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Criticism for Channel 5 documentary 'Cyclists: Scourge of the Streets'

Joe Robinson
10 Jul 2019

Chris Boardman labels biased documentary as 'dressed up prejudice'

The controversial and inflammatory documentary 'Cyclists: Scourge of the Streets' aired by Channel 5 last night has been attacked by plenty on social media who described it as 'dressed up prejudice'.

The 45-minute show, produced by Firecracker Films for Channel 5, attempted to give 'an unfiltered look at both sides of the fence' for cyclists and motorists, yet many saw it as an unbridled attack on cyclists.

What the documentary lacked in facts and fairness it made up for in London black cab drivers lamenting the actions of the few cyclists that do break the law on the city's streets and commentators specifically set out to criticise cycling.

Chief among those to criticise the show's approach was Olympic gold medalist and Manchester cycling and walking commissioner Chris Broadman, who responded in a short video posted to the British Cycling Twitter account.

Boardman denied that the documentary was 'hard-hitting' or 'evidence-based', continuing by stating 'by and large, those "street demons" are mothers, fathers, grandparents and children all doing their bit to make Britain a healthier, greener and more liveable place.'

'More people riding bikes is exactly what we need as a society, as a species, if we’re going to tackle big issues like rising obesity, congestion, pollution and of course the global climate crisis.'

Guardian journalist Peter Walker responded to the show by calling it 'hugely irresponsible, breathtakingly inaccurate, utter nonsense' while Will Norman, London's cycling and walking commissioner, stated 'Sad to hear the dangerous nonsense being broadcast on @channel5_tv. People who ride bikes aren’t the "scourge of the streets". They’re mums, dads & kids helping make the UK a healthier & more liveable place.'

For those watching, the most worrying part of the show was the language used. At points, cyclists were labelled 'plagues' and 'scum of the road' and even brandished 'public enemy number one'.

In a rather flimsy response, the makers of the show responded to the criticism in a statement.

'The big bike boom has caused a mighty backlash from hacked off motorists who see cyclists as rule-breaking know-it-alls, who freewheel all over our cities, hog road space and don’t have to adhere to the same laws as everyone else. But motorists themselves have a lot to answer for – when it comes to causing serious harm on the roads, it’s drivers who are mainly to blame,' read the statement.

'Tensions between two and four wheels have never been more fraught. We’re saddling up and belting up with riders and drivers from across the UK to tell the story of the turf war for Britain’s roads.'

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