, the health issues.

Instead we all talked about some bloke who made a bit of money out of putting up a prize for the biggest prize muppet cyclist.

So BBC, you missed an amazing opportunity to take the REAL cycling debate to the masses. Instead you helped fuel a war, that doesn't actually exist. Well done......


  1. Excellent alternative script David and certainly a realistic scenario of journalistic integrity but alas that's just not entertainment.

  2. I disagree this footage is fake, or that it is completely unrepresentative of cyclist behaviour.

    The footage is quite real. The roads are open, public roads. The people, other than the cyclists, are all unsuspecting road users or pedestrians. The cyclists really did do this. It is not at all fake.

    Further, while the cyclist behaviour shown was at the extreme end, the type of disrespect (even offences) for other road and pavement users shown is far, far from unusual amongst cyclists. I regularly see cyclists going through red lights - sometimes at speed, sometimes inconveniencing pedestrians crossing on their green light, or other road traffic. You only have to watch CycleGaz's "Silly Cyclists" videos to see many examples of this behaviour. I've had cycle messengers in Glasgow cut across me and cause me problems.

    Is behaviour that extreme unusual? Sure, but then so were some of the motorist behaviours shown. Are the cyclists shown a tiny problematic subset of cyclists, and not representative of the majority? Sure. But the same applies to the motorists shown.

    It's a very small set of people causing the problems. However, there are people causing problems on *both* sides. Yes, the motorists are technically more dangerous, due to the much greater energy of their vehicles, but the reckless cyclists still lead to a *perceived* problem/danger in motorists and pedestrians.

    To ignore that fact is to ignore the concerns of the other side. To ignore the concerns of the other side is to lose the chance to persuade them.

    I thought the BBC programme was quite fair. I think the segment of the cycling community that has been rounding on this programme as a terrible injustice for the inclusion of *real* footage (as real as any of the other footage) should re-assess their position perhaps.

  3. pjakma, the point about the "fake" footage is that the audience was not informed about where the footage came from. To do this is unfair, as it does not enable the viewer make their own judgement about the validity of the footage. In contrast, every other piece of footage shown was real and could be identified as such. This is where the unfairness lies.

    Now don't get me wrong, I don't think any fair minded individual will deny that these activities take place, but the program lost some credibility by its important omission.

    If, for example, someone was to bring up the footage in conversation, I think it would be quite correct to point out the facts about the footage and continue the conversation in light of that information rather than ignore them.

    One last point. I think you are over egging the pudding when you say that the silly cyclist footage shows cycling of a comparable nature. If it was the case, why was that "real" footage not used by the BBC documentary instead?

  4. Great, but boring video of cycling in the Netherlands. The sad truth is we live in the UK., where we have a sub culture of violence and confrontation. The rest of Europe, apparently, doesn't suffer from this problem. We're never going to see such pictures of our streets, our citizens our too selfish.

  5. Welshcyclist, if I thought for one second that was true I would give up the campigning. There are bad drivers in the Netherlands to, we just need to design the roads to minimise conflict. I believe it will happen if we make it happen.

  6. Pjakma, if using the Alleycat footage was fair, we should have had some illegal car racing footage as well to demonstrate typical driving standards.

  7. David, but there *was* also plenty of footage of reckless and even illegal behaviour by motorists!