Utter bollocks on local radio

If you tuned into BBC Radio Gloucestershire early on Thursday morning, you might have heard the presenter discussing cycling safety.

Here’s a thought, and a suggestion, we haven’t heard before.

Something we haven’t heard before? What’s that then? Surely something fresh, thoughtful and considered on the subject of cycling as a mode of transport?

Cyclists – should you be forced to use the network of cycle paths and lanes in Gloucestershire?

Oh. Right. Not a new suggestion at all – just the same old rubbish that appears with tiresome regularity on local radio.

Eight deaths of cyclists recently, six in London, two in Bristol – a guy called Robin Carey has this thought. He’s campaigned for their use for years. He’s now challenging both his MP, Martin Horwood, and Gloucestershire Highways, to improve safety, and make the use of cycle lanes compulsory.

Wow. That’s respectful. Using deaths – deaths! - of people as a superficial basis for dragging up some local bloke’s pet peeve.

None of these recent deaths had anything to do with a failure to use cycle paths, so this is a bit like using a series of recent rapes as a trigger for asking a local man his opinions about what women are wearing, and how they should keep safe. But on we go.

[Robin Carey] says too many riders are ignoring the signs and the dedicated cycle routes, making the current system a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.

There are, of course, no signs mandating use of off-carriageway routes in the UK. As for ‘dedicated cycle routes’… well, we’re about to see the example in question. Here’s Robin Carey himself -

Landsdown Road [in Cheltenham] is very narrow there, there’s just enough space for two cars, let alone a cyclist. And then you’ve got the junction with Shelburne Road, and there’s a conflict between car and cyclist there.

One time I was coming out of Shelburne Road, turning left towards Gloucester, and nearly had a collision with a car coming the other way, because he was overtaking a cyclist.

Mr Carey turned left out of a side road, apparently without checking to see if it was appropriate to do so, and that the road was clear, without a vehicle on the side of the road he was entering. Somehow, this is the person on the bike’s fault (the overtaking driver also appears to have violated Highway Code rule 167).

This is the location.

Screen shot 2013-11-25 at 22.59.10

Mr Carey pulled out of the side road, coming into conflict with an overtaking car coming towards us

The DJ addresses the audience.

Let me know as a motorist what you’ve seen, what you’ve observed. Do you agree? Should a cyclist stay in the lane, and actually be penalised if they come out of it? Robin says unless matters are improved, more people will be seriously hurt or killed. He’s now hoping by really getting this on the agenda, things can be improved.

Notice here that people will be ‘seriously hurt or killed’ by their temerity to come out of a cycle ‘lane’ (a generous term for what is clearly a pavement with a stripe on it) not ‘seriously hurt or killed’ by inattentive drivers. Robin Carey again -

I would like Martin Horwood to discuss with the Department for Transport the changing of the law so that the use of cycle paths where provided are compulsory. It seems to make sense, both from the taxpayers’ money point of view, and from cyclists’ point of view, and from the motorists’ point of view. I got angry because it’s not just the cyclists that get hurt, the driver… If I was involved in an accident with a cyclist who was very badly injured or killed, I get traumatised as well. I would have to live that for the rest of my life.

Yes, he really did say that.

There are clues already, but if we scoot up the road a little, we can see why the cyclist in question in this incident might not have chosen to use the ‘dedicated cycle path’, built at taxpayers’ expense.

Looking in the same direction the cyclist was travelling, before meeting Mr Carey

Looking in the same direction the cyclist was travelling, before meeting Mr Carey

Yes, that’s three separate signalised crossings, just to get across the junction.

Is it really any wonder he chose to use the road, even if it meant running the risk of traumatising poor Mr Carey by getting himself killed? The use of this rubbish ‘path’ ‘makes sense’ to Robin Carey, presumably only the grounds that the person on the bike would  be out of his way. Sod his comfort and convenience.

From above. You can smell the convenience of waiting three times, while motor vehicles progress straight through.

From above. You can smell the convenience of waiting three times, while motor vehicles progress straight through.

This is, of course, local radio, the home of the ill-informed opinion, but BBC Radio Gloucestershire actually used this as a feature item. Mr Carey didn’t ring up spontaneously – his drivel was pre-recorded, and then used as the basis for a supposedly sensible discussion about cycling safety. It’s utter bollocks. Just a moment’s thought or reflection would establish why anyone would choose not to use a ‘dedicated cycle path’. People aren’t wilfully choosing to put themselves in harm’s way; they are making a rational choice on the basis of the relative inconvenience of using awful pedestrian-specific multiple crossings that make crossing a simple junction take several minutes. If it was good enough, they would use it automatically. People do not cycle in the road in the Netherlands where cycle facilities are provided, because those facilities are good. It’s that simple.

What is most troubling is that this is probably about par for the course for a good deal of the British media, who in the wake of a tragic series of deaths (repeat – deaths) have chosen not to inform themselves about the issues, about the causes of death and serious injury, and about how they can be prevented, but instead to carry on churning out the same  patronising and hostile rubbish on the subject, and chosen to do so at a greater volume. Here’s just one other example – also on BBC local radio – documented by Kats Dekker.

Indeed, this same story in Cheltenham was also covered by the local paper, where the journalist responsible for writing it described it as a ‘hot topic’. No, I’m sorry, the ‘hot topic’ is people being seriously injured or killed, not because they refuse to cycle on pavements like a pedestrian, but because of seriously flawed road design, lax safety standards, and putting people into conflict with large and heavy vehicles. Stop crowbarring in your petty ill-informed vendettas into what should be a real debate about how to make cycling a safe and viable mode of transport for all. It’s grossly offensive.

Thanks to @beztweets for spotting this

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8 Responses to Utter bollocks on local radio

  1. Here’s another illustration of the same bad driver attitude: http://youtu.be/A5H8SU2_oSU

  2. paul gannon says:

    The report is abysmal. The ‘presenter’ asked listeners to report what ‘you’ve seen as a motorist’, but not what cyclists might have seen. This illustrates in part the conscious ‘demographic’ used by the programme editors and managers to determine the programme content. It is quite likely that this programme consciously sees itself as broadcasting to motorists. We see this all the time, in the term ‘drive time’ for example or the way weather forecasters talk about the weather being bad for the ‘morning drive to work’, and endless other ways. These phrases are set in editorial meetings.

    However, it also reflects the unconscious domination of the motor vehicle and its assumption of priority. Media coverage and the terms of the debate are necessarily determined by the status quo power. Enforcement of parking restrictions or speeding controls is a ‘war on motorists’, but cyclists are self-righteous law-breakers. ‘Traffic flow’ (ie motor traffic) must not be hindered at deadly junctions such as Kings Cross and Bow, but cyclists (and pedestrians) can be easily be subjected to long delays at junctions with multi-stages.

    Two things. One, it’s only going to get worse. Two, we need a strategy for dealing with it and at the moment the cyclist lobby is bereft of any idea of how to handle mass media communications.

    There is good news here. At least the subject of cycling has broken through the barrier that, until recently, kept it entirely off the agenda of the media. I hate to have to say it, but it was the Times what done it and gave cycling credibility as a subject worth coverage (shame on the Guardian and Independent). The take up by other media has ensured that cycling is now on the agenda in a way that it simply hasn’t been before. That’s worth celebrating.

    The downside is that ‘we’ lose control of the way that cycling is reported. Naturally the response is to rail angrily at every absurd, ignorant, biased report. This is certainly essential. It will be necessary to hammer again and again the editors and management with criticism of their coverage in the hope of getting a change in quality. All the same, we have to accept that we won’t be able to control coverage. We have to be able to go with it and not get sidetracked.

    I listened half with amusement and half with incredulity at Chris Boardman try to argue simultaneously on Radio 4 Today a couple of days ago that cycling needed to be made safer and that it was already safe. I suspect his organisation that they didn’t really do a proper practice session before sending a retired sportsman, more used to the rather inarticulate world of sporting endeavour, into the bear pit atmosphere of the Today programme where well-trained communicators can easily bamboozle Humphries, et al. But Boardman was reduced to mumbling incoherently as he muddled around his contradictory points.

    What we need, and probably won’t get, is a good communications strategy that is mature enough to cope with negative coverage without getting blown off course, jettisons wasting time on silly arguments that contradict widely held beliefs (‘cycling is safe’, ‘helmets are dangerous’), and that concentrates time and again in pushing the key argument about safe, usable cycle networks.

    Going off down sideways, worrying that people are being put off cycling by negative coverage about deaths (a point repeated by Gilligan in the Guardian) is a waste of time and opportunity and it may even be counterproductive.

    So however much I may be dismayed by the poor quality of BBC Radio Little England’s journalism, I still think it’s better to have them discuss the issue badly than not to cover it at all – and I’m still more concerned about the cycling lobby’s amateur comms strategy.

    • ” it was the Times what done it and gave cycling credibility as a subject worth coverage (shame on the Guardian and Independent).”

      Don’t know about the Indy, but the Guardian had a bike blog long before the Times campaign, mostly with reasonable writers.

      Moreover, I think the Guardian or Indy couldn’t have done the same thing even if they had given it the same prominence: it could easily have been dismissed as lefty environmental gubbins. I don’t really understand why cycling should be more of a left-wing issue, but it does seem to be. What was great about the Times getting involved was it could suddenly leap the political divide, and say this should be an issue for all politicians.

  3. Simon says:

    I confess I’m coming around to the idea of cyclists using cycle paths rather than being road users (which has always been my stance). But that’s predicated on the cycle paths being the same quality as in the Netherlands – I was there over the summer and cycling was so safe and easy for me and my young family – no wonder everyone does it there.

    There would still be a place on the roads for the faster cyclists, particularly the sports cyclists out for a Sunday ride. The difference would be this wonderful network of safe, cycle paths for those who want them.

    But it all boils down to this: you wouldn’t need to mandate the use of cycle paths if the cycle paths were fit for purpose. The vast majority of cyclists would happily use such paths. The reasons they don’t at the moment are that the cycles paths we currently have in the UK are inconvenient and, often, simply dangerous. Odd how a radio show can’t actually figure out that fairly basic question for such a discussion.

  4. Twat! And just walk away. Stress levels come back down.

  5. Geoff says:

    Boris and Gilligan do seem to have effectively spun the debate against cyclists. The “Cities fit for cycling” campaign is not helping because it seems to be for cyclists. It needed to be “Cities fit for living”, and to recruit all members of the community who would like cleaner, healthier and more sociable environments to live and work in. All this potential is being lost in a load of blather about earphones, hi-viz , plastic hats, and now compulsory cycle facilities. This debate is great for maintaining the status quo, and has a neat side effect of turning cyclists against themselves – perhaps understandably as to survive as a cyclist in the current hostile environment you need to have complete faith in the safety choices you make. I have said that this debate is great for maintaining the status quo, but actually I think it favours the motor vehicle centric viewpoint.

    We need to pull away from cyclist related debates and seek a wider consensus.

    Regards

    Geoff

    • pm says:

      Entirely agree. The whole media circus recently has left me quite depressed.

      I think the spate of deaths last month was a statistical artifact. Don’t misunderstand me, its not that such deaths are not a serious and tragic issue, but the year-on-year total is hardly any different from previous years – deaths don’t become more or less serious depending on how regularly spaced over the year they are.

      So, firstly, the media fuss was itself slightly irrational. If cycling deaths are important, why was there no such concern last year, or the year before that? Its as if, if you want anyone to pay any attention to the ongoing tragedy that is UK road policy, you have to somehow ensure it all happens in the same month, otherwise nobody notices or cares.

      And then, worse, the result of that fuss seems to have been just a cynical spasm of victim-blaming, before everything returns to ‘normal’ (though with compulsory high-viz/helmets/lucky-rabbits-foot-carrying that much closer).

      Anyone think the recent police operations will have any effect on next year’s casualty figures?

      Unless, of course, the prospect of being stopped by the police merely for being on a bike
      just serves to put many people off cycling at all.

  6. Pingback: Boris Johnson is an arsehole | The Alternative Department for Transport

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