‘Motorists really are very aggressive and selfish’ – 1973 documentary shows UK roads largely unchanged

The BBC Archive shows us that not a lot of progress has been made in 45 years

(Image credit: Picasa)

Archive footage from a BBC documentary shows that the struggles faced by 21st century cyclists aren't too unlike those experienced in the swinging seventies.

The 1973 documentary follows three journalists, as they try swapping the motor vehicle for pedal power, in preperation for petrol rationing.

The feared rationing never actually took place, due to increased North Sea Oil production - but hindsight is a beautiful thing that these would-be bike riders had no access to.

Their biggest gripes? Lorries, traffic, and irritable drivers. With a 2018 YouGov pole revealing that the top detractors for potential cyclists are sharing the road with large vehicles and close passes, it doesn't look like many lessons have been learned.

The first presenter is most unenamoured with his fellow road users, commenting, "It's quite extraordinary how resentful one becomes, of motorists, within about 10 minutes. They really are very aggressive and selfish. And clearly don't like cyclists very much."

Other woes include inability to carry a briefcase, the cold, and the inability of motorists to see bike riders after dark (thankfully, bike lights have come a long way since the 70s).

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Presenter number two (if anyone knows their names, please shout out), notes traffic lights as a cause for concern.

Squeezed in between the curb and a right turning lorry, he comments: "He's going to turn right across my front, leaving me with very l;little space to do anything, and to maneuver at all. I've got to now wait until he goes round to the left, otherwise he takes me with him."

Turning lorries are still one of the biggest causes of death to cyclists on the roads - and it's always advised that riders wait behind them or in front - never next to a turning vehicle.

The presenter adds that traffic lights offer an opportunity to "size up the opposition - because a car, a lorry or a bus, never looks bigger than when it's parked next to you with its engine going, chucking fumes in your face."

Rider number three begins rather positively, commenting "I was quite enjoying it all - most converted to the pedal bicycle" - before road works struck his journey.

"I feel any minute at all I'm going to get run down by one of these vans behind me.. I was almost converted to the bike, but getting out of heavy traffic petrified the living daylights out of me."

We're pretty sure trousers that tight won't have added to comfort levels - though most of London's hipsters still haven't learned their lesson there, either...

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan
Michelle Arthurs-Brennan

Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor, and is responsible for managing the tech news and reviews both on the website and in Cycling Weekly magazine.


A traditional journalist by trade, Arthurs-Brennan began her career working for a local newspaper, before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining writing and her love of bicycles first at Total Women's Cycling and then Cycling Weekly. 


When not typing up reviews, news, and interviews Arthurs-Brennan is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 190rt.


She rides bikes of all kinds, but favourites include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6. 


Height: 166cm

Weight: 56kg


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