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GMB slammed on social media after asking: “Should cyclists be forced to ride single file?”

TV show ‘debate’ sees Matt Barbet’s explanation of why it’s safer to ride two abreast countered with insistence that cyclists should “show respect”

ITV’s flagship morning show, Good Morning Britain, has been slammed on social media after it aired a segment entitled “Should cyclists ride single file?” which pitched broadcaster and cyclist Matt Barbet, who patiently explained why it is often safer for people to ride two abreast, against writer and BBC DJ Ed Adoo, who ignored the question at hand and instead dredged up an anecdote from eight years ago, saying that people on bikes need to show more “etiquette.”

The piece, which can be viewed on ITV Hub – it starts at 2 hours 10 minutes into the recording – began with one of the show’s hosts saying, “Drivers and cyclists testing the other’s patience,” with his co-presenter adding, “But with more cyclists than ever on Britain’s roads, should those taking to two wheels be forced to ride single file?”

It then cut to a brief report where, after some dashcam footage and a few vox pops, the reporter said: “Part of the problem, say cycling groups, is Rule 66 of the Highway Code, causing confusion.”

The reporter says that campaigners are calling for the rule to be changed to read, “You can ride two abreast, and often it is safer to do so.”

Both British Cycling and Cycling UK did incorporate those words into their suggestions for a new version of the rule in response a Department for Transport (DfT) consultation last year into proposed changes to the Highway Code.

> Fleet Street fury over campaigners' calls to clarify ‘two abreast’ cycling rule

Currently, the rule says: “You should never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends.”

The DfT has proposed amending the rule to read that cyclists should “ride in single file when drivers wish to overtake and it is safe to let them do so. When riding in larger groups on narrow lanes, it is sometimes safer to ride two abreast.”

Barbet, a former presenter of Daybreak, the predecessor show to GMB, as well as ITV4’s The Cycle Show and its Tour of Britain coverage, was invited to put his response first and began by saying that viewing cyclists and motorists as separate tribes was a fallacy, pointing out that most people he knows who ride bikes drive cars, too. “It’s not cyclists clogging up the roads, it’s cars,” he added.

He went on to explain how riding two abreast makes it easier and safer for motorists to overtake cyclists, as has been clearly shown in this video produced by journalist and author Carlton Reid six years ago which features advanced driving instructor Blaine Walsh and champion cyclist turned active travel advocate Chris Boardman.

Side by Side from carltonreid on Vimeo.

He also highlighted the principle of the hierarchy of road users, which puts the most vulnerable, first pedestrians, then cyclists, at the bottom of a pyramid, and those driving vehicles with the propensity to do most harm, such as HGVs, at the top.

Incorporating the concept within the Highway Code formed part of last year’s consultation, with the DfT saying that it “ensures that those road users who can do the greatest harm have the greatest responsibility to reduce the danger or threat they may pose to other road users.

“The objective of the hierarchy is not to give priority to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders in every situation, but rather to ensure a more mutually respectful and considerate culture of safe and effective road use that benefits all users,” the DfT added.

As often appears to be the case when TV shows seek to put forward a ‘balanced’ debate on a whole host of supposedly divisive topics, not just cycling, the counterpoint to someone putting forward a case based on facts and evidence was instead based on anecdote and sweeping generalisations.

Adoo started his reply to Bardet by recounting an incident in 2013 in which a cyclist swore at him, which prompted him to pen a column at the time for Huffington Post which was published under the headline, It's Time We Gained Some Respect From Cyclists.

In that column, written at the end of a month in which six cyclists had been killed on London’s roads, Adoo dismissed safety measures such as protected cycle lanes or banning HGVs, claiming, “The problem is it's nothing to do with bus or lorry drivers but the cyclist [sic] themselves.”

In his conclusion to that piece, he added: “The bottom line, cyclists need to learn how to respect other motorists and not do idiotic things such as riding without a helmet or protected gear.

“It has to stop and I think a cycle registration or tax scheme would ensure first and foremost, that deaths are reduced.”

On GMB this morning, he returned to that theme – without once addressing the specific issue supposedly being debated.

“I’m not saying that all cyclists are morally wrong, and they’re rude and they swear all the time,” he insisted.

“Yes, you are,” Barbet interjected.

“No, I’m not saying all cyclists are rude,” Adoo replied, “what I’m saying is there needs to be etiquette with cyclists,” going on to repeat his call for cyclists to be registered.

Asked by Barbet if he ever rode a bike on the road, he answered: “Yeah, loads of times.”

“You know how intimidating it can feel, don’t you?” Barbet said.

“Listen, it’s not about intimidation, it’s about respect on both sides,” Adoo insisted.

“But again, some cyclists – especially London – they think they own the roads, and they don’t, it should be that the highway should be for everyone, and for everyone to owe respect.”

Among those responding to GMB’s tweets of clips of today’s segment was Detective Chief Superintendent Andy Cox of Lincolnshire Police, national lead for road collision investigations.

Unsurprisingly, the clips also drew the usual share of comments about how cyclists should have to be insured and pay non-existent ‘road tax’ – points that were quickly countered by other Twitter users.

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.

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