BBC programme bashes London's cyclists

But little said about the dangers cyclists face

by Simon_MacMichael   February 23, 2010  

London bus and cyclist.jpg

A BBC London TV programme aired last night, and available to watch now on the BBC iPlayer for viewers throughout the UK, has hit out at ‘Lycra louts’ who ride through red lights and on pavements, but failed to acknowledge the dangers that cyclists themselves face daily on the capital’s roads.

The ten-minute report by former Top Gear presenter Adrian Simpson acknowledged that “most cyclists do have respect for other road users,” but its general anti-cycling tone was set at the very outset by Inside Out host Matthew Wright, who introduced the show with the words, “riding roughshod over the rules of the road – we ask if pedal power has gone too far?” before appearing at the start of the report itself, saying “I think we’re all familiar with the capital’s Lycra louts…”

Simpson introduced the ten-minute segment in period costume, riding a penny farthing as he reminded us that under the Offences Against The Person Act 1861, anyone found guilty of “wanton and furious cycling” back then could end up spending seven months in jail, although he claimed nowadays you’d be more likely to receive a severe reprimand.

The report continued in similar vein – interviewees included a lollipop lady in Islington complaining about cyclists tearing past as she tried to shepherd children across the road and a mother whose daughter had been hit by a pavement cyclist, and where footage of cyclists was shown, it was seldom in a positive light, whether red light jumpers being caught in a police clampdown in Kensington, a courier weaving his way across a box junction, or the monthly Critical Mass ride corking traffic at Waterloo roundabout and “boxing in” a taxi on The Mall.

Even where views representing cyclists were invited, the context within which they were framed seemed to back up the report’s apparent standpoint that we are a danger to other road users, and pedestrians in particular.

One example came at the very start of the programme during Wright’s introduction, in which a man was shown saying, “you have to look out for the person who’s more vulnerable than you are, and if you’re a cyclist, you have to look out for those pedestrians – they’re the most vulnerable.”

Another quote from the anti-cycling lobby? Not quite, although it does seem that way when you first see it. It turns out from the report that the comment was made by Tom Bogdanowicz, local campaigns director at London Cycle Campaign, and was just part of his explanation of the hierarchy of consideration of road users, meaning that drivers of bigger vehicles needed to be aware of smaller ones, starting with lorries at the top and filtering all the way down to cyclists and pedestrians at the bottom.

Those remarks formed just part of his interview for the show, much of which ended up on the cutting room floor, and this afternoon he told “The really important issue on the roads is to reduce road danger from larger vehicles and this can be done by improving training for lorry drivers and ensuring that all roads are designed with vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists in mind.”

Official statistics highlight that over 250 times more pedestrians have been killed in the UK after being struck by a motor vehicle than following a collision with a cyclist in the last decade. Last year, Jim Fitzpatrick, then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, said in a written reply to a question in the House of Commons that 29 pedestrians had been killed in Britain in accidents involving cyclists between 1998 and 2007, compared to 7,692 who were killed in collisions with motorised vehicles - that's more than 250 times more.

The segment takes up the opening third of the 30-minute show, and for the next six days it can be watched by viewers throughout the UK, not just in London and the South East, on the BBC iPlayer by following this link. Have a look, and let us know what you think.

20 user comments

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a very mild bash. Presenter seemed at pains to say 'some cyclists' Hoorays from borough councils; well you can't expect much by way of intelligent comment from them, nor it seems from a supposed CM rep. (not sure CM has reps). I have little sympathy for the RLJ-ers if you don't want the fine don't do the crime.

Sure, something needs to be done about road casualties caused by drivers and their poor standards of behaviour and compliance with the Highway Code. But other peoples' misdemeanours on the road are not an excuse for cyclists to behave the same way.

Really, though?

posted by workhard [393 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 16:42


i agree workhard. it's a real shame that you only need to sit around with a camcorder at a busy junction for a bit to get plenty of footage of people on bikes behaving like w*nkers. It's always going to be the stick we get beaten with, so let's stop beating our chests and bemoaning the standards of driving in this country, and get our own house in order. I say summary justice: pump in the spokes for anyone riding like an idiot. Devil Devil Devil

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [305 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:00


It didn't seem like much of a bashing to me. It only seemed to be getting at the cyclists that obviously take the p*ss such as the RLJ's. The CM spokesman was speaking rubbish about not stopping at red lights for own safety. There is never a reason not to stop at a red light so if you get caught there is not an excuse and don't winge if you get fined. I do think it's OK to ride on the pavement sometimes but you have to remember that pedestrians have the right of way and if you respect that then people will respect you.

Jon C-L®'s picture

posted by Jon C-L® [3 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:14


Define "idiot" cactuscat Big Grin

Denzil Dexter's picture

posted by Denzil Dexter [141 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:16


my main criteria:

* riding without lights at night
* jumping red lights
* riding on the pavement if you're not a child
* not treating pedestrians the way you want cars to treat you

can't follow these simple rules? that makes you an idiot in my book. i have in the past, and will again, pull people up for doing these things because they make drivers angry, and angry drivers make *me* less safe. Apart from the last one, that's just simple common sense.

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [305 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:18


I thought it was balanced, the segment was about cyclists (a stated minority of cyclists) breaking the law. If the segment had been about the dangers of cars jumping lights I'm sure it would have taken a similar vain.
I'm glad to see Police enforcing cyclists RLJing and fining offenders (as should happen to drivers too).
I enjoy my cycling and hate it when some driver doesn't give me enough room or cuts me up, it also really p*sses me off when I'm sat at the lights and a cyclist (generally undertakes) and then proceeds through the red!
And don't get me started on this 'Critical Mass' group, they seem to be a bunch of anarchists flouting every law in the book and clearly trying to intimidate other road users..

posted by baldcyclist [6 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:29


The law according to cactuscat doesn't seem to allow for much grey shading…

With you all the way on jumping red lights and giving due consideration to pedestrians, but there are times when I can see that cycling on the pavement is a sensible option.
… as for riding without lights, erm I do that quite a lot, have you never done the same cactus? Go on, bet you have?

Denzil Dexter's picture

posted by Denzil Dexter [141 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:31


Denzil Dexter wrote:
as for riding without lights, erm I do that quite a lot, have you never done the same cactus? Go on, bet you have?

of course! Big Grin Big Grin Big Grin

happy to admit that it makes me an idiot though. and not for quite a while

cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [305 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:35


Hold on baldcyclist - the use of police resources to catch a few red light jumpers was plainly daft. How many of them did it take - I counted about 7!! To hand out a few fixed penalty notices. Is London so crime free that some knobhead putting nobody but themselves at risk and even then only a tiny risk is worth all that effort?

Not to have a pop at drivers, but if they spent the same effort clamping down on drivers using their mobiles the streets WOULD be a safer place.

Darned if I do…

Mr Sock's picture

posted by Mr Sock [153 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 17:37


I believe the majority of commuter cyclists have lights fitted and do not jump red lights as they realise that the person at most risk would be themselves. Owning a nice road bike I have no desire to ride on the pavement as it I know it presents a nuisance to pedestrians and also my wheels!

Admittedly there are a handful of disrespectful cyclists out there, but there are also drivers that disrespect the rules of the road too.

P Romeo

posted by romeo [2 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 18:32



Just opened and he has some bad news causing him to give away 3 Great Bikes against donations to a Cancer ridden relative!
The contest is only for a few days so read and decide!

Skippy(advocate for "Disabled / Para Sport")@skippydetour. blogging as skippi-cyclist.blogspot & Parrabuddy.blogspot currently on the road with ProTour Grand Tour Events .

skippy's picture

posted by skippy [409 posts]
23rd February 2010 - 20:54


It goes to show how populist programmes such as Top Gear pander to the perceived demands of Daily Mail readers. Cycling is still seen as a fringe activity whereas driving isn't. As a result, it is easy to see how cyclists are treated as a minority who 'get in the way of traffic'. The reality, that pedestrians face their greatest danger from cars, trucks and buses, or that surveys show 93% of accidents involving bicycles are not the fault of the rider can therefore be ignored.

If everyone on this forum complained to the BBC that the programme was factually incorrect and biased, the BBC would be forced to issue an apology. If you feel the programme was wrong, complain to the BBC as it is obliged to make redress.


posted by OldRidgeback [2581 posts]
24th February 2010 - 9:55


I think it was an anti-cycling bash; just see the title of the segment: "Has Pedal Power gone too far?". If that's not anti-cycling, I don't know what is.

Somebody explain how have we gone too far.

I'm starting to suspect the BBC is being run by the Daily Mail. They got Jonathan out, now this... Plain Face

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
24th February 2010 - 10:17


"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
24th February 2010 - 10:46


The clips they showed of cyclists terrorising pedestrians on the pavement, were what looked liked old people cycling slowly on the pavement to avoid very busy junctions!

personally, I don't see anything wrong with cycling on the pavement. I don't do it, but i've been cycling for 20 years and feel quite confident on the bike. a lot of people don't however, and cycling slowly and carefully on the pavement doesn't necessarily endanger anyone.

posted by ribena [169 posts]
24th February 2010 - 11:45


Once again go for the easy target - lazy programme making (again)

posted by Pickypong [55 posts]
24th February 2010 - 12:00


LondonCalling wrote:
I think it was an anti-cycling bash; just see the title of the segment: "Has Pedal Power gone too far?". If that's not anti-cycling, I don't know what is.

Oldest trick in journalism, if you ask a question in the start of a article the answer is (almost always) no.

The piece seemed fair enough, though the 'terrorising' by cyclist looked rather tame though probably quite annoying if you were walking on that pavement.

posted by miffed [169 posts]
24th February 2010 - 12:35


I am horrified at the dreadful cycling I see. I often challenge offenders, but so far they don't seem to understand what's wrong.

RLJing; pavements; no lights; wrong way; defective brakes. It's disgraceful, and I get abused for it, which pisses me off!

The other day I berated a woman, who was pavement cycling at night. Her excuse was that she'd been recently hit by a car [she was wearing a cast]. I suspect the real reason she was hit was that her lights were very dim, and which seemed to be using dying glow-worms as a light source. She was also wearing zero-reflectance clothing.

I think that more enforcement action is required, just like prosecutions for motorists usuing mobile phones and speeding.

posted by Recumbenteer [156 posts]
24th February 2010 - 15:46


I think cactuscat is right, it isnt tough to put some lights on your bike when you know your gonna be riding in the dark.

TwiggyHo's picture

posted by TwiggyHo [60 posts]
24th February 2010 - 17:23


I got clobbered due to waiting for a red light by a rather quick on the accelerator car last year. I was just not quick enough of the spot. It seems I need to have the acceleration of car otherwise you risk getting clobbered.

But I did follow the rules of red lights that must be some consultation to those of you above who say we must follow the rules of for red lights or drive a bike like a car, even if it damages us or our bikes.

It transpires that if I had moved before the lights changed thereby effectively jumping the lights just after the lanes to my left and right had stopped I would not have got hit.

Well rear wheel and rear triangle of frame bent just like me. We must follow the law even if we get hurt is what I think many people are saying here. Please note the voice of sarcasm here and irony if you get irony.

posted by Ciaran Patrick [119 posts]
1st March 2011 - 19:17