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“They wanted us to take them somewhere people would say they didn’t like cyclists…” Cyclists: Scourge of the Streets production crew accused of inflaming ‘war on the roads’ mentality

Police and head of AA have their say on "inflammatory" Channel 5 documentary...

The production team behind an inflammatory programme on cycling, aired on Channel 5 last night, deliberately sought out people who 'didn't like cyclists', and didn't contact the police department responsible for the safety of London cyclists, where much of the show was filmed, road.cc has learned.

The 45-minute programme, aired on Channel 5 last night, raised widespread concerns with dehumanising language including likening people on cycles to plagues or swarms. 

The head of the AA, Edmund King, told road.cc such programmes exacerbate a ‘war on the roads’ mentality. He said drivers who illegally use their mobile phones at the wheel are ‘fair game’ for people with helmet cameras.

While a spokesperson from Channel 5 said the production team contacted the Metropolitan Police press office, a request they say was turned down, a source told road.cc the cycle safety team didn't receive the request. 

A West Midlands Police officer who took part in the 45 minute show, Cyclists: Scourge of the Streets?, Mark Hodson, told road.cc the production crew specifically asked him to help them find people in Birmingham who didn’t like cyclists, but were unable to find any.

Hodson told road.cc: “We agreed to do [the programme] and I knew from the start what it was going to be like.”

“They wanted us to take them somewhere people would say they didn’t like cyclists, in Birmingham. We suggested they go to an industrial area, to a truckers’ café, the kind of place you’d think they’d like to play the old cyclist bingo. They couldn’t find anyone saying anything bad about cyclists.”

He says he has no regrets appearing on the show, viewing it as an opportunity, given the apparent agenda of the Firecracker Films production crew, to attract the kind of viewers whose attitudes he wants to change, i.e., ‘people who don’t like cyclists’. 

He said: “Then they will see us and think ‘I could get points on my license’. They will think, ‘hang on if I don’t give them enough room there’s a chance something will happen to me’, and that’s our agenda.”

Although the programme showed Hodson writing out a ticket for a driver it wasn’t explained she was actually getting points on her licence, after overtaking Hodson at the wrong point, too close, on her mobile phone, with an unsecured baby in the front seat.

Despite most of the show being filmed in London road.cc understands no-one working on the programme contact the Metropolitan Police’s Safer Cycling Team at any point. A Met police source described this as ‘odd’, given the team is responsible for the safety of the single biggest group of cyclists in the country, and it’s where much of the filming took place.

Meanwhile the anti-cycling views of London taxi drivers and footage of prolific helmet camera cyclist, Dave Sherry, were given much of the airtime, along with complaints around cyclists in Surrey. It even included the question of registering cyclists by loophole lawyer Nick Freeman, who specialises in helping wealthy drivers avoid prosecution.

The AA President, Edmund King, said: “Obviously the title and promotions show that the channel is looking to boost viewers by being as sensational as possible. I'm not sure that approach is conducive to road safety on either side.

“The terms were interesting i.e. 'Plagues of cyclists', scum of the road, battle for Britain's roads, hogging the road, public enemy number one - again not terms conducive to harmony.

“Drivers are also cyclists. I think we all know that not all cyclists abide by the rules of the road so that wasn't really new but nor do all drivers.

“Dave [Sherry] is out videoing drivers and seems to love it whether on his bike or just targeting drivers with phones. Fair game, I say.”

Hodson adds: “Cyclists are a minority group, people forget that and people have set prejudices against minority groups, and in fact it’s because of fear of change. A lot of people see people on bikes and think ‘I couldn’t do that’, and then they think ‘what if someone makes me?’, and ‘what if they end up taking over and they make me do that?’”

“With cyclists, people think it’s acceptable, but we wouldn’t do it against any other minority group because of their transport choice. You would be prosecuted for it.”

Both Hodson and King stressed poor drivers are in a minority.

King said: “In reality most drivers are conscious and aware of the safety of cyclists and most cyclists abide by rules of the road. But as ever if you highlight the worst on both sides...jumping lights, cycling on pavement, driving too close.... then it exacerbates the 'war on the roads'.

“I score the programme 3/10 and actually found the leadership debate marginally more interesting but only by a close pass.”

Channel 5 and Firecracker Films have been asked to comment.

This article was updated on 10 July to include Channel 5's claim they contacted the Met Police press office.

 

 

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11 comments

Avatar
matthewn5 | 4 years ago
1 like

gaz rides wrote:

it is now motorists that get in the way of cyclists far more often. 

Every day riding on the dreaded CS1 in London I am held up by idiots in cars. It's a plague! I could honestly get home in about half the time if it wasn't for all the bloody cars blocking up the roads everywhere. Not only that, the space for a cycle track on each side of just about every road is blocked by motionless cars! You couldn't make it up.

Avatar
CXR94Di2 | 4 years ago
2 likes

I was cycling through our local town,  several times I was overtaken by cars on the clearer sections, some accelerating hard to whizz on ahead.  Twenty seconds later I passed them waiting in a queue. 

I tooks me two minutes to go through the town where I have taken over 10 mins to use our car to do the same route.

 

 

Avatar
Gary's bike channel | 4 years ago
9 likes

i made a video yesterday of a cyclist using a 60 mph road and not using the shared path right next to bit. He was so annoying, he was riding in the MIDDLE OF THE ROAD, hogging it like the show says we all do. However, i was on my motorbike, and he waved me to go past. I laughed and said no mate, you go right ahead, this is too hilarious- you carry on sir.  He found it funny and we rode on together. The interesting thing was that it wasn't us who were hogging the road and slowing the traffic to 15 mph on this road- it was the absolute sheer volume of cars, buses vans and lorries, all stuck on both sides, not moving. Everyone looked very unhappy.  It is at times like this I feel happy i ride a bike and rarely drive, something rubbish like channel five is trying to put out there, is that cyclists dont own any other vehicles and are an out group who get in the way of motorists, when in fact, it is now motorists that get in the way of cyclists far more often.  

Avatar
srchar replied to Gary's bike channel | 4 years ago
6 likes
gaz rides wrote:

it is now motorists that get in the way of cyclists far more often.  

Have a million merits, Gaz. That they still think it's the bikes slowing them down and not the hundreds of tons of static metal sat ahead of them shows how hard they think about such things.

Avatar
NPlus1Bikelights | 4 years ago
0 likes

Channel 5 knew what they were doing using Firecracker Films. This is the company doing Gypsy Weddings and Babies in Prison.  Ofcom are going to be busy with this, lets just optimistically hope the series gets pulled. Just a shame we are giving Channel 5 all the publicity they wanted, it's dying channel having death throws.

Avatar
brooksby replied to NPlus1Bikelights | 4 years ago
0 likes
NPlus1BikelightsNJerseys wrote:

Channel 5 knew what they were doing using Firecracker Films. This is the company doing Gypsy Weddings and Babies in Prison.  Ofcom are going to be busy with this, lets just optimistically hope the series gets pulled. Just a shame we are giving Channel 5 all the publicity they wanted, it's dying channel having death throws.

Is it a series? I'd assumed it was a one-off. How can they fill more than one episode with this dross?

Avatar
FrankH | 4 years ago
4 likes

I watched about a quarter of it and got bored by the repetition. I did see Mr Loophole telling us that if cyclists were identifiable and licenced there wouldn't be any cycle crime. Which works so well with motor vehicles that he makes a living out of motoring crime. He might be clever but he obviously doesn't do logic.

Avatar
JohnnyRemo replied to FrankH | 4 years ago
2 likes
FrankH wrote:

I watched about a quarter of it and got bored by the repetition. I did see Mr Loophole telling us that if cyclists were identifiable and licenced there wouldn't be any cycle crime. Which works so well with motor vehicles that he makes a living out of motoring crime. He might be clever but he obviously doesn't do logic.

He and his like got 82,000 offenders off last year as vehicle owners failed to identify who was driving their cars...

 

Avatar
Burke | 4 years ago
1 like

I'm sure they'll be out with doc's about drunk driving and distracted driving to make sure they present balanced views and opinions. Right?

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Aberdeencyclist | 4 years ago
1 like

it shows overall that we need to change road users attitudes  - and that includes our fellow cyclists too. 

But just looking at so many young drivers now - looking at some who cannot have passed their test other than recently - you see that they've elected to stop thinking about save driving

I had words with my daughter once, and she's taken on board the phrase " drive to arrive alive"  and perhaps we now need to add " and don't kill anyone on the way "

Do driving schools and test centres still make it clear that passing the test is just the forst step to becoming a competent driver?

Avatar
richliv | 4 years ago
3 likes

I'm not surprised the programme deliberately set out to be adversarial because that's what attracts viewers, rather than any balanced set of opinions. I thought Dave Sherry  was quite funny but really, he was only on to underline the spurious premise that there is a war between cyclists and motorists. And PC Hodson had it right when he said that if it's portrayed as a war, motorists will want to win it so they don't feel then obliged to get on a bike. Even if that is bs!  Motorists will be far more threatened by the advent of self driving vehicles as it's all about control and power, isn't it? The usual human things...

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