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MP complains to BBC over claim that people in low traffic neighbourhoods cannot use their cars

“The least we can expect from a national broadcaster is a basic grasp of the facts,” says Lillian Greenwood in response to Nick Robinson’s comment on Today programme

An MP who is an officer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking (APPGCW) has complained to the BBC over a claim by Today programme presenter Nick Robinson that people living in low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) cannot use their cars, describing it as a “falsehood.”

> BBC presenter Nick Robinson criticised for claiming drivers can't use their cars in LTNs

LTNs prevent residential roads being used by rat-running drivers by blocking through routes using planters, bollards and other barriers, while still allowing access to local residents.  

Lillian Greenwood, the Labour MP for Nottingham South, called on the BBC to report accurately on the issue, saying that “the least we can expect from a national broadcaster is a basic grasp of the facts.”

Her letter, addressed to BBC director of editorial policy and standards David Jordan, comes a fortnight after APPGCW patron Lord Berkeley wrote to him and described a BBC News report on LTNs as “shameful,” saying that it “perpetuated concerning falsehoods.”

> “Shameful”: BBC “perpetuated falsehoods” in divisive low traffic neighbourhood report

In the Radio 4 programme broadcast on Wednesday, wrote Greenwood, “Robinson repeated a falsehood” that LTNs “meant you could not use a car, saying: ‘More and more councils are doing these Low Traffic Neighbourhoods where you don’t even have those exemptions do you? You cannot use your car’.

“While the interview was with a Green Party representative, the need for accurate reporting on measures to provide people with safe active travel options in response to worsening air pollution, climate change, and inactivity, is not party-political.

The MP referred to Lord Berkeley’s letter to the BBC from two weeks ago, with Greenwood noting that “all residential properties remain accessible, albeit via a slightly longer route.”

She said that the report that prompted that complaint “included clips featuring an opinion on resident access for taxis which were presented as facts, without critical challenge or fact-checking, Given that most people in the country don’t live in LTNs, it is unreasonable not to make clear that these are personal opinions rather than statements of fact.

Greenwood continued: “While I understand there are a variety of views on this subject, the debate needs to be centred on basic facts, especially with the pressing need of the climate emergency which requires responsible reporting. Scaremongering and, in the case of the piece on the 17th March, helping fuel a manufactured culture war are not roles of the BBC.

“I would ask that the BBC issues a clarification on access in Low Traffic Neighbourhoods after this worrying trend and encourages reporters to understand the facts around these measures, which have been in widespread use in the UK for well over 50 years.

“When reporting on LTNs, as you no doubt will in the future, if you fail to provide this kind of additional information to help the audience interpret what they are being told in anecdotes, we cannot expect people to navigate the issue effectively,” Greenwood added. “The prominent airing of concerns is likely to perpetuate the ‘fears expressed by many people’, by merely repeating and reproducing them.”

“We need to make cycling and walking safer and accessible to more people and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are part of that. There is ample room for discussion, debate and disagreement – but the least we can expect from a national broadcaster is a basic grasp of the facts,” she concluded.

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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