Sinister fallout from BBC cycling documentary as helmet cam cyclist receives hate mail

Rider challenged poor and dangerous driving in The War On Britain’s Roads

by Barney Fletcher   December 8, 2012  

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A cyclist whose helmet camera footage featured in the controversial BBC documentary The War On Britain’s Roads has received aggressive hate mail in the wake of the programme's aring.

Gareth Williams, 24, who posts his helmet cam footage under the moniker CycleGaz, was featured in the programme which went out on Wednesday night.

Scenes showed him remonstrating with bad drivers, including a taxi driver who cut him up dangerously.

One user on Twitter said: “I’d happily run him over.”

But Gareth shrugged it off, saying he was used to abuse.

He told the Evening Standard: “The threats are no different, to be honest. I put stuff on YouTube and I get a lot worse than that.

"It’s hot air. People think they are anonymous on the internet. Come the real world, they will run away crying. I don’t think I’m at risk.”

He played it down, tweeting yesterday: “Apparently I’m getting death threats. That’s funny because I haven’t seen any.”He told the Standard: “None of the stuff that was directed at me  from that point of view  was what I would consider out of the norm.

"It’s fairly easy to deal with. I don’t think about it. I get lots of people on YouTube saying, ‘If I see you I will run you over. You are going to die.’ You get so used to it you just ignore it.”

He said that he was disappointed with the tone of the documentary, in common with a lot of cyclist viewers.

“It was initially about the people using [helmet] cameras or calling for safer cycling.

"It was more about the campaign side and what people have done and how we push things forward, and how we use the cameras.

"That was pushed to the BBC but it wasn’t edgy enough for them. At that stage it would have been difficult for me to say I want to back out.

“I think they kind of represented me as ‘Jack the Lad’ and a cocky, arrogant young guy, but I feel more of a balanced person than that.

"I comment on bad cyclists as well. I’m not just going for bad motorists.”

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I watched the programme in full last night having only seen parts of the documentary earlier in the week.

A few observations. I'm sure Gaz's heart is in the right place BUT he is going out looking for trouble. It wouldn't make great viewing if he went out and all that happened is a driver gave way to him whilst he cycled down the street. I cycle in London almost every day. Yes, there are some bad drivers out there who don't give way to you and drive like a 3 year old with a driving licence. But there are also a lot of good drivers out there.

What relevance was the copper on a bike who stopped the motorcyclist just by Whitecross St.? What did that have to do with cycling other than the copper was on a bike? Representative of the tangential nature of the whole programme. Swaying from one topic to the other without reaching any logical conclusions or making any valid points.

Interesting how the Met Police cyclist moaned about red light jumping. God help him if Boris follows the example of the French and introduces an exemption for cyclists to jump red lights. IIRC, this is soon to be introduced in Paris.

Most of those video clips have been on Youtube for months and anybody who uses the internet (ie almost everybody) have seen all the footage before. BBC seems very late to the party by putting it on primetime BBC1.

Traffic Droid (who I have met) - not sure what he is trying to achieve? Shouldn't he join the Met Police if he is interested in law enforcement?

Overall, the programme was sensationalist, as many have said before me, and it's nothing as bad out there on the streets as the programme made out. Where's the footage of the good drivers? Of course, they don't show that because it wouldn't make good TV.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
8th December 2012 - 15:06

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Londonplayer.
I live in the USA so haven't seen this programme, but I'm interested in your comment about Cyclegaz going out looking for trouble; can you explain what you mean? I used to commute daily back in the UK and my experience was that I certainly had no need to go looking for trouble; it found me.

posted by pwake [272 posts]
8th December 2012 - 16:01

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pwake,

Banging on the side of cars and shouting at drivers will inevitably cause one or two of them to react at some point. Agree that you don't necessarily need to look for incidents as they do happen from time to time but I'm not sure that you get anywhere by deliberately winding up the drivers?

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
8th December 2012 - 17:06

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it seemes from most of the video that the shouting was a bit dramatic, although it was obvious that they were in danger. I had to bang on a car once as it turned out in front of me and i nearly hit the kerb, although i just tapped it so he knew i was by his back wheel, he moved out the way, i said thanks and we all carried on, which implies that all the frantic waving and shouting followed by going and telling off the drivers at the next set of lights isn't really worth it.

posted by jamjam [61 posts]
8th December 2012 - 17:17

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although if someone attacks me i'll see no problem in whacking them back...

posted by jamjam [61 posts]
8th December 2012 - 17:18

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Personally I'm more disappointed with him than the tone of the documentary. I would've hoped he learn something from watching the program back but clearly not.

If you go out to antagonize people then what do you expect? He's part of the problem but seems to think he's part of the solution.

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posted by thegibdog [72 posts]
8th December 2012 - 18:15

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Maybe having the camera on and perhaps looking to make a point with it changes the (re)actions of some cyclists?

There's a few on you-tube that seem to think they're the caped-barcam-crusader.. Smile

posted by james-o [188 posts]
8th December 2012 - 18:35

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All I will say is that Gaz is notorious for looking for trouble. I used to know him on a cycling chat forum and he was the most militant cyclist I had the displeasure to meet

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posted by Angelfishsolo [104 posts]
8th December 2012 - 20:07

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The man is a buffoon.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2662 posts]
8th December 2012 - 20:25

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I think the comments here are blowing things outta proportion, here is a convo from twitter I had with Gaz back in November after he posted a picture.

Everyone can see it on a computer without the need to have twitter, just click the link

https://twitter.com/cyclegaz/status/268794868640391168

Around 15,000 miles over 2 years in the picture. You really think it would have been a good show if they had just shown any random segments of his rides? He only posts parts of the rides where he comes into contact/conflict or whatever with others. Else there would be hundreds of hours of him having a merry journey around London....

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posted by Gkam84 [8668 posts]
8th December 2012 - 21:00

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Avoidance is the key to your safety. I have now retired, but have 45yrs of cycle commuting experience, in the early years I rushed around looking to do the journey in as short a time as possible I was knocked down 4 times by motor vehicle's, as time went by I became more savvy, my last job (13yrs of retail) I chose to work late shifts starting after school run/rush hour and chose a longer but less busy route and took my time, if someone cut me up, I did not react, staying away from possible aggression. Avoidance at every stage of your journey as much as possible is the key. Yes trouble will come looking for you still, but you will have minimised the number of incidents, much of the helmet cam "action" I have seen could have been averted by a more avoidance/defensive style of riding.

onward ever onward

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posted by bikecellar [224 posts]
8th December 2012 - 22:47

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Why should we need to use avoidance tactics to stay safe though, that's just putting ourselves down and looking upon ourselves as a minority group.

Yes some of the things could have been handled better and in certain points avoided all together. But by using defensive style's. We are going to back in the days of gutter cycling....

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posted by Gkam84 [8668 posts]
8th December 2012 - 23:08

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Second that. We all owe something to every assertive cyclist who's stood up for our right not to be cut up, pushed aside or ignored.

Noli porcum linguere

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posted by captain_slog [263 posts]
8th December 2012 - 23:17

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bikecellar wrote:
Avoidance is the key to your safety. I have now retired, but have 45yrs of cycle commuting experience, in the early years I rushed around looking to do the journey in as short a time as possible I was knocked down 4 times by motor vehicle's, as time went by I became more savvy, my last job (13yrs of retail) I chose to work late shifts starting after school run/rush hour and chose a longer but less busy route and took my time, if someone cut me up, I did not react, staying away from possible aggression. Avoidance at every stage of your journey as much as possible is the key. Yes trouble will come looking for you still, but you will have minimised the number of incidents, much of the helmet cam "action" I have seen could have been averted by a more avoidance/defensive style of riding.

+1

That, in a nutshell, is how you need to ride when you commute.

posted by londonplayer [671 posts]
8th December 2012 - 23:44

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Agreed that the footage shown is a very small proportion of his riding. He even states at the end of one of his You Tube clips that the vast majority of his interactions with motorists are fine.

Anyone who knows anything about health and safety will know that there is triangle so for every event there is many more slightly less serious events. http://www.cfidarren.com/r-safetytriangle.htm

I think a major thing also is the program never states that to get through to a driver in a metal box you have to YELL! That's why Gazz comes across a bit shouty ( I still cringed a bit though). They touch on it with the whistle but should have expanded.

Also from experience once the adrenaline starts flowing its hard to be resonable and nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like having a large metal object almost knock you off your bike!

All in all shoddy film making which didn't take its opportunities and left most including those in the program none the wiser...

posted by Nzlucas [88 posts]
9th December 2012 - 0:04

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londonplayer wrote:
bikecellar wrote:
Avoidance is the key to your safety. I have now retired, but have 45yrs of cycle commuting experience, in the early years I rushed around looking to do the journey in as short a time as possible I was knocked down 4 times by motor vehicle's, as time went by I became more savvy, my last job (13yrs of retail) I chose to work late shifts starting after school run/rush hour and chose a longer but less busy route and took my time, if someone cut me up, I did not react, staying away from possible aggression. Avoidance at every stage of your journey as much as possible is the key. Yes trouble will come looking for you still, but you will have minimised the number of incidents, much of the helmet cam "action" I have seen could have been averted by a more avoidance/defensive style of riding.

+1

That, in a nutshell, is how you need to ride when you commute.

I would argue there are times when offence is the best defence. IE Controlling the road places where its dangerous for someone to try and pass you.

I always go in defensive mode once the traffic slows down to a crawl because of cars turning through stationary traffic etc.

posted by Nzlucas [88 posts]
9th December 2012 - 1:15

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yes of course there are times when assertive action (eg moving out slightly to prevent someone squeezing past too close)is the safest course, every situation must be handled in the safest manner, sometimes moving nearer the kerb when you hear a large hgv coming round the corner behind you is safest I was really thinking of avoidance as a general attitude towards road use being safer in the environment we cycle in, rather than the environment we would all like to be cycling in.

onward ever onward

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posted by bikecellar [224 posts]
9th December 2012 - 10:15

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Nzlucas wrote:
Agreed that the footage shown is a very small proportion of his riding. He even states at the end of one of his You Tube clips that the vast majority of his interactions with motorists are fine.

Anyone who knows anything about health and safety will know that there is triangle so for every event there is many more slightly less serious events. http://www.cfidarren.com/r-safetytriangle.htm

I think a major thing also is the program never states that to get through to a driver in a metal box you have to YELL! That's why Gazz comes across a bit shouty ( I still cringed a bit though). They touch on it with the whistle but should have expanded.

Also from experience once the adrenaline starts flowing its hard to be resonable and nothing gets the adrenaline flowing like having a large metal object almost knock you off your bike!

All in all shoddy film making which didn't take its opportunities and left most including those in the program none the wiser...

I completely agree with this. Gaz's more recent videos seem to focus much more on technique and road positioning than altercations with drivers. I think he even seemed a little contrite when he re-watched the taxi argument on the show.

The show also painted him in a really bad light - almost as the villain of the piece. He does come across as balanced and decent in his YouTube vids. His Silly Cyclist compilations are ace, he's well-spoken and they're well-edited. They also show that cyclists are just as aware of other cyclists being dicks as drivers are.

Funnily enough, I also posted words to this effect on the Daily Mail's piece on Gaz and received 620 red arrows. I'm actually quite proud of that.

posted by thelimopit [118 posts]
9th December 2012 - 13:40

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The Programme Highlighted The Potential Dangers A Cyclist Faces On The Roads Of The UK. We should be Grateful that someone has brought this to the attention of the public.

There is no protection for any cyclist from a motorized vehicle; and no matter how a cyclist behaves; they do-not deserve to be harmed in any way! Human life is precious, we must respect - protect - and care about it.

posted by Mostyn [400 posts]
9th December 2012 - 18:35

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It was a rubbish programme put together by idiots. It will cause a lot of damage in the future.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2125 posts]
9th December 2012 - 22:40

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captain_slog wrote:
Second that. We all owe something to every assertive cyclist who's stood up for our right not to be cut up, pushed aside or ignored.

You are absoloutley right. We all owe something to the likes of cyclegaz. That is we are hated by a percentage of motorists.

The man is an eejit and needs to read the Highway Code, understand human nature and learn to cycle safely and defensivley.

I for one, do not feel fairly represented by somebody that talks on national TV about "taking a strong position" and whose footage shows him riding up the middle of a traffic lane.

Arrogant attention seeker.

posted by Littlesox [89 posts]
9th December 2012 - 22:46

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All this talk of avoidance in criticism of Gaz brought this back to mind:

http://velomorpha.com/2012/12/09/a-pleasant-valley-sunday/

We should not have to rely on 'avoidance techniques' for survival and anything that helmet cam campaigners can do to help drivers wake up to the reality of the risks they put cyclists to has got to be good. I have not seen the program but my impression is that it did very little to help.

Gaz does seem to have the ability to escalate the incidents but then at least the drivers will now remember the incident rather than pass by in ignorance. Of course they will also use it as a reason to reinforce the us v them mentality that is ultimately more damaging for cyclists. On balance though, nothing will change unless cyclists force it to.

As I recall from history, universal suffrage wasn't granted without the poor and later women putting up a bit of a fight.

posted by Cranky Acid [35 posts]
10th December 2012 - 9:59

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londonplayer wrote:
bikecellar wrote:
Avoidance is the key to your safety. I have now retired, but have 45yrs of cycle commuting experience, in the early years I rushed around looking to do the journey in as short a time as possible I was knocked down 4 times by motor vehicle's, as time went by I became more savvy, my last job (13yrs of retail) I chose to work late shifts starting after school run/rush hour and chose a longer but less busy route and took my time, if someone cut me up, I did not react, staying away from possible aggression. Avoidance at every stage of your journey as much as possible is the key. Yes trouble will come looking for you still, but you will have minimised the number of incidents, much of the helmet cam "action" I have seen could have been averted by a more avoidance/defensive style of riding.

+1

That, in a nutshell, is how you need to ride when you commute.

Seconded - and I've had over 20 years commuting in London traffic and a few years before that in Edinburgh too.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2125 posts]
10th December 2012 - 10:01

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i haven't seen this documentary yet, but heard enough about it to tell me it wasn't a good idea, Typical bbc fodder. idiots.

posted by Karbon Kev [666 posts]
10th December 2012 - 10:26

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james-o wrote:
Maybe having the camera on and perhaps looking to make a point with it changes the (re)actions of some cyclists?

There's a few on you-tube that seem to think they're the caped-barcam-crusader.. Smile

I would say wearing a camera improves behaviour as who wants to see themselves on film being an idiot.

Most people wearing camera aren't out to make a point, just to have evidence there in case something happens.

posted by thereverent [295 posts]
10th December 2012 - 10:46

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Littlesox wrote:
The man is an eejit and needs to read the Highway Code, understand human nature and learn to cycle safely and defensivley.

I for one, do not feel fairly represented by somebody that talks on national TV about "taking a strong position" and whose footage shows him riding up the middle of a traffic lane.


It's right and proper to ride up the middle of the lane sometimes. It's called the primary position. If he rides at nearly thirty mph, he's probably going to be there quite a bit.

I think YOU need to learn how to ride. You can learn about the primary position in the modern cycling proficiency scheme at http://content.bikeability.org.uk/publications/

posted by a.jumper [681 posts]
10th December 2012 - 11:01

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I think Gaz got a very bad deal out of the program. The editing made him appear quite different from what I have seen/read elsewhere.
The progam was out to paint him in a bad light to fit with their theme.

I've watched most of his videos over the years and his riding is good and I see no evidence that he looks for trouble.
Most of his incidents are with drivers cutting him up or pulling out in front of him.

One of the worst parts of the program was the way the Taxi driver who had cut up several cyclist then got out and assulted Gaz wasn't challenged is his opinion that his driving was fine and he hadn't done anything wrong. Angry

posted by thereverent [295 posts]
10th December 2012 - 12:48

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Nzlucas wrote:
I would argue there are times when offence is the best defence. IE Controlling the road places where its dangerous for someone to try and pass you.

I always go in defensive mode once the traffic slows down to a crawl because of cars turning through stationary traffic etc.

+1 I agree with this too as there are several central refuges on my commute so when I get to these I take control of the road then go to defensive when I get to some lights at a crossroads if it warrants it.

nige

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posted by formereve [65 posts]
11th December 2012 - 3:00

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a.jumper wrote:
I think YOU need to learn how to ride.

If you say so.

I don't defend my position on the road, I share it with other users.

I don't suffer confrontations, near misses or collisions with other road users.

If that means I occasionally aquiesce in the interests of my own saftey, then so be it.

Your view, as stated above, is that I have to learn how to ride. You are entitled to your opinion.

In the same way that I am entitled to mine about knuckle-heads that seem to want to own the road at all costs.

posted by Littlesox [89 posts]
11th December 2012 - 22:59

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Littlesox - are you sure about your post? How can you "share your position on the road" with other road users without letting them drive straight over you? This happened to me once just because I was waiting at the lights. The driver's excuse was he wasn't expecting to see a cyclist in the right turn lane, actually he just wasn't looking. He did take me to casualty for an X-ray in case my collar bone was broken and pay for a new wheel though.

The simple fact is (and most drivers don't even realise this) is that each road user is just as entitled to use the road as any other user. How often do you see drivers hesitant to turn right even when the road to the right is clear and they could go halfway out?

There is no right to overtake either, so you should position yourself nearer the middle where there isn't space to safely overtake (eg central refuges). That's what's meant by riding defensively.

As for the program, yes it may have given the impression that cyclists were aggressive however people with that opinion wouldn't have had their minds changed (it's a sad fact of life that the majority are stuck with their prejudices). Probably what spoke the most powerfully was the mother who lost her daughter in a collision with a cement mixer. More shocking was that the particular company was killing one cyclist on average per year.

I note that Eddie Stobart's haven't fitted extra mirrors to their vehicles yet. I shall be having words with them...

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

posted by hairyairey [278 posts]
12th February 2013 - 18:06

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