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“Many drivers cycle and most cyclists drive”: AA president calls for “a bit of give and take” on Britain’s roads

Responding to Panorama’s ‘Cars v Bikes’ episode, Edmund King also argued that greater investment in cycling infrastructure would result in “less conflict on the road”

Despite its rather misleading, tabloid-style title, the Panorama episode ‘Road Rage: Cars v Bikes’ – set to air on BBC One tonight and currently available on the iPlayer – offers a much more balanced and nuanced portrayal of life on Britain’s roads than most previous takes on the subject (notwithstanding the appearance of controversial journalist Rod Liddle).

However, that hasn’t stopped the likes of the Daily Mail from today jumping on one of the programme’s ‘key’ findings – that a third of those surveyed in a rudimentary online poll believe that cyclists shouldn’t share the road with motor vehicles – with provocative headlines such as ‘On your bike! One in three drivers want cyclists to be banned from public highways’.

“It is not unusual for motorists and cyclists to clash on the roads,” the Daily Mail’s article on the poll begins, a far cry from the Panorama episode’s portrayal of cyclists as people (who also happen to drive cars) who just want to get to their destination safely.

> ‘Road rage’ on BBC Panorama: fuelling the fire or raising awareness? We interview the presenter on the Podcast

This divisive tabloid response to a relatively balanced depiction of vulnerable road users was criticised by Cycling UK’s head of campaigns, Duncan Dollimore, in an interview with BBC Breakfast this morning.

“The survey stats that we’re reading about, though alarming, are not surprising,” Dollimore told presenters Ben Thompson and Sally Nugent.

“Because people in road safety have been talking for some time about the increasing polarisation and conflict on the roads, which is really worrying and concerning, because it’s sometimes fostered by a bit of a media narrative to try and pitch people who drive and people who cycle as two separate groups.”

> Review: Panorama – Road Rage: Cars v Bikes

Appearing alongside Dollimore this morning on BBC Breakfast was the AA’s president Edmund King. As Simon MacMichael pointed out in his review of ‘Road Rage: Cars v Bikes’, King’s voice was notably absent from Panorama’s programme.

Despite being the public face of the country’s biggest motoring organisation, King is a regular cyclist who has called on motorists to welcome bike lanes as a means of improving traffic flow and has also stressed the importance of using the appropriate mode of transport for each specific journey.

“Your other guest Ed is the representative of the motoring organisation who cycles, and I’m the cycling representative who often drives,” noted Dollimore. “We’re not separate beings who only travel in one way.

“But some of the reporting to try to create a polarisation as a bit of a news story fosters impatience and intolerance on the roads – and that’s detrimental to road safety and can cost lives.”

> Drivers should welcome cycle lanes, says AA president

Echoing Dollimore’s point on the real-life effects of the tabloid-style tribalisation of Britain’s road users, AA president King also argued that increased investment in cycling infrastructure is crucial if tensions between cyclists and motorists are to be cooled, as well as helping to boost the number of people using their bikes for daily journeys.

“I signed a joint letter with Duncan and other organisations last week to the new government saying that we do need more investment in infrastructure,” King said.

“Because if we had better cycling infrastructure, like we have in Holland or other countries, there would be less conflict on the road and it would be safer for all. And I think more people would cycle if that infrastructure was there.”

He continued: “But I think the fundamental point is that most, or many, drivers cycle and most cyclists drive.

“I was out on my bike at the weekend on country roads and when there were a couple of cars behind me and it was difficult to get past, I pulled over.

“So, we need a bit of give and take, on both sides, to create more harmony on the roads. Because ultimately, in our towns and cities in particular, we can’t continue driving… We need to work together on this.”

Ryan joined 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 Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as’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.

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OldRidgeback | 1 year ago

King is a decent bloke. He's done quite a bit for cycling I reckon, because he's head of a major motoring body, but makes no secret of his like of cycling as well.

Steve K replied to OldRidgeback | 1 year ago

OldRidgeback wrote:

King is a decent bloke. He's done quite a bit for cycling I reckon, because he's head of a major motoring body, but makes no secret of his like of cycling as well.

I agree.  We might not agree with everything he says about cycling, but having the head of the country's largest motoring organisation being generally positive about cycling is a massive counter-balance to so many other car-centric voices.

OldRidgeback replied to Steve K | 1 year ago

Yep, I think a few non cyclists might listen to what he says because of who he is, while they'd simply ignore comments from other cyclists.

Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago

I've been thinking about the toxic nature of social media and how it tends to accelerate division, however I've had an idea: we do a 1984 and let the hate help us.

Instead of framing bad motorists solely through the lens of their impact on vulnerable road users we should do it through the lens of the inconvenience they, and 'drivers like them', might hypothetically be causing to other motorists.

So instead of saying "they'll kill someone driving like that" say something like "I bet they start beeping the car infront as soon as the light turns green."

It's not us or them, it's them versus the world.

chrisonabike replied to Car Delenda Est | 1 year ago

You'll be encouraging young folks to join the Junior Spies next and start grassing on their parents!  (For ... er... breaking the law...) Filming stuff seems to be more common among younger people so I imagine this would bring about "vigilante" action!

Unfortunately the dystopian (and accurate) part of Orwell's vision was that it doesn't matter who's in power (does or did Big Brother actually exist?) or the details of their preferences.  The whole point is a small conspiracy getting power over the majority and then the overwhelming motivation is keeping it at all costs.  Unfortunately the motoring lobby got there long ago!  Cyclists now being an out-group I don't see this going well.  There are probably more employees in industries connected with motoring that regular "transportation" cyclists.  And those people are paid!

There is actually a role for social media in this - there's a lot of love expressed for more friendly street spaces.  I'm not sure quite how that translates into change though.

Cayo replied to chrisonabike | 1 year ago

With London being the centre of the UK's media universe (regardless of where in the country its various HQs may now be), it will always (wrongly) be shown as an example of how things are nationwide. The cold truth is that if you visit central London from elsewhere, you will likely see far more examples of reckless cycling than you are used to at home. But then you will also see the same regarding all types of road users, from pedestrians to motorists, and my impression is that, percentage-wise, things are much less lawful or orderly in London than anywhere else I've been in the UK. As a result, the problems of London are projected into the minds of the whole country, and raise the hatred level exponentially. (Yes, you can say I've generalised, but that's the whole point I'm making).

Up here in the Lothians and Edinburgh, I've had far too many examples of dangerous driving and hatred and was hospitalised just under 18 months ago for 8 days with 3 broken ribs, a bruised lung and damage to my eye socket which would have been far worse without a helmet, judging my the damage it sustained, thanks to a hit and run motorbiker who has never been traced (no CCTV and my cameras had unfortunatley all run flat). I still have no memory of the ride (or, thankfully, of the aftermath until i came round on a trolley on the way into recovery from A&E), but whilst I eventually got back on the bike, I am more likley to find a reason for not having time to go out than I used to, all because my life was worthless to the person who literally left me for dead.

Until people start valuing others' lives, sadly I see no improvement to this problem on the horizon...

David9694 | 1 year ago

I don't need to be told that the reason I'm OK as a cyclist because I (also) drive a car.  Spare me the "share the road" / "give and take" stuff as well - when the killing and injuring stops, then maybe we can talk. King's version of this seems to be "I pulled over" - do let me know when the giving bit by drivers starts, because what I mostly see is take.  

I caught a few minutes of a rider going along a B road one hot August day and getting grottily close passed a couple of times, presumably by the 33% that (a) think they have a right an opinion on this and (b) think that he shouldn't exist. 

wtjs replied to David9694 | 1 year ago

Spare me the "share the road" / "give and take" stuff as well - when the killing and injuring stops, then maybe we can talk

Today I was in the middle of the lane with double white lines on my right at Wyre Bridge, Garstang- which are there because it's a combination of a left bend and a humped bridge. On the other side of the bridge, the standard moron behind me overtook and shouted at me through the window. The 'why can't we all just get along' is only supposed by the morons to apply one way. Forget the 'there's no us and them' tripe; there is

chrisonabike | 1 year ago

All good with a minor hiccup by one contributor - an odd lapse as he's normally pretty on-point:

Edmund King wrote:

I think the fundamental point is that most, or many, drivers cycle and most cyclists drive.

I'm not quite clear but it sounded like he was not referring to The Netherlands there.  Where most people (at most ages) cycle at some point - for transportation as much as recreation.  If he was referring to the UK it's clearly false.  Most drivers do not cycle (yeah, more than "I own a bike" or "we did, last summer holiday").  Of those who do it's unlikely most of them cycle for transportation rather than sport or leisure *.  The second part?  Might be closer to the truth because most of children, young adults and other people who can't use cars - who might very well be cycling (or using the cycle paths) in NL - don't cycle on the roads either in the UK.  That leaves just the "fit and brave" who statistically might also be drivers!

Also slightly disappointing - "give and take ... harmony on the roads".  Although he'd already mentioned infrastructure so given the program and the general audience he probably had to say this to avoid alienating lots of his organisation's members!

* Nothing wrong with either; just saying that many people drive to the ride because they don't enjoy cycling in the traffic / it's not convenient.

wtjs | 1 year ago
1 like

Unfortunately, the heading of this topic is a bit more 'Uncle Tom-ery'. Essentially, 0% of UK drivers cycle in the proper sense of the phrase (as opposed to the sense of 'I'm a cyclist myself'). I'm prepared to believe that >50% of cyclists eligible to hold a driving licence do indeed hold one. 

S13SFC replied to wtjs | 1 year ago
1 like

Well that's bolloxs.

I drive every single day and I cycle north of 8000miles a year.

The same is true of the majority of people I ride with.

As for your made up numbers regarding cyclists over 18 having a driving licence, more bolloxs.

wtjs replied to S13SFC | 1 year ago

Well that's bolloxs

You seem to be suffering from a severe comprehension deficit disorder, so I will excuse your disagreement with what I didn't write.

Rendel Harris | 1 year ago

It seems quite extraordinary that the BBC should have chosen rent-a-gobshite Liddle  to comment from the motorist's perspective rather than the eminently sensible Mr King; I'm old enough to remember when Panorama was just about the most serious political program on TV, not some clickbait confected outrage vehicle.

Hirsute replied to Rendel Harris | 1 year ago

Let's do a programme in congestion on trunk roads.
Then give air time to someone who suggested dropping concrete blocks off bridges over these roads.
I'm sure that one would fly.

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