Complaints about a BBC report which blamed London’s position as the world’s most congested city on an increase in cycle lanes have led the broadcaster to amend the article to “better reflect the range of factors impacting congestion in London”.
In early December traffic firm Inrix named the UK capital as the city in which motorists lost the most time stuck in traffic jams last year in its Global Traffic Scorecard.
While Inrix operations director Peter Lees attributed the rise in congestion to the city’s rapid economic recovery from the pandemic, many mainstream media outlets, including the BBC, preferred to focus on Lees’ claim that the reallocation of road space for pedestrians and cyclists in response to the Covid crisis had a “negative impact” on traffic in the capital.
The BBC covered the report with the headline London congestion: Cycle lanes blamed as city named most congested. A number of other outlets opted for variations on the ‘cycle lanes to blame’ theme, a media response described by charity Cycling UK as “incredibly simplistic”.
Lees responded to the press reaction, emphasising that while more space for cyclists was one of a number of “smaller contributory factors”, the “speedy economic rebound was presented as the single biggest cause of congestion in London”.
He also claimed that the inaccurate representation of the report in the media reflected the views of one journalist he had spoken to, who admitted that focusing on an anti-cycle lane angle “would get more readers”.
The reply from BBC Complaints about the misleading assertion that cycle lanes were to blame for congestion in London.
— Elisabeth Anderson 💉💉💉 (@velobetty) January 4, 2022
The BBC has since amended its article, changing the headline to London congestion: Capital becomes world’s most congested city. In its reply to a reader’s complaint, the broadcaster wrote, “We understand that you felt the article focused too heavily on cycle lanes and the impact they may have on congestion in London, and note your concerns about a lack of impartiality in the piece.
“We take seriously our responsibility to report accurately and impartially, and have considered these points in detail,” the statement continued. “We believe that the article clearly attributes the source of the report… and provide opposing views from other organisations who don’t agree with some of the claims, such as Cycling UK, to provide balance.
“However, on reflection, we have amended the headline and copy to better reflect the range of factors impacting congestion in London, and for transparency, have added a clarification to that effect at the end of the article.”
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.