BBC announces documentary focusing on cyclists and motorists in 'The War On Britain's Roads'

Hour-long film will use footage from cameras mounted on cars and bikes

by Simon_MacMichael   April 27, 2012  

London cyclist approaching junction.jpg

The BBC has announced that it is to screen an hour-long documentary called The War On Britain’s Roads that will use cameras mounted on bicycles and cars that will examine the relationship between cyclists and motorists.

The broadcaster describes the programme as “an adrenaline-filled one-off film for BBC One,” during which “viewers will be parachuted into the middle of a war that is raging between two-wheeled road users and their four-wheeled counterparts in The War On Britain’s Roads.”

If that makes it sound as though the programme’s approach is that drivers and cyclists are two separate tribes – in practice, of course, most adult cyclists do hold a driving licence, and regular cyclists are more likely than average to own a car – the impression is confirmed in the rest of the press release regarding the programme.

“As more and more people take up cycling as a way of beating the traffic or just keeping fit on their commute, the potential for conflict between cyclists and drivers has increased massively,” the BBC said.

“Now cameras installed on bikes and in vehicles will use heart-stopping footage of interactions between road users to reveal a shocking picture of life on Britain’s roads. The film will follow current cases as they go through the courts and revisit the tragic stories of some of those who have lost their lives on Britain’s roads.”

The documentary has been made by Leopard Films, whose Chief Executive Officer, Todd Austin, commented: “This timely documentary highlights a growing issue on Britain’s roads, from the viewpoint of both the motorist and the cyclist. BBC One is the perfect home for this insightful and at times shocking film.”

The War On Britain’s Roads is one of four documentaries announced yesterday that will include footage shot by the subjects themselves, the others being I Want To Change My Body and We’re Having A Baby, both of which will be aired on BBC Three, and BBC Two’s Britain In A Day.

While the BBC describes The War On Britain’s Roads as a “one-off film,” an article from Broadcast Magazine republished on Leopard Films’ own website claims that the “It is regarded within the BBC as having the greatest series potential.”

Charlotte Moore, Commissioning Editor, Documentaries at the BBC, explained the idea behind the four films: “Documentary filmmakers are always trying to get inside other people’s lives – to get as close as possible to what people are seeing and feeling.

"As far back as the Video Diaries series in the 1990s, the BBC has been pioneering in giving the Great British public the chance to help shape the documentaries it produces, giving viewers a voice to tell their own stories in the most intimate and authentic way possible.

"One of the wonderful things about the explosion in the number of filming devices over the past decade is that more and more people are filming their own lives, giving filmmakers access to a wealth of quality footage shot by people in almost any situation you can think of.”

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Sounds as this sensationlist rubbish will end up putting more people off cycling in the future rather than a balanced documentary giving a fair representation of the advantages of cycling, although I will watch it and then commnt afterwards (if the apoplexy allows)
A suggestion for the opening score would have to be Bowie's putting out fires with gasoline.

FATBEGGARONABIKE's picture

posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [486 posts]
27th April 2012 - 14:47

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I like bikes, but wait a minute...I like cars too. There's only one way to sort this out -Fight! Doh, looks like I'll be fighting myself then...

...

posted by AlexStriplight [64 posts]
27th April 2012 - 14:49

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As sad as it is, being shown current court cases and hearing about those who lost their lives on the road will probably be the best way to get people to think about their own actions on the road.

The hidden positive in this is that viewers will be made aware of the fast growing use of cameras on cycles and the reduced chance of getting away with being reckless.

posted by Celeste08 [38 posts]
27th April 2012 - 14:49

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re: the "why isn't the BBC making a proper documentary?" question. This is not Panorama, this is an independent production company that will be seeking to make their product as re-sellable (is that a word?) as possible so they are not interested in a real documentary, just some light entertainment in the vein of 'World's Mentalist Police Raids' that will end up on one of the freeview channels or dubbed for foreign consumption.

The BBC are just buying in some crap to sandwich between a docu-reality-drama-soap about bulimic teenage vampires and a re-run of a comedy panel show. It'll be watched by about 7 people, half of whom won't be old enough to drive and forgotten by the weekend.

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posted by joemmo [694 posts]
27th April 2012 - 15:06

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What time is the docu-reality-drama-soap about bulimic teenage vampires on?! Big Grin

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
27th April 2012 - 15:26

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After midnight on a small channel the BBC has a stake in Big Grin

I'll get my coat....

posted by Sadly Biggins [261 posts]
27th April 2012 - 15:37

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Oof!

Could have been worse - you might have said it was on BBC Von-hahaha!

(Sincere apologies to anyone with fond childhood memories of "The Count" in Sesame Street - that's his laugh above, not mine...)

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
27th April 2012 - 15:48

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I love to count ha ha ha Devil

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posted by cidermart [446 posts]
27th April 2012 - 17:03

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Surprise After a particularly fraut ride to work one morning, I was tempted to get in touch with the Beeb to do a show like this, tentatively called "A day in the life of an ordinary cyclist - the flip-side of Top Gear", but then I changed my mind as it won't be watched by anybody who cares or would modify their selfish, ignoant behaviour.

posted by stealth [151 posts]
27th April 2012 - 19:07

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Apologies for the spelling in my last post. When is it going to be aired?

posted by stealth [151 posts]
27th April 2012 - 19:29

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stealth wrote:
Apologies for the spelling in my last post. When is it going to be aired?

No worries about spelling, we can all be a bit slapdash on that *cough*

But if you use the edit button underneath, you can go in and make some 'ninja edits' without anyone noticing - appropriate, given your user name...

Wink

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7497 posts]
27th April 2012 - 20:02

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Don't knock the programme until it has been aired - and then we can offer a measured, considered view. Friction between cyclists and motorists is a hot topic and we should welcome any initiative that lays out the issues in front of the general public. Years ago there was so few bikers about that the BBC would never have contemplated showing this kind of programme, especially on its main, biggest-audience channel. This is an opportunity to inform, educate and even change perceptions.

posted by Eyebrox [12 posts]
27th April 2012 - 23:53

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I have to agree with Eyebrox. Cycling has been such a niche activity that BBC1 would never have been interested for most of the last 50 years.

There are pillocks riding bikes and driving cars. Regardless of the balance of the programme, it will inform and entertain. Many motorists will appreciate that most cyclists are also car drivers. They will also be more aware that their on-road bullying may be captured on video and used as evidence to prosecute them. These are significant factors that may counter what Colin Pooley's report called 'power asymmetry between road users'.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
28th April 2012 - 1:09

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all of the above - and more. Its typical 21st century bollix programming. Sensationalist, aimed at the lowest common denominator, wooing the floating couch potato (is that an oxymoron?) with their 20 second attention grab span as they dither over this, monster truck racing, coppers-in-fast-cars-part-7914, killer sharks and nasty nazis.

And I'd wager the program will be worse than it sounds even.

Next week - death on the high seas... swimmers versus jet skis.

didds

posted by didds [39 posts]
28th April 2012 - 9:50

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When I've seen it, I *may* comment. Until then, everything else is just conjecture...or saber rattling. Yawn

Batch.

posted by batch [59 posts]
28th April 2012 - 10:14

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Eyebrox wrote:
Don't knock the programme until it has been aired

I entirely agree. I wonder if any of those posters so quick to condemn in advance of the show have actually been to Leopard Films website to see what is their documentary making history. It would appear that some have an aversion just to the mention of the words "TV Documentary". I wonder what some of the great documentarists of the past would make of that, Pilger, Alastair Cooke, Attenborough, etc etc. Or the makers of the weekly Panorama series. We have yet to find out whether this will match any of those in depth of analysis etc but please, let's at least hold off the slagging/praising to the heavens (or somewhere in between) until it's been aired.

As someone who considered making just such a documentary based on my own and others YouTube clips I have to say that I'm wholeheartedly in favour that such a program has been commissioned. Many YouTube clips have shown astoundingly poor behaviour on the part of motorists. At a time when cyclist safety is at least on the radar thanks to the Sunday Times campaign, The CTC addressing the Transport Select Committee's Road Safety Enquiry and even the ignorant public comments of Addison Lee boss Griffin and Road Safety Minister Mike Penning, it's certainly a good time to increase public awareness of just what it means to be a cyclist on Britain's roads.

Personally, I'm greatly looking forward to seeing the results of the film maker's efforts.

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posted by TiNuts [92 posts]
28th April 2012 - 11:13

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Much as I would like to agree that we should reserve judgement until we see it, the documentary's advertised titled says it all really, so I will carry on condemning it anyway.

True documentary TV is someting of a rarity these days, with most subjects trivialised or sensationalised to make them more "entertaining". The BBC sadly is not immunde to this trend.

Dumbed down Britain!

posted by Paul M [294 posts]
28th April 2012 - 18:10

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Given some of the astounding behaviour I've seen and experienced, the title really isn't that far off the mark.

TiNuts's picture

posted by TiNuts [92 posts]
28th April 2012 - 18:24

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I agree, this is going to pick the very worst behaviour from all sides, ie. Angry Road Nazis, BMW drivers invading the patch of tarmac around every cyclist that is clearly marked Poland, against the aggressive light and pavement jumping antics of the lunatic messenger riders who do honestly believe that nobody has more rights than them to any urban space. This will all be presented as the norm and will, depending on your initial viewpoint, put you off getting on a bike or give you permission to punish every cyclist you see on the roads.
I hope it will be somewhat more balanced than this but I fear not.

I love the smell of cleats (mexican accent, you do the jokes)

posted by paulfrank [79 posts]
29th April 2012 - 10:05

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paulfrank wrote:
... ie. Angry Road Nazis, BMW drivers invading the patch of tarmac around every cyclist that is clearly marked Poland ...

Oh dear - classic Godwin's Law situation I'm afraid - thread over & you loose

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin%27s_law

posted by mad_scot_rider [518 posts]
30th April 2012 - 8:34

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If my experience is anything to go by sensationalist would be about right. I have been on the receiving end of a driver swinging his car into my car after dazzling me from behind (who then had a relative claim I had accelerated as he was passing me and the Police were going to charge me - why do these people never get charged?) the level of road rage out there is extraordinary.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
30th April 2012 - 9:49

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TiNuts - while commending your open-minded view, I think such intelligent programming to which you refer is all but non-existent.

My Dad has first-hand experience of Panorama looking for an environment that suited the intended 'findings' of the programme, with complete lack of interest in the reality.

Unfortunately, entertainment is valued far more highly than education.

I will be more than happy to be wrong, since I would like driver-cyclist relations to improve. I just retain a degree of cynicism regarding the makers of TV programmes and/or the nature of products which will be bought up by the various channels.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
30th April 2012 - 11:16

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Just for fun, anyone like to do a 'Road Tax' sweepstake for this programme?

Just state the time at which you believe the words "road tax" will be mentioned together in a sentence and in that order, the context or speaker are irrelevant.

The correct time will be the one showing when the programme is watched in iPlayer on a PC/Mac browser (just in case the other platforms are slightly different)

Winner gets.. I dunno... a 5% increase in their sensitivity to vertical compliance.

I'm going to stake my claim at 11 minutes 18 seconds.

joemmo's picture

posted by joemmo [694 posts]
30th April 2012 - 13:20

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Alright I'll play - 3 minutes 22 seconds

posted by baxy [4 posts]
1st May 2012 - 9:09

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Four minutes. Liking this game already.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
1st May 2012 - 9:22

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Copied from The Cycle Room Facebook page.
Dear Mr Preval
Reference CAS-1422506-17FWBY

Thank you for contacting us regarding the upcoming BBC One programme 'The War On Britain's Roads'.
I understand you’re unhappy because you feel the above programme will portray cycling and cyclists in a negative light.

I'm sorry you feel this way. We feel this timely documentary highlights a growing issue on Britain’s roads, from the viewpoint of both the motorist and the cyclist. As more and more people take up cycling as a way of beating the traffic or just keeping fit on their commute, the potential for conflict between cyclists and drivers has increased massively.

We will seek to provide the information which will enable viewers to make up their own minds; to show the reality and provide the forum for debate, giving full opportunity for all viewpoints to be heard. We aim to reveal a shocking picture of life on Britain’s roads from both the perspective of the cyclist and drivers.

I'd also like to assure you that I've registered your complaint on our Audience Log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to all BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive board, channel controllers and other senior managers. The Audience Logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions on future BBC programmes and content.

Once again, thank you for contacting us.
Kind Regards

posted by Marauder [235 posts]
1st May 2012 - 19:46

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I agree that the programme needs to be seen before judgment is passed. However, just the title is sensationalist and wildly innacurate. If it were a 'war', it would be a massacre of a wealthy, high tech weapon-rich state against sticks and stones. One thing which is often missed in these discussions is just how vulnerable and unprotected cyclists are compared to motor vehicle drivers, sat in a couple of tonnes of metal, padded by bags and seats etc., while cyclists are protected by nothing. Is it any wonder, then, that cyclists are on edge and defensive when their lives are regularly threatened by said tons of metal, while the threat to drivers is more along the lines of being irritated, or held up for a few seconds, or,horror, sustaining a scratch to paintwork.
I say this as a driver as well as a cyclist. I'm always aware when driving of how safe I feel in relation to cyclists.

posted by bikeylikey [155 posts]
2nd May 2012 - 9:49

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Some Fella wrote:
Shouldnt the BBC be spending its time and resources making decent programmes about the joys and benefits of cycling instead of cheap, lazy and sensationalist rubbish like this?

[[[[[[[ Hmmm...have you seen it, then?
P.R.

PhilRuss

posted by PhilRuss [228 posts]
5th May 2012 - 0:58

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A lazy and cheap way of documentary making for, what is to many of us, a mundane daily activity.....

F*ck off BBC and don't waste what little money you have nabbing the footage from the public just to cause a bit of sensationalism.

FWIW - 20+ years of cycle commuting and racing, very few incidents for me; never needed a camera, don't intend to buy one. This, of course, is up to the individual and how they feel on the road, newbie or just not confident, or what hobbies they enjoy - youtube and video editing is not for me.

I see more road idiocy by cyclists daily than by motorists. This will do more harm than good IMHO.

My knee hurts!

posted by aende [37 posts]
26th November 2012 - 13:12

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Well folks - having actually watched it I think you all owe the BBC a big apology. They did a fairly good job I think. They certainly put both sides, even those who were quite clearly in the wrong. However I'd say that the programme overall was in favour of cyclists. Particularly impressive was the cycling policeman who caught someone on a motorbike.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [275 posts]
10th December 2012 - 20:15

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