Monday 17 January 2011

Adam Rayner

Adam Rayner is apparently a motoring journalist. I have never heard of him until this week when he seemed to be all over the BBC talking about cyclists.

Such as the BBC TV interview he did here
There was also a FiveLive "debate" featuring him saying much the same things in the TV interview.

He starts off straight away with the "cyclists going up one way streets the wrong way and jumping traffic lights" gambit, before launching into the tried and tested "the problem is the cyclists' attitudes" and then the old accountability chestnut. During which he said that cyclists were either "incompetent and stupid or arrogant and stupid". I shit you not. He also repeated this phrase on the FiveLive interview, so presumably he is quite proud of this soundbite.

Credit has to be given to Zoe Williams who, defending the cyclists, was reasonable, unflustered, intelligent and calm in the face of this complete rubbish. Which is more than I would have been.

More seriously, Adam Rayner appeared to dismiss the words of Martin Porter, who has been interviewed by the media on issues concerning police follow up of incidents involving cyclists.  Adam implied that he was being paid for "taking a stance". Martin Porter is a highly respected QC. To say that he his taking a stance because he is being paid to do so is pretty rude and wasn't picked up by the interviewers at all. Who would be paying him to take this stance? I would suggest to Adam that Martin Porter is taking a stance not because some mysterious illuminati of cyclists are paying him, but because, like many of us, he is getting a bit pissed off with motorists being able to drive dangerously with little or no consequence.

When Zoe Williams tried to get the debate back to something approaching reason, Adam then launched into a strange rant about cyclists not signalling properly. Apparently in 30 years he has never seen a cyclist signal properly, according to his cycling proficiency test. Which seems somewhat of another extraordinary claim.

He concluded that some of the money "striped" from the motorists (presumably as part of the "war")  should be invested in cycling infrastructure. Sounds reasonable, except I think that his idea would be to simply get cyclists off the roads so that motorists wouldn't have to worry about them. I doubt he would be interested in the type of infrastructure put in Holland or Denmark which takes space away from cars and gives it to pedestrians and cyclists.

This would all be utterly laughable, if the interviews hadn't been precipated by the high profile death of Gary Mason. At what point does the BBC think it OK to have a "debate" about cycling on UK roads which involves someone with views that they pretty much bring it upon themselves and simply counter any sensible conversation with half-baked anecdotes, innuendo, and plain old prejudice?

I do think that motoring journalists such as Adam Rayner look at high profile presenters such as Jeremy Clarkson and try to emulate. Except that Clarkson does his ranting with his tongue firmly in his cheek, and usually knows just what to get away with. I don't think Adam Rayner is able to pull off this stunt.

If Adam Rayner really wants to understand the issues cyclists face, I would be more than happy to take him around E,NE and N London to show him. Maybe he would realise why people cycle and what dangers can be caused by thoughtless or bullying tactics from some motorists. And that despite the issues, he might just enjoy it.


  1. That really is an extraordinary "debate", for all the reasons you give. Thanks for drawing my attention to it, as I'd not have seen it if it were not pointed to here.

    He does say one thing which makes sense - that he'd be well served by Dutch cycling infrastructure. It's true. This would help drivers as well as cyclists.

  2. Not surprised at all. As Freewheeler has pointed out time and again, the BBC is a car supremacist organization.

  3. I happened to have the displeasure of hearing Mr Rayner both on the the BBC breakfast and on the radio Wales phone in and was so disgusted on both occasions that I had to switch off and ignore it. He's entitled to his vile opinions, of course, but what I found most distressing was the seeming inability of the hosts to question his ludicrous stance, as if it was somehow acceptable and not worthy of further interrogation. That the death of Gary Mason was used as the run up to these 'debates' is also upsetting, but more than anything I think it goes to show what a PR problem cycling or 'cyclists' still have here in the UK. We have a long way to go on that front!

  4. Two things: Martin Porter was not speaking because he was "paid to" but because he has twice in a fairly short period of time been a victim of road rage of an arguably criminal nature, and on both occasions despite his eminent status in the legal profession been unable to get the Metplod to do anything about it. One awas a well-documented threat to kill, and the other was an alleged assault by a driver who had stepped out of his car to do so.

    Secondly, if you actually saw Mr Rayner on the BBC Breakfast show, you would likely conclude that he really, really, needs to get out of his car and try cycling or at least walking somewhere, if only to improve his chances of avoiding heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.

  5. Paul - Yes, and not contested at all by the BBC interviewer. Adam Rayner basically said that Martin Porter was taking his stance because of money. Which I think is a serious misrepresentation.

    Zoe Williams was the epitome of calmness. When Rayner made the comments that cyclists are either incompetent and arrogant or stupid and arrogant, I may have had to ask which group Gary Mason fell into? Or Catriona Patel? Or Zoe Sheldrake?

    I know that the BBC breakfast news is hardly a renowned bastion of investigative journalism (whenever I turn on, they seem to be concentrating on Dancing on Ice / Strictly come dancing etc.) but even they must realise that letting a whole load of half-baked prejudices be unchallenged hardly puts them in a good light.

  6. @ David Hembrow

    I am not too sure he was imagining large investment in Dutch type cycling infrastructure and space reallocated from cars. Probably more a few white lines painted on pavements and a cycling ban on the roads to stop us getting in the way.

  7. I saw him on BBC breakfast too.

    In one sense though, I was encouraged. He had the air of a fat ranting mad man, discussing irrelevant things and slagging off cyclists, to whom for once, the public were somewhat sympathetic too, given the sad death of Gary Mason. All in all, not the best way to present your case. And it was good to hear this aired on national breakfast TV too.

    That said, points deducted for only featuring this now someone famous has died and for not challenging half-baked prejudices on air. In fact, Bill Turnbull was openly hostile to Zoe Williams. In what other situation is the victim treated so?

  8. A complete and utter idiot. When was the last time that fat man was on a bike? What's even more disturbing is the fact that a lot of motorists think this way.
    It's this clan war mentality, flying in the face of logic that causes wars.

  9. Adam Rayner claims to be a BBC motoring pundit; his linked in page implies he's paid for this. If the people he argues with aren't aware that the BBC are paying him just to spout indefensible bollocks then they are at a disadvantage.

    On the other hand, were some cycling activist to appear in a discussion knowing in advance that he was being paid by the BBC to appear to be a complete ill-informed idiot, well, that would make for a very entertaining television debate, as well as hopefully the end of his TV appearances

  10. Hi, I am Dutch and have cycled a good part of my life and yes I am cycling on a regular basis to work. In the interview there are a couple of things that strike me:
    In Holland, cyclist are protect by law. In the sense that car drivers have the responsibility to look out for cyclist because they are more vulnerable. Which is normal any where in the world with any organism but obviously british (and other countries as well) car drivers are not compelled to look out for the weaker species.
    Also, Mr Rayner apperantly -as mentioned- has had cycling training but he -obviously- has not tried cycling himself to see what those proper directional gestures get you on safety these days if car drivers just ignore you.

    The issue, is one of training, in Holland car drivers are trained to look over their shoulders and look out for cyclists. In England, there is no such training - emphasis on that part in training- because there are too few cyclists.