Back in April BikeBiz.com revealed that the BBC would be broadcasting a one-off documentary focussing on the supposed "war" between cyclists and motorists. The one hour special will air at 9pm on BBC1 on 5th December and, for dramatic effect, is called 'The War on Britain's Roads.'
Produced for the BBC by Leopard Films, the documentary will use helmetcam footage to give a cyclists' eye view of city cycling and no doubt there will be in-car cams to show incidents from the motorists' point of view.
A statement from Leopard Films gives a flavour of the conflicts that are likely to be aired (conflicts that happen, of course, but not incessantly):
"Viewers are parachuted into the middle of the battle that is raging between two-wheeled road users and their four-wheeled counterparts."
Parachuted? Battle? Counterparts? As Edmund King, the AA president, now frequently points out, cyclists and motorists are often the same people and the 'them and us' attitude is not conducive to road safety.
In a sign that the documentary might not show the fun side of city cycling, the Leopard Films statement continues:
"As thirty four million vehicles and thirteen million bikes all try to share the same crowded space, The War on Britain’s Roads provides a dramatic and unique insight into the unfolding tension and conflict. From everyday incidents that get out of hand between cyclists and motorists, to stories of near death experiences and fatal collisions, this timely documentary shows that the battle between two wheels and four has never been so intense."
The documentary features bike cops; a cyclist policing the roads himself, handing out his own 'tickets' for anything from texting behind the wheel, to jumping a red light; and a mother who lost her cyclist daughter who was hit by a cement mixer. A London black cab driver will reveal how his own loss changed his opinion about cyclists.
Todd Austin, Chief Creative Officer, Leopard Films, said: “This timely documentary highlights a growing issue on Britain’s roads, from the viewpoint of both the motorist and the cyclist. BBC1 is the perfect home for this insightful and, at times, shocking film.”
Since the start of the 'cities fit for cycling' campaign by The Times in March, the issue of cycle safety has risen up the political agenda. 107 cyclists have died on Britain's roads so far this year and much could be done to reduce this death toll but many cycle advocates are concerned that focussing on the supposed dangers of cycling is offputting to would-be new cyclists when, in fact, the greater risk to the population as a whole is having a sedentary lifestyle. In effect, it's more dangerous to not cycle than it is to cycle.
Thomas Stokell, MD of Challenge for Change, which runs workplace cycle projects, said:
"There is clearly a risk here that this documentary will only portray cycling to be a dangerous, tragedy-filled activity. While clashes between people who drive cars and people who ride bikes do occur, it may seem to people who watch this documentary that they happen everyone time you ever ride your bike. This will clearly not be conducive to encouraging more people to take up cycling.
"Personally, I ride everyday, mainly in Bristol, but in cities all over the country as well, and I have hardly ever had a hostile confrontation with someone in a car. Positive interactions with other road users on one ride far far far outweigh any negative incidences.
"I really do hope that the documentary makers plan to show viewers at the beginning and the end of the documentary that hundreds of thousands of people ride everyday in the UK, and the vast majority of them have very pleasant rides. Why would they cycle if it wasn't highly enjoyable to do so?"