A documentary that airs on BBC One at 9pm tomorrow evening makes interesting viewing for anyone who travels to work on either four or two wheels.
Titled The War on Britain’s Roads, the programme investigates the often-volatile relationship between motorists and cyclists as they try to co-exist on our streets.
Before I watched a preview of the documentary last night, I was concerned that it might be another anti-motoring tirade, but in fact it is very balanced.
Cyclists, van drivers, cabbies and car drivers speak candidly about their experiences of other road users. We hear about cyclists who ride through red traffic lights – "because it was green for pedestrians" – and see worrying footage of drivers using iPads on the move.
The interviews are interspersed by footage from ‘helmet cams’, which an increasing number of cyclists are wearing to record the near-misses they have with motorists and the occasional abuse they receive. The footage is compelling and terrifying in equal measure, not least the Glaswegian who has a near-death experience with an inattentive HGV driver on a roundabout.
It is clear that the cyclists are not completely without fault. To me, a couple of the show’s main pro-cycling protagonists come across as excessively antagonistic towards other road users. It seems to me that some two-wheeled vigilantes relish going out of their way to propagate conflict and film it on their helmet cameras.
Most, however, come across as sensible, grown-up folk who just want to get from A to B without having their lives put in danger. The prevailing message that comes out of the programme is that most cyclists and motorists are keen to harmoniously co-exist, but the antics of the minority cause bad feeling on both sides.
In my view, the programme is also evidence that bicycles should carry registration plates in the same way that all other vehicles on the road do, as well as factory-fitted lights to a proper, EU-specified standard.
While motorists who commit minor transgressions can be identified on traffic cameras via their car registration plates, cyclists can get away with similar offences in anonymity, a disparity that contributes to the tension between the two groups.