Debbie Dorling, whose husband Brian was killed by a lorry at Bow Roundabout in London while riding his bike to work in October 2011, has challenged Jeremy Clarkson and James May to look her in the eye over their piece about cycle safety in Sunday evening’s edition of the BBC TV show, Top Gear.
Mrs Dorling told road.cc that the programme “totally missed the point of cycle safety”, and that she found one sequence particularly “distressing”, when vegetables were dropped from height onto a hard floor, with a bike following.
“What’s it meant to be?” asked May. “It’s a cyclist after an accident,” explained Clarkson.
The episode of the show, which is watched by millions of viewers in the UK and around the world, saw Clarkson and May present a series of cycle safety videos to a panel of experts including former world and Olympic champion Chris Boardman, now policy advisor at British Cycling.
It quickly became apparent that there was no intention of addressing the subject seriously, as the segment descended into a litany of well-worn stereotypes about cyclists being red light jumpers who can’t afford a car.
Serious issues were barely touched upon, and the danger posed by lorries — which make up 4 per cent of London's traffic, but are involved in more than half of cyclist fatalities — not mentioned at all.
In the comments to our article and on our Facebook page, many pointed out that as a light entertainment show, no-one should have expected anything different. People were told to lighten up and enjoy the jokes.
But others wondered how you might feel if someone who had lost a loved one while cycling were watching the programme, and saw the subject being treated with such triviality.
As it happened, Mrs Dorling was watching it with her daughter. She told us: “I have a sense of humour, so does my daughter. We were laughing then the laughing stopped because it went too far.”
Mrs Dorling, posting as Brians Wife, made a comment to our article on the programme, in which she said:
I sat and watched TG with my daughter as it is one of our favourite programmes. However after the initial laughter at the cycling piece we were both shocked and sickened by the content. Sorry guys, this was not good TV for a family whose cyclist husband and father was killed by a lorry. This missed so many opportunities and I am quite saddened by what went on air, had I realised I would not have watched.
Her husband Brian, an experienced cyclist who rode around 200 miles a week, was killed at Bow Roundabout in October 2011 on his way from his home in Hounslow to work as a surveyor at the Olympic Park.
Since then, the family has had to endure not only their grief at his loss, but also a criminal court case in which the driver of the lorry involved was sentenced to 24 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for a year.
They also sat through an inquest in which the coroner was highly critical of the Cycle Superhighway Mr Dorling was riding on, which she said gave cyclists “a false sense of security”.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.