Broadcaster and safe cycling advocate Jeremy Vine has revealed that he is “grateful” that an investigation by the BBC’s Executive Complaints Unit (ECU) – which ruled that the presenter breached the corporation’s impartiality guidelines by publicly expressing his support for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods – has "exposed” what he describes as years of “one-way” abuse and “personal vilification” towards him and other local cyclists by groups committed to opposing active travel measures.
Radio 2 presenter Vine was spoken to by BBC bosses after a complaint was lodged by a member of the One Chiswick anti-LTN group, which claimed that tweets posted by the broadcaster constituted a “campaign of abuse against a legitimate campaigning group”.
While the ECU found Vine’s conduct on social media to be “inconsistent with the BBC’s editorial standards as they applied to him”, it dismissed the claim that Vine had coordinated a “campaign of abuse” against One Chiswick, and instead argued that the presenter “had primarily been responding to posts from a Facebook group superintended by the complainant… wishing him harm and describing him in opprobrious terms.”
The ECU added that Vine “was entitled to object to such personal abuse and, as he did so in terms which were not themselves abusive, his tweets were consistent with the relevant BBC Guidance in that respect.”
In a statement released this afternoon, Vine said that he was “grateful for the impartiality ruling”.
“Most importantly,” he said, “the ruling identifies the complainant as the person who ‘superintends’ a West London Facebook page which has spent years targeting named local cyclists, like me, with abuse.
“By accident or design, the complainant’s role in the personal vilification of cyclists in my area – ‘wishing me harm’ – has been exposed by the BBC ruling, which goes on to confirm that the abuse was all one-way, and I never responded in kind.
“Secondly, the judgement is about comments I have made about LTNs. I understand that I am still allowed to praise cycle lanes, which are different. I can certainly praise the cycle lane which runs down the end of my street.
“I’m happy to accept that I should not praise LTNs that I haven’t used myself. This is helpful guidance for me.”
Since the publication of the BBC’s report, cyclists have criticised the ruling and supported Vine’s stance on LTNs and cycling infrastructure.
Responding to our initial story, the Twitter account Holywood Cyclist wrote: “Supporting LTNs is not controversial, no matter what the review says. If you ever wonder what a car-dominated society looks like, this is it.”
“It’s unfair that you can’t praise cycling infrastructure that’s designed to improve wellbeing,” tweeted pedalnorth.com. “Don’t let anyone think they’re winning… you are. You’re a super ambassador for cycling in communities. Many listen to you, as they know you’ll always give a rounded view.”
One road.cc reader, IanMK, pointed out that Vine “is basically supporting government policy (Gear Change) and local democracy (decisions made by elected representatives)” and questioned, “Are BBC employees not allowed to do this?”
Another reader, Gus T – perhaps alluding to the BBC’s controversial report into LTNs last March, which was described by a patron of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling and Walking as an attempt by the broadcaster to “stir up a manufactured culture war” – summarised the ruling as: “Pro cyclist comments — not impartial. Anti-cycling articles and programmes — impartial. So much for a balanced view on cycling by the BBC.”
Ryan joined road.cc as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.