Like this site? Help us to make it better.

“It demonstrates the reality of cycling on UK roads”: Panorama Car v Bikes host responds to accusation that he jumped red light during programme

YouTube driving instructor Ashley Neal claimed that the presenter’s manoeuvre “makes a mockery” of the question “are UK roads too dangerous to cycle on?”

The presenter of the recent BBC Panorama investigation, ‘Road Rage: Cars v Bikes’, has responded to the accusation that he jumped a red light while cycling during the controversial programme, an incident which he claims demonstrates “how difficult” some junctions can be to navigate on a bike, as well as the wider “reality of cycling on UK roads”.

The Panorama episode, which aired last week and explored the vulnerability of cyclists on Britain’s roads, received a mixed response from cyclists on social media. While many cycling campaigners praised the programme’s willingness to highlight the dangers faced by cyclists on a daily basis, it was also heavily criticised for the decision to interview – as a counterpoint to the pro-active travel arguments of Cycling UK’s Duncan Dollimore – the notoriously anti-cycling columnist Rod Liddle.  

> BBC Panorama – Road Rage: Cars v Bikes – the Podcast debrief 

The latest criticism of the programme, however, comes from a rather more unlikely source. In a video uploaded yesterday to his popular YouTube channel, driving instructor Ashley Neal pointed out that, during the documentary, presenter Richard Bilton – who discussed the episode on last week’s instalment of the Podcast – “jumped a red light” while cycling in London.

“I’m not sure whether much has been said about this incident in this documentary,” the Liverpool-based instructor wrote in the caption to the video, which has been viewed almost 43,000 times on YouTube. “But it makes a little bit of a mockery when the question is asked ‘are the UK roads too dangerous to cycle on?’”

Neal, who described the issues tackled by the programme as “quite close to my heart”, began the eight-minute-long video (above) by criticising what he regards as the typically divisive character of the road safety debate, and praised Bilton for doing “a good, balanced job”.

Nevertheless, the driving instructor continued: “But I’m not sure whether anyone else had picked up on it, but the presenter, around 24 minutes in, jumps a red light.”

In the Panorama clip highlighted by Neal, Bilton attempts to navigate the infamous Holborn gyratory, an intimidating junction which lies at the intersection of two busy routes for cycle commuters and where eight people on bikes have lost their lives in crashes involving lorries and coaches since 2008.

Last month, Camden Council opened an “urgent” consultation, which runs until tomorrow, on changes to the gyratory, which at present provides no physical segregation from motor traffic for cyclists and has been the scene of regular protests by the London Cycling Campaign and Stop Killing Cyclists calling for safety measures to be brought in to prevent people on bikes from being killed there.

> Camden opens “urgent” consultation on changes to notorious Holborn gyratory 

In his video, Neal highlights a moment in the Panorama programme where Bilton appears to slowly ride on through a red light at the junction, as pedestrians cross the road.

“Without effective observation, any infrastructure changes are pretty pointless to reduce risk altogether,” Neal narrated over the clip.

“The green walking man symbol is displayed allowing pedestrians to cross this section of road. And even more obvious, the red light is showing on the other side. But our cyclist still goes with the bus coming the other way.”

Using another clip from the junction submitted by one of his viewers to illustrate the point, Neal notes that “the pedestrian crossing area is across the full width of the road – so the journalist from Panorama shouldn’t have been going.”

> “I wholeheartedly disagree with his approach” – YouTube driving instructor Ashley Neal on CyclingMikey 

The driving instructor then remarked that the bus driver – who was turning right at the junction as Bilton approached – “seemed to be taking no prisoners” and that he wasn’t sure whether the cyclist “would have been hit by the bus, but it would have been quite a late, sharp, abrupt stop.”

He continued: “I think the bus driver was saying ‘No, you are not going, I’m going to use my size to deter you from going’. And luckily enough, it worked.”

“It does show you the problems that humans can cause themselves – we miss things.”

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

Responding to Neal’s comments, Bilton told “The point of the programme was to demonstrate the reality of cycling on UK roads. We did so in a balanced fashion.

“We included the sequence with the lights because it demonstrated to a viewer how difficult the Holborn gyratory is to navigate if you’re not familiar with the layout. It was my first time.”

Explaining the situation that led him to ride through the red light before swiftly stopping, the presenter said: “As you wait to enter the junction, there’s a set of lights for cyclists. I thought green allowed me to move across the junction.

“But green only allows you to move forward a couple of yards to another set of lights. I got it wrong and found myself in the path of a bus. As the film shows, I turned back and returned to the original position, commenting to the camera how dangerous the situation felt.

“As I mentioned in the programme, the London Borough of Camden has made some changes to the junction to help cyclists, but that it had recently announced an urgent review of how traffic is managed at this location.”

Ryan joined 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.

Add new comment


quiff replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago
1 like

The one I encountered was at junction of Blackfriars Road / Southwark Street / Stamford Street - turning off CS6 towards Southwark Street. Can't remember the exact details, but I was left stranded in the middle of the junction not sure where to find my signal. Quite alien when I was perfectly comfortable following car-based signals. 

mattw replied to yourealwaysbe | 1 year ago

I recall a 2-stage turn design used on the 1st (or 2nd?) blue paint gen of cysling superhighways which involved doing a horizontal loop the loop across the shared pavement.

IMO this design is too complex, and will get simplified.

I hope on that jumction Camden will provide alternative attractive routes avoiding it altogether - eg an alternative via Queren Square for left turners from Southampton Row into Theobalds Road.

HoarseMann | 1 year ago

Ashley means well, but he really does miss the point sometimes.

He talks about not wanting an 'us & them' between drivers and cyclists, but then says things like 'cyclists are not totally innocent in these situations, they never are'. I've never heard him speak about drivers like that, framing them as an entity.

Then there's the bit where he explains that perhaps the presenter was distracted by talking to a camera, but then that doesn't affect him, as he has a better skillset. That really does sounds like the typical "I'm a good driver so I can do [insert dubious driving habit] safely". This usually works for a while before their luck runs out. Do as I say, not as I do, never works well as a teaching method.

I would like to see him stop talking to the camera when he's driving, especially when it adds no context to the discussion.

Flintshire Boy replied to HoarseMann | 1 year ago


How dare he say things like 'cyclists are not totally innocent in these situations'? How DARE he?


He pointed out that it was likely Bilton's first time riding whilst speaking to camera, and so the mistake was entirely understandable, whilst he himself  had a lot of experience of similar so was probably better at it, whilst certainly not being perfect.


As ever, Ashley tries for a reasonable, balanced interpretation of situations.


Clearly, that's nowhere near good enough for you. What are those rules again?


Ah yes. Rule 1: cyclists are never wrong.

Rule 2: on those rare, largely theoretical occasions when a cyclist might, just possibly, marginally, debateably be in the wrong, well - see Rule 1 above.


Gosh, talk about seeing / hearing what you want to see.


Blinkered much?



HoarseMann replied to Flintshire Boy | 1 year ago

you've missed the



Ashley Neal | 1 year ago

Time for me to get myself down to Holborn gyratory on my bike I think. Are you up for it Richard Bilton?

HoarseMann replied to Ashley Neal | 1 year ago

I think Richard Bilton looked terrified riding around the Holborn gyratory. I'm quite sure he'd rather not do that again!

He was unfamiliar with the road layout and probably distracted by the camera, but who can honestly say they've never found themselves in the wrong lane or missed a road sign when riding or driving in an unfamiliar location - especially such a busy location in London, where there's so much going on.

It's a shame you didn't dig a bit deeper in that video into the road layout that might have caused Richard to be confused about the traffic lights. It's highly unusual. I have never seen anything like it before. It's kind of like an advanced stop line on steroids, with traffic light controls to hold cars back whilst cyclists get a head start.

efail replied to Ashley Neal | 1 year ago

I don't know how anyone can give 100% attention to driving when giving commentary about some other event and also looking at the camera.

mattw replied to Ashley Neal | 1 year ago

Nice to see you over here, Ashley.

I posted a long comment over at your place (re-edited above or below following the comment from Bilton), and I think Panorama rather missed the opportunity to explore how difficult it can be to get these right.

The type of meandering route followed by the presenter is exactly the type of thing that can get a cyclist killed by a left-hooking lorry, and I would argue demonstrates the need for far fuller segregation for passive safety reasons.

A couple of the 9 people on bikes killed in that area can perhaps be characterised as inexperiened. There's nothing wrong with that, but inexperienced in a high risk situation with no passive protection, such as lorries or buses not being able to get at you by intention or mistake, can be fatal.

Matt Wardman

hawkinspeter replied to Ashley Neal | 1 year ago

Ashley Neal wrote:

Time for me to get myself down to Holborn gyratory on my bike I think. Are you up for it Richard Bilton?

I haven't watched the Panorama programme, but caught your above-linked clip and thought it was fair enough. That most certainly does look like Richard Bilton went through on a red and it seems like a strange mistake to make as the peds were obviously crossing the road and the approaching bus was certainly a big clue. I don't know that junction myself, but it didn't look too bad from my brief view through the camera.

However, I don't agree with your characterisation of cyclists in that cyclists never accept blame or apportion blame to other cyclists - there's plenty of examples on this site that show otherwise. I think the confusion comes about as a lot of motorist commenters (e.g. on Twitter) take a strange and outdated view of road laws and responsibility and falsely accuse cyclists of not getting out of the way - that's when some of us stand up to make our interpretation understood.

I would say, however, that in general a cyclist's view of the road and surroundings is much better than the limited view that drivers get through a windscreen (and A-pillars) and so cyclists are on average a lot more observant than drivers. Also, cyclists have to be alert as otherwise we tend to get hurt a lot - it can be something as simple as not spotting a wet drain cover on a corner or not anticipating a left-hook. That's partly why the Near Miss of The Day series can be useful to watch so that common issues can be better anticipated and hopefully common errors avoided.


Latest Comments