Footballer-turned driving instructor Ashley Neal says that he “wholeheartedly” disagrees with the approach taken by fellow YouTuber CyclingMikey in trying to make roads safer, saying that by confronting law-breaking drivers he actually creates many road rage incidents.
Neal, who runs a driving school in Liverpool, visited London’s Regents Park and the junction nicknamed Gandalf Corner where, for several years now, Mike van Erp – Cycling Mikey – has regularly positioned himself, filming law-breaking drivers often on their mobile phone, or going the wrong side of a keep left sign to try and avoid queueing traffic.
In an eight-minute YouTube video, Neal explains how Gandalf Corner, which he describes as an “unremarkable” junction got its nickname, highlights some examples of law-breaking drivers there – including by using footage from CyclingMikey’s own YouTube channel.
“He’s caught many people over the years,” Neal explains. “Most are reported to the police. Some receive fines and points on the licence, others just have driver improvement courses, and there’s a few who don’t get any punishment whatsoever.”
Certainly, Neal has no truck with drivers who break the law – he points out that “impatience is normally the reason many road users take this short cut, however, this puts others at risk,” and that “pedestrians are only going to be expecting vehicles to be coming from their right as they cross this section of road, they wouldn’t expect vehicles to be coming from the opposite side of the road.”
He also highlights that van Erp “also catches a lot of people on their mobile phone, usually when they’re just queueing in traffic,” although he quickly qualifies that by adding, “that doesn’t mean that using your mobile phone while queueing in traffic is allowed,” mentioning the stricter laws that came into force earlier this year.
What Neal does appear to have an issue with, however, is van Erp – and other cyclists who use cameras – submitting that footage to the police for potential action to be taken against the motorists concerned, even though that is something that police forces across the country actively encourage.
“Mikey also takes great pride in showcasing all the fines that people have got and the points they got on the licence,” he says. “This isn't something that I would do. Most of you understand my educational stance on things. I've never reported anyone for anything.
“That doesn't mean reporting is a bad thing. It just depends on your own single circumstances. And for me, I run a driving school in Liverpool. I'm responsible for many instructors and all their students. If I was reporting every single thing that I saw, the negativity towards those instructors and students would definitely have a negative effect on road safety.
“The next thing is that if I reported every single offence that I saw I’d have no time to do anything else,” he adds.
Both have huge reach through their social media channels. Neal’s YouTube channel has 106,000 subscribers, compared to just over 80,000 on CyclingMikey’s channel – and views of individual videos posted by van Erp often run into several millions, while the driving instructor’s most popular upload is currently 3,000 short of seven figures.
Neal does use his YouTube presence to educate motorists over how to drive safely, as well as highlighting examples of poor driving (including, ironically, his own, as highlighted in the link below) – but in this case, he also points out that some cyclists break the law, too.
“What Mikey has done is actually rallied many cyclists to take a similar reporting approach,” he says. “This may have a positive impact nationally on stopping people using their mobile phones, but honestly, I think it's created a different problem. I've actually asked Mikey about this on his videos before but he didn't respond.
“Quite often you can see on the footage while he’s challenging the motorist for contravening the keep left bollard, cyclists doing exactly the same.
“Now, I understand that anyone driving a tonne’s worth of metal is going to do a hell of a lot more damage than anyone riding a bike, but with the speeds involved at this junction and at this crossing area, honestly, it becomes a lot less relevant.
“Some motorists think because of the lack of requirement for number plates and licences to ride a bicycle, cyclists are getting away with things that motorists don't.
“I understand that this is a false equivalence and the updates to the Highway Code back this up. But this way of looking out for your own is wrong, you're either pro road safety or not, This disparity between different types of road users just causes resentment and divide.
“We've now got legions of cyclists, all around the country, trying to capture that moment and shouting ‘you're on camera, you know’.
“If you catch someone committing an offence, just report it if you wish to. Plainly and simply we need to be building bridges, not creating divide. All roads need to be shared safely and sensibly.”
“If you haven’t seen Mikey’s videos, please check them out. And also, I'd like you to tell me whether you find them entertaining, whether they help with. road safety or whether they hinder,” Neal continues.
“In my personal opinion, I wholeheartedly disagree with his approach, he effectively camps out here and creates many of these road rage incidents, all of his own accord.
“He could just record the offenders and then report them to the police anyway, without standing in and blocking the road. I've actually seen on a number of his uploads different types of road users taking to the pavement because of his actions,” he adds.
What Neal does not mention, but van Erp has in numerous media appearances, including on the road.cc Podcast, is one of the principal reasons why he is so passionate about making the roads safer and bringing law-breaking motorists to justice – his father was killed by a drink driver while van Erp was still a teenager.
A number of van Erp’s followers on Twitter expressed support for him, with @velobetty for example saying that while she usually respects Neal’s opinions, “I think he's pretty wrong on this one.”
To be honest, I'm just absolutely sick to death of being, metaphorically, punched in the face and then being told to just get ok with everybody.
— Elisabeth Anderson 🚲🐺 (@velobetty) May 22, 2022
‘We should be building bridges’
Fuck that, I’ve been hit by 3 drivers and had my back broken in 3 places through one of those interactions.
Reporting drivers can only have a positive impact - it is literally the consequences of their own actions.
— Harry 🚲 (@nottheUCI) May 22, 2022
Van Erp himself – currently enjoying a cycling holiday on the Continent – is aware of the video, but says he won’t be watching it.
Interestingly, I believe the parks police minuted at a parks meeting that my activities had produced a substantial improvement in safety at the corner. That’s confirmed by a contact I have there who said far fewer people dare to do it nowadays.
— CyclingMikey along the Rhine 🇳🇱🇪🇺🇿🇼🇺🇦 (@MikeyCycling) May 23, 2022
Cheers. Not going to bother watching it. I don’t rate his opinion.
— CyclingMikey along the Rhine 🇳🇱🇪🇺🇿🇼🇺🇦 (@MikeyCycling) May 22, 2022
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.