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BBC U-turns on article blaming London’s ‘most congested city’ title on cycle lanes

The initial media response to the report was criticised by traffic data firm Inrix as inaccurate, with one journalist conceding that an anti-cycling angle “gets more readers”

Complaints about a BBC report which blamed London’s position as the world’s most congested city on an increase in cycle lanes have led the broadcaster to amend the article to “better reflect the range of factors impacting congestion in London”.

In early December traffic firm Inrix named the UK capital as the city in which motorists lost the most time stuck in traffic jams last year in its Global Traffic Scorecard

> “Incredibly simplistic” to blame cycle lanes for London being named world’s most congested city

While Inrix operations director Peter Lees attributed the rise in congestion to the city’s rapid economic recovery from the pandemic, many mainstream media outlets, including the BBC, preferred to focus on Lees’ claim that the reallocation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists in response to the Covid crisis had a “negative impact” on traffic in the capital.

The BBC covered the report with the headline London congestion: Cycle lanes blamed as city named most congested. A number of other outlets opted for variations on the ‘cycle lanes to blame’ theme, a media response described by charity Cycling UK as “incredibly simplistic”

> Journalist admits anti-cycle lane angle on London being named world's most congested city would “get more readers”

Lees responded to the press reaction, emphasising that while more space for cyclists was one of a number of “smaller contributory factors”, the “speedy economic rebound was presented as the single biggest cause of congestion in London”.

He also claimed that the inaccurate representation of the report in the media reflected the views of one journalist he had spoken to, who admitted that focusing on an anti-cycle lane angle “would get more readers”

The BBC has since amended its article, changing the headline to London congestion: Capital becomes world’s most congested city. In its reply to a reader’s complaint, the broadcaster wrote, “We understand that you felt the article focused too heavily on cycle lanes and the impact they may have on congestion in London, and note your concerns about a lack of impartiality in the piece.

“We take seriously our responsibility to report accurately and impartially, and have considered these points in detail,” the statement continued. “We believe that the article clearly attributes the source of the report… and provide opposing views from other organisations who don’t agree with some of the claims, such as Cycling UK, to provide balance.

“However, on reflection, we have amended the headline and copy to better reflect the range of factors impacting congestion in London, and for transparency, have added a clarification to that effect at the end of the article.”

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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