There is no war on Britain’s roads

A BBC documentary and a couple of smug vigilante cyclists paint an unfortunate and inaccurate picture of life on two wheels in our cities. 

“It is your killer instinct which must be harnessed if you expect to survive in combat. Your bike is only a tool. It is a hard heart that kills. If your killer instincts are not clean and strong you will hesitate at the moment of truth. You will not kill.” Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, Full Metal Jacket, 1987.

Last night the BBC aired its much anticipated documentary (at least in the world of cycling) called ‘The War on Britain’s Roads’ which offered a look at the sometimes strained relationship that exists between motorists and cyclists in our cities.

Unfortunately, in its wisdom, the broadcaster chose to put a couple of self-proclaimed ‘vigilantes’ at the core of the programme and, as a result, a significant proportion of the 3.5 million who watched the show will come away thinking that cyclists are, frankly, a bit weird and completely self obsessed.

The so-called @CycleGaz is well-known in London commuting circles for the video footage of his commute (you can watch them on his YouTube channel, here). But an ambassador of cycling, he certainly isn’t

Here’s what he had to say last night:

“You look down at your speedometer and you can see that you’re doing 30mph – you’re keeping up with the other traffic. And it kind of feels like I’m saying I deserve to be here, I can go as fast as everyone else.

“And it feels great when you’re cycling past traffic, you’re seeing everyone stuck in their metal box, just trying to get home – and you can just cycle past.

“The relationship between drivers and cyclists can be pretty difficult – I think some people’s mindsets are they just hate cyclists, they sort of feel like they have to get in front of you and they’ll do that by any means. I think it could kind of be described as like a war.”

Smug, and a bit childish.

That CycleGaz claims that cycling in our cities can be described as “like a war”, is sensationalist, over simplistic and plain wrong and one can only assume that the BBC interviewer set him up for that particular statement.

So, make no mistake, there isn’t a war on the streets of our cities, just millions of people trying to get from A to B with a couple of idiots thrown into the mix. Some of those idiots are cyclists and some of them are motorists, and when the two come together you get an argument.

But that wouldn’t make very good television.

David Rae

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  1. As a frequent cycle commuter, I’d like to thank the instantly dislikable CycleGaz and the programme makers for reinforcing my fiancée’s perception that I must be insane, that all cars are trying to kill me, and I’m going to come to an untimely and sticky end under a truck or over someone’s bonnet.

    Fact is, if you ride properly and aren’t a shiny-faced wassock with clear psychological issues, it’s still less dangerous than walking. Every single one of the cyclists mentioned or shown ‘annoying drivers’ was doing something wrong – up the inside of a truck, defending their position unnecessarily, failing to predict the actions of other road users. When you’re driving a car and you see another car approaching a junction, you slow down in case they haven’t seen you. Not doing so on a bike is suicidally arrogant.

  2. I cannot agree more with both the article and Gizmo’s comments. I deliberately avoided the show as I knew exacly what it was going to portray. It seems like I made the right decision, as it focused on the extremes and not the mainstream as I thought it would.

    In the real world there is no ‘war’, simply poor decisions made by cyclists and drivers alike and if we all learn from them the roads will be safer for all of us.

  3. Cheers for the comments guys. I found this quite difficult to write and was feeling completely uninspired last night when trying to do so. Probably because the whole thing was so bloody stupid that it seemed almost pointless trying to respond…

  4. “Fact is, if you ride properly and aren’t a shiny-faced wassock ”

    This is amazing, thank you

  5. Peter Krantz says:

    Bicycles, pedestrians, horse and buggy, all co existed with no rules and regulations. Then in the early 20th century cars were introduced in the mix. They gained status and speed each year and when their speed passed 30mph.( around 1924), rules and regulations where introduced to limit the carnage on the roads cause by the horseless buggy. Today I have to respect these traffic bastions while I ride my bicycle on the road; stop signs, traffic lights, speed limits,.. etc all because car drivers are irresponsible (do not share) and cause many deaths which is accepted. They always notice cyclists when they do not respect the rules while riding which were conceived exclusively for cars protection …. I call it a lob sided war.


  1. […] At least one review says that it did a good job of scaring people off their bikes and into cars, another says “smug vigilante cyclists”; it seems that most, if not all, say that it was unbalanced and […]

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