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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.