Reported today that a blogger who took part in a controversial BBC documentary highlighting the daily battle between drivers and cyclists on Britain's roads, has become the target of death threats and abuse from motorists.
Gareth Williams, 24, provided the BBC with footage filmed using a helmet camera for “The War on Britain's Roads” which was aired on 6th December. But the urban cyclist has since been inundated with hate messages with many taking to Twitter accusing him of being 'antagonistic' and 'confrontational' towards drivers.
In one of the film's most controversial moments, Williams slapped the side of a taxi and then captured his confrontation with driver Michael on his helmet camera. Williams called the cabbie a 'mug' and accused him of assault. Even when the driver had got back in his car Williams followed on his bike shouting through his window 'You don’t own the road or the bus lane - you don’t own anything but your cab.'
In a later segment, Williams said he was not afraid to annoy drivers by riding in the middle of the road if it was safe to do so. 'If I can try and improve one driver and get them to drive a little bit safer then I think that’s a good achievement,' he claimed.
One Twitter user said 'The white guy in glasses arguing with the black taxi driver is going to get himself killed one day. Arrogant provocator.' Another wrote 'I want to smack this guy with the glasses, he's an idiot.' But some went further, even posting messages which said they would mow down the cyclist if they ever saw him out on the road. Yet another said 'I am a cyclist, but that first t**** in the glasses deserves to be run over.'
Previews of the hour-long documentary had been condemned by the joint chairman of the Parliamentary Cycling Group and Labour MP for Dudley North Ian Austin. He described the programme as 'stupid, sensationalist, simplistic, irresponsible nonsense.'
It was indeed no surprise that the right-on left-wing BBC should get on the right-on left-wing bandwagon to drive us all off the roads by any means possible. And the programme was indeed dreadful, a deliberately provocative attempt to portray a “war” on the roads that by and large does not exist. The most callous and cynical segment was about the mother of a girl who had been killed on her bike by a left-turning lorry. The mother had been quite unable to come to terms with her daughter's tragic death, and mounted a campaign which she said was to “find out exactly what happened” but was, in fact, an attempt to pin the blame on somebody ... anybody ... rather than face up to the truth.
We felt grieved for the mother – the death of any young person is dreadful, and an unnecessary, silly death is still worse. But we have to point out that this poor girl made a mistake. She wasn't stupid, she wasn't criminal, she just made a mistake, and paid for it. Anyone who thinks and notices what goes on around them must realise that when a long vehicle turns left, its front wheels will describe one circle but the body and the rear wheels will follow another. It's called geometry. With the best will in the world and the greatest care by the driver, the back of the lorry will inevitably come very close to the kerb and the driver can't prevent that without making a ridiculously wide turn that will impede other traffic even if the road's wide enough to allow it. Any cyclist who puts themselves on the inside of a long vehicle that might be turning left is in a very dangerous position indeed, and shouldn't rely on the lorry driver to get them out of it. And if you're sitting at traffic lights minding your own business and a damn great juggernaut comes and stops right beside you – well, how hard is it to bale out and get onto the pavement just in case?
The GOS has been driving for 50 years and still does almost 20,000 miles a year. And for the sake of healthy exercise he recently went back to cycling too, so he thinks he's in a strong position to offer an opinion, and it is this ...
1 Motorists and cyclists in general do a pretty good job of co-existing on the roads – round Grumpy Towers anyway.
2 Motorists are at fault, though, in that they frequently treat the cyclist as a fixed object past which they have to manoeuvre, just like a tree or a post or a parked car. They often don't take into account the fact that cyclists wobble (The GOS more than most, to be honest), or have to swerve a bit sometimes to avoid potholes that the motorist would probably not feel but which could damage a bike and upset the rider.
3 Cyclists need to realise that they have the same duty of care as motorists. In towns it seems to be normal for them to behave as though they own the four feet at the left-hand side of the road, and that their four feet just swerves out to avoid parked cars. A motorist approaching a parked car has to go through the whole mirror-signal-manoeuvre business – he can't just assume it's OK for him to pull out. But cyclists generally do just pull out without looking, and wonder why they get knocked down.
4 Probably the most at fault are local council traffic planners. Every major road, in towns certainly, should have cycle lanes each side, and those cycle lanes should be continuous and at least four feet wide. The GOS never sees a cycle lane that's wide enough. Often they're just the width of the handle bars, and every cyclist needs more leeway than that. This is why cyclists like the Gareth prat think that they own not only the cycle lane but another two feet of road beside it. And in our local town there are cycle lanes that just stop for no reason, and carry on again a hundred yards down the road. What are cyclists supposed to do – fly?
And as we're talking about the Gareth prat, let's just make clear that anyone who deliberately sets out to put himself in danger by trying to occupy a patch of road that will obstruct other vehicles, just so he can feel all self-righteous and get that warm glow from showing that you're right and someone else is wrong, is two spokes short of a wheel rim. It's not his place to educate drivers, and he has no more rights on the road than the rest of us.
If he keeps going he will certainly end up under the wheels of an artic and there will be some who won't be entirely sorry. Actually, there are some who won't be at all sorry, because he's objectionable. But it won't be his fault of course; after all, he's a cyclist and can therefore do no wrong.
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