Fears grow that BBC's cycling documentary 'War on Britain's Roads' will be 'sensationalist and irresponsible'
MPs and cycling groups add their voices as it emerges a film of an alleycat race could be used to depict 'normal cyclist behaviour'
MPs and cycling groups have added their voices to the cycling community that fears a BBC helmet cam documentary will be 'sensationalist and irresponsible', pitching ordinary commuting cyclists against motorists in a way that could make the roads more dangerous.
The programme, 'War On Britain's Roads', described by the BBC as containing footage that "gives us a dramatic and unique insight into the unfolding tension and conflict," will be aired on BBC One at 9pm on Wednesday. How unique, we'll find out on Wednesday, but the programme's publicity and its title sounds uncannily similar to another BBC documentary, Road Rage - the battle for UK roads aired by the corporation in 2008.
In an interview with The Guardian, Ian Austin MP, who co-chairs the all-party cycling group in parliament, said: "I'm not in favour of banning things but 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."
According to reports by journalists and others who have seen the preview version the documentary feature helmet-cam footage depicting confrontations and assaults - including video footage of an assualt on a cyclist in Bexley that went viral and led to an arrest and conviction after being posted by the victim on the road.cc forum, plus controversially, a professionally shot commercial film of an alleycat race in central London.
Although the film, shot by US film maker, Lucas Brunelle, who sells DVDs of his footage, shows participants disobeying the rules of the road and pulling off moves that endanger both themselves and other road users, the BBC fail to mention that it was a 'professional' stunt film, which could cause viewers to think that it was a depiction of ordinary cycling.
Mr Austin says that his fear is that the footage will play into the public's worst perceptions of how ordinary cyclists behave.
He said: "I cycle in London every week, and have been for years. I've seen lots of car drivers driving badly, lots of cyclists doing things they shouldn't, and everyone should obey the rules of the road. But I've not seen cycling like that. The idea that they present that as normal cycling is mad, irresponsible and dangerous."
A BBC spokesman said the courier race sequence was genuine footage shot by a cyclist taking part and uploaded to YouTube. He said: "The footage has since been released commercially, but the fact remains that it depicts real behaviour on the streets of London."
The spokesman added: "The programme is intended to be a serious examination of the relationship between cyclists and other road users.
"It uses actual footage of real incidents to provoke discussion and investigates the outcomes and consequences of several of the incidents captured.
"Raising awareness of these issues, on a primetime BBC1 programme, can only be a positive thing for both cyclists and other road users."
Charlie Lloyd from the London Cycling Campaign added his fears about the film: "The programme's integrity is destroyed by the use of six-year-old commercial video footage of professional cyclists doing reckless stunts, endangering themselves and everyone else.
"Showing this as real behaviour is as false as presenting a James Bond car chase as how average people drive to work. The programme makers chose to fan the flames of aggression on the roads, that can only increase the risk for all of us."
Roger Geffen, from the CTC, said that the campaign group had met programme makers a year ago and tried to dissuade them, showing them statistics that proved a ong-term increase in cycling safety.
He said: "Instead of covering this good news story the BBC has instead chosen to portray cycling as an activity solely for battle-hardened males with helmets and cameras. This hostile stereotyping merely scares mums, children and others back into their cars."
Martin Gibbs, policy director for British Cycling, said: "It sounds like they're taking what is a serious issue and making it into drama, which is disappointing.
"What disturbs me is that it's creating an artificial distinction between cyclists and motorists. Our figures show that nine out of ten British Cycling members drive cars."
To watch an excerpt from the documentary, including the courier race, click here.