Dec 7, 2012

‘The war on Britain’s roads’: cyclists vs drivers

A cyclist who took part in the controversial BBC documentary on cyclists vs drivers aired in Britain this week has been inundated with hate messages, according to the MailOnline.

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

Cyclists vs drivers - the movie. The War on Britains Roads aired earlier this week

(Unfortunately, subsequent to my posting the video of the program it’s been taken down by the copyright holder. Here’s a suggested way around the problem).

The war on Britain’s roads, shown on Wednesday by the BBC, caused lots of controversy. Armed with footage from helmet-mounted cameras, it looks at the conflict – “the war” – between cyclists and drivers.

TV shows about everyday cycling are pretty rare, but regional rights deals mean we can’t view this one on the BBC’s site. Fortunately someone posted it to Youtube (see exhibit).

There were some strong reactions in the British media.

According to The Guardian:

Tony Hall, the new BBC director general, has his first controversy on his hands, albeit a small one, a full three months before he officially arrives. Two surprises: firstly it’s not a row confected by the Daily Mail or Sun; second, it’s about cycling. I wrote at length about the many flaws of a documentary scheduled to go out at peak time on BBC1 this Wednesday, breathlessly-titled The War on Britain’s Roads. I realise I’m viewing it through the prism of being a keen cyclist, but even so it’s genuinely one of the more silly, badly-made BBC programmes I’ve seen in a long time.

According to

BBC One yesterday evening aired its controversial documentary The War on Britain’s Roads. By inaccurately presenting cyclists and motorists as polar opposites in a bid to sensationalise the issue, the broadcaster missed an opportunity to make a constructive contribution to the road safety debate that is being pursued elsewhere – most notably, in the press, led by The Times, and Parliament, due to the efforts of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group with support from cycle campaigners.

According to The Indendent:

A prime-time documentary that promises to deal with cycle safety couldn’t come at a better time. Weeks after Bradley Wiggins’ bruising encounter with a van, the number of cyclist deaths in Britain this year hovers at a record 112. It also comes as the perception of conflict on our roads threatens an Olympic gold-plated bike boom of the sort not seen for generations. But cyclists and drivers have accused the BBC of presenting a woefully distorted picture.

And the MailOnline:

A blogger who took part in a controversial BBC documentary highlighting the daily battle between drivers and cyclists on Britain’s roads has become the target of death threats and vile abuse from motorists. Gareth Williams, 24, provided the BBC with footage filmed using a helmet camera for The War on Britain’s Roads which was aired last night. But the urban cyclist has since been inundated with hate messages with many taking to Twitter accusing him of being ‘antagonistic’ and ‘confrontational’ towards drivers.

Yes, it’s sensational and over-dramatises the real dangers of cycling, which unfortunately will probably put some potential cyclists off (and the hell-ride sequence was just stupid). Nevertheless, I could empathise with the cyclists. I know exactly what they’re talking about.

(Pending the video becoming available as a torrent, you can always watch the Dogs taught to drive and PM announces end of world videos again).


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5 thoughts on “‘The war on Britain’s roads’: cyclists vs drivers

  1. Dylan Nicholson

    I’d argue single-occupant car driving is an inherently anti-social behaviour in itself…on of many reasons I think we’d be much better off as a society diversifying our means of transport.
    As for cyclists passing pedestrians at speeds over 25 km/h, yes, I do it too, but I never would if I thought there was any real probability of causing any serious injuries, given almost certainly I’d be the one getting the worst of them. FWIW, the only times I’ve ever seen or been involved in collisions between cyclists and pedestrians is when the latter run out on to roads unexpectedly!

  2. hk

    Is it possible or even constructive to quantify anti-social behaviour? As a walker I rarely observe anti-social behaviour from car drivers, and there plenty of possibilities at driveways, pedestrian crossings and intersections. However every day on shared paths there are cyclists who pass me at more than 25 km/hr….that to me reflects a rather strong ant-social attitude by a few cyclists who are then giving the cycling community a poor image. Where cyclists and pedestrian are forced to mix, there needs to be a sensible attitude to speed by cyclists.

  3. mook schanker

    And the working link is; Download & run Expat Shield (free – woot1), then open bbc iplayer and watch.

  4. Alan Davies


    I watched the video before it was taken down. It does sensationalise the conflict, but there’s more in it about drivers ignoring or being unaware of cyclists (i.e. endangering them) than there is fisticuffs and shouting.

  5. Saugoof

    I really don’t get this “war” on the roads at all that I hear so much of. I cycle a minimum of 200km each week through Melbourne’s streets and have been doing so for years. Yet in all that time it’s only ever happened once that a car driver showed a bit of road-rage by yelling at me (incidentally he actually had me mixed up with another cyclist).

    I do ride the bike in the assumption that others can’t see me and keeping in mind that even if an accident is not my fault, there’s still every chance that I could have prevented it.

    For all the media talk (and I must say from plenty of other cyclists too) to the contrary, I find Melbourne drivers some of the most courteous towards bike riders anywhere in the world. Just remember it’s a two way street. There are plenty of drivers who get aggressive or stupid if you give them the chance, but there are also a lot of cyclists who ride with a mindset ready for confrontation. If you’re looking for problems you’ll find them.

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