Petty and ill-informed?

BBC Radio Scotland’s “Off The Ball” regularly advertise themselves as the “most petty and ill informed show on the radio”. I think perhaps they should be forced to stop using it. Why? I’ve heard BBC Radio’s  Call Kaye…

For the umpteenth time this year, cycling has been the topic of discussion. This time the focus was on dangerous cyclists, of which there are many. There are also dangerous drivers, and pedestrians, but as Lothian & Borders Police are about to launch a crackdown on dangerous cyclists, it’s a fair point for discussion. As a driver/pedestrian/cyclist I am well aware of the differences between the different modes of transport, obviously some people aren’t. Regular listeners of the show should be aware of some, as it’s been discussed often enough.

The stated mission of the BBC is to inform, educate and entertain. Giving airtime to listeners to put forward uncorrected opinion as fact may be entertaining, but it is neither educational or informative. Having already clarified in previous discussions that many of the facts which are bandied about are anything but factual, shouldn’t they be able to move the debate on, instead of rehashing the same old prejudices?


Hoary Old Chestnut No1: Cyclists don’t pay road tax.

Considering “road tax” or the old road fund licence was done away with in 1937, no one pays road tax. Car owners pay Vehicle Excise Duty, based on the amount of emissions given out by their vehicle. Smart car owners with zero emissions would fall into the same category as a bicycle. No tax disc required. Disabled drivers, ambulances, classic cars, the list goes on. If you buy things which have VAT on, or if you pay income tax, you pay for the roads we all use. We ALL pay for the roads.

Hoary Old Chestnut No2: Cyclists aren’t allowed to cycle on the pavement.

The highway code is explicit. You MUST not cycle on a pavement. An easy one that. Except that a pavement and a footpath are two different things, and people confuse footpaths with pavements. When fixed penalty notices for pavement cycling were introduced in England & Wales in 1999 the then Home Office Minister Paul Boateng MP had to issue clarification on the subject:

“The introduction of the fixed penalty is not aimed at responsible cyclists who sometimes feel obliged to use the pavement out of fear of the traffic, and who show consideration to other pavement users when doing so. This is not a clamp down on responsible cycling, and I know the police service too do not see it in that way.” (Paul Boateng MP, Home Office to Ben Bradshaw MP, 9/7/1999).

This would suggest that cyclists who cycle responsibly on a pavement should not be prosecuted.

There are loads more, but the two above seem to be the main ones which come up time after time. One of the other points which came up in the programme was that cyclists were riding “2, 3 or 4 abreast” on country roads. 3 0r 4 is unacceptable, but cycling two abreast is. Similarly one drivers view that cyclists should cycle as close to the kerb as possible goes against techniques promoted in the DFT recommended Cyclecraft scheme, which advises on taking a Primary position when cycling on the road.

The BBC have been under the spotlight in recent times. Long seen around the world as trustworthy and reliable, closer examination reveals this is less than accurate. Metro TV criticKeith Watson described a recent programme about the cold war as “bias buffed up as fact” and that is all too often the case. Opinion isn’t fact. Simply stoking up the flames of argument educates and informs no one.

This week saw another cycling death in London, the 5th in 9 days. In Edinburgh earlier this week a man was badly injured when he collided with a rope tied across a cyclepath in the south of the city. That the BBC are stoking this argument, rather than educating people is just not on. It’s time that the telephone line to Call Kaye was cut off, and that the BBC started producing the factual content it is supposed to, not a cheap on air argument on the same level as the Jeremy Kyle show.

You can listen to the show for a limited time here. If you must.  Don’t blame me if your blood boils…

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