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BBC corrects Nick Robinson’s comment that “you cannot use your car” in a low traffic neighbourhood

“We agree that LTNs do not prevent cars from being used,” says broadcaster in response to complaints

The BBC has issued a correction on a comment made by Radio 4Today programme host Nick Robinson at the end of March in which, referring to people living in low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) he inaccurately said, “you cannot use your car” there.

His comment received a number of complaints, including one from the Labour MP Lilian Greenwood, who is an officer of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking.

> MP complains to BBC over claim that people in low traffic neighbourhoods cannot use their cars

LTNs stop rat-running drivers using residential roads as short cuts by blocking through routes using planters, bollards and other barriers, while still allowing access to local residents.  

Greenwood, the MP for Nottingham South, wrote to BBC director of editorial policy and standards David Jordan and described Robinson’s comment as a “falsehood,” adding, “the least we can expect from a national broadcaster is a basic grasp of the facts.”

BBC News editorial adviser Sarah Nelson has now replied, saying: “We agree that LTNs do not prevent cars from being used, and Nick’s passing comment at the end of his question gave the wrong impression here.”

However, she rejected a separate complaint made by APPGCW patron Lord Berkeley and highlighted by Greenwood in her letter, relating to a report broadcast earlier in March by the BBC’s Science and Environment Unit, claiming that the “focus was the very divisive nature of the debate itself.”

>> “Shameful”: BBC “perpetuated falsehoods” in divisive low traffic neighbourhood report

Others lodging complaints about the Today programme segment included road.cc reader Richard, who received what appears to be a standard reply on the topic, which said:

“During an interview with Jonathan Bartley, Nick brought up the topic of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).

“The question about LTNs came after Jonathan had said he needed to use his car for his son who is a wheelchair user.

“Nick explained that ‘More and more councils are doing these Low Traffic Neighbourhoods where you don’t even have those exemptions’.

“What was meant by this was that those who really need to use their car can face daily obstacles such as delays and traffic jams, which it has been argued have increased as a result of LTNs, even if they can still use them.”

Richard noted that the reply he received made no reference to Robinson having said “you cannot use your car” in an LTN.

“I had this from the BBC about my complaint that Nick Robinson had not told the truth about LTNs,” he told us. 

“You'll note that they have abbreviated his comment, completely cutting out his second sentence, ‘You cannot use your car’."                                         

However, the BBC did make reference to the actual words on the corrections and clarifications page on its website, where it says:

Today

BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 31 March 2021

In a reference to the introduction by some councils of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) we said that ‘you cannot use your car’.

While LTNs do restrict access to stop through traffic, vehicles can still be used, though some journeys will be less direct and may take longer.

12/04/2021

Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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