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 road.cc: “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.
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.