Safely getting the show on the road

By Nick Grant

British traffic documentary is relevant to Kiwis, says Nick Grant.

'The War on Britain's Roads', a documentary on cyclists in Britain.
'The War on Britain's Roads', a documentary on cyclists in Britain.

Around 10 cyclists are killed on our roads each year. In Britain, the average annual fatality figure is 10 times that. In both countries, the majority of these deaths are caused by collisions between bicycles and motor vehicles. As such, TV3's UK documentary War on Britain's Roads is all-too relevant viewing for Kiwis.

The documentary's big hook is first-person footage of near misses, crashes and confrontations that's been captured on cyclists' helmet cameras, which an increasing number of British bike riders are using in order to "document their journeys and record aggression from drivers".

If what we're shown is remotely representative, there's certainly a lot of aggro about, from shouted insults ("you twat!" being the most popular) to physical assaults. As web developer and cycling enthusiast Gareth notes with great understatement, "the relationship between motorists and cyclists can be pretty difficult".

Of course, each camp is convinced they're in the right, an attitude perfectly illustrated by a clash between Gareth and taxi driver Michael.

After viewing the footage and listening to both parties' side of the story, the only thing one can definitively say is that each of them could have displayed more courtesy while trying "to share the same crowded space".

Other interview subjects include Cynthia, whose daughter died under the wheels of an inattentive truck driver, putting a face to the statistic that 20 per cent of cyclists' deaths involve heavy goods vehicles. Cynthia's story is upsetting but also ultimately inspiring.

Another interviewee worthy of emulation is telco tech Lewis who, after being knocked off his bicycle and seriously injured, transformed himself into the "Traffic Droid".

The bike-riding avenger films lawbreaking road users then uploads the footage to YouTube, to name and shame them as well as give them the chance to "look at themselves online so they can correct their ways".

What is especially laudable about Lewis is he records and remonstrates with fellow cyclists who break the rules and not just motorists.

The programme is equally evenhanded, never devolving into declaring "four wheels good, two wheels bad" or vice versa. Instead it traffics in empathy, and anyone who watches it is likely to be a more considerate on the roads as a result - at least for a wee while. For this reason, War on Britain's Roads is thoroughly recommended.

Like the doco, One's opening episode of Sherlock's third season features hair-raising scenes of racing through London's streets. And like the series' earlier instalments, the most enjoyable bits involve the interaction between Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch playing Watson and Holmes.

When trying to visually convey Sherlock's brilliant deductive reasoning the programme-makers display a mysterious cluelessness about tone, threatening to derail the whole jolly romp. Fortunately, however, things are soon back on track, so I'll be back for the remainder of this all-too-short season.

Finally, if you like a bit of grit with your televisual crime, then Rialto's French series Braquo might well appeal to your jaded palate. Whether the show's four central Paris-based police officers are really cops or crooks is debatable; they're all most definitely - 'ow you say? - badasses.

War on Britain's Roads, 8.30pm, Wednesday, TV3; Braquo debuts 8.30pm, Friday, Rialto; Sherlock returns Saturday, 8.30pm, TV One.

- Herald on Sunday

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