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British Cycling lawyers react to BBC documentary 'The War on Britain's Roads'

Lawyers have reacted angrily after the airing of a documentary, ‘The War on Britain’s Roads’, calling it irresponsible and sensationalist in the way it dealt with conflict between drivers and cyclists.

6 December 2012

Lawyers for British Cycling members have reacted angrily after the airing of a documentary, ‘The War on Britain’s Roads’, calling it irresponsible and sensationalist in the way it dealt with conflict between drivers and cyclists.

The documentary made by Leopard films and shown on BBC1 on 5 December 2012 was described as a ‘documentary using helmet camera footage to give a unique insight into the tension and conflict on Britain’s roads’ however it has produced a wave of revulsion amongst cyclists and cycle organisations aiming to defuse these very same tensions and encourage cycle use.

MP Ian Austin, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group described it as “Stupid, sensationalist, simplistic, irresponsible nonsense.” 

The documentary is one of three documentaries announced by the BBC featuring "everyday filming technology".

Penny Knight from law firm Leigh Day’s cycling team, which acts exclusively for the British Cycling and British Triathlon Federation membership, said:

“Of course we applaud the incredible efforts of Cynthia Barlow following the death of her daughter Alex and the work she has done to make cycling safer which featured in the film, but this was one light amidst a dark and confused programme.

“We are seriously concerned with the way in which the film was titled and how it was conceived, which seemed to be about the way it was filmed, gathering the footage then fitting it to a sensationalist narrative.

“We believe it was irresponsible and will set back the development of cycling in this country, just at a time when the popularity of the sport is at its height.

“Far more could and should have been done to educate all road users with an hour’s prime time BBC viewing into the vulnerability of cyclists on the roads – no car drivers are killed in a collision with a cyclist which would seem to be an inequality of risk. In fact we have learned today that yet another cyclist has been killed on London’s roads with another seriously injured”

The documentary showed incidents of both bad driving and bad cycling using helmet cams. Part of the universally condemned footage, highlighting cyclist’s bad behaviour within the programme, was taken from a commercially available DVD, filmed in 2006 by American filmmaker Lucas Brunelle, of a courier race across London.

David Standard from Leigh Day, a former member of the Great Britain cycling team, who lost his own father in a cycling collision, said:

“Despite being titled The War on Britain’s Roads the footage was almost exclusively filmed in London and ignored the vast majority of cyclists experience across the UK. I cannot see that there is anything to gain from a documentary of this kind."

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