VSDriving along a busy one-way street in central London, followed by a black Mercedes and a line of other cars, Jeremy Vine ponders the best way to stay safe: get a little closer to the sideways, leaving room for a potentially close overtake, or staying in the center of the lane?
“It’s a bit of an enigma,” he admits. “Let’s take the main position and see if we get any argy-bargy. Consider it an experience.
As we pedal, the Mercedes driver stays a few meters behind, making no effort to sneak up or even close. “That guy behind us is adorable,” smiled Vine. “We shouldn’t always portray cycling as dangerous. The most dangerous thing you can do is always be on your couch, eating Pringles.
Vine remains best known for his lunchtime show on BBC Radio 2 and his eponymous morning TV show on Channel 5. But if you follow the presenter on Twitter, you could be forgiven for thinking that his main job is, in fact, the travels that ‘he does. between them.
While many cyclists post clips from bike camcorders to highlight unsafe riding, over the past two years Vine has taken this concept forward in a number of ways.
For starters, he doesn’t just post no-frills clips. Vine’s contributions are micro-documentaries, adding explanatory graphics, music and rewind footage to show different angles, which is possible thanks to the high-tech 360-degree camera he uses, perched on his helmet.
While plenty of videos show instances of misbehavior — Vine passed around 15 of the most egregious examples to police — it also posts uplifting interaction vignettes. with drivers and other cyclists, and once sent a case of beer to a caring truck driver. His most recent video pointed out how he didn’t see pedestrians trying to use a zebra crossing as he walked past.
“People say, ‘Why are you filming it?’, and the answer is that sometimes I want to look back and see what I did wrong. When I approached a crossroads and I didn’t feel safe, was I in the wrong place?” he explains.
Vine, 57, says he started cycling after he got “fatter and sadder” in his mid-40s, and realized the gym wasn’t the place to be. response despite only visiting once per membership year – to use the hot tub.
He now walks 15 miles every weekday to commute, to and from and between jobs, and is slim and obviously healthy and vigorous again. “That’s all you need to stay in shape,” he says. “As someone brilliantly put it, the bike is a muffin-powered flying machine. There is just the risk of sudden death. And that’s what started to make me more confident about safety.
Vine started riding his bike with what he now calls “a ‘kumbaya’ attitude – let’s all just be friends”, but eventually concluded he needed to start using a video camera. “I thought I had to try hard to figure out what was putting me at risk and take whatever action I could. For me, it was the execution. I think ultimately bad drivers respond to repression.
This aspect of her cycling came to prominence in 2017 when a driver who honked her horn and shouted profanity at Vine was convicted of threatening behavior and a driving violation. A video of the incident he posted on Facebook has been viewed more than 15 million times.
I join Vine for the final leg of a weekday journey from the BBC radio studios in central London, heading west to his home. An easily recognizable figure in his bright yellow gloves and camera helmet, Vine is often spotted by other bikers, and increasingly, he says, by drivers. “I have a taxi driver who says to me, ‘I’m not going near you, because I know who you are.’ I thought maybe that was good.
Our experience with the courteously driven Mercedes comes just beyond the BBC studios, on a stretch of one-way street where, Vine says, he regularly faced danger, underscoring his well-established belief that the only way to improve cycling safety is to create better road infrastructure.
“It can’t be a mere coincidence that all bad drivers end up in places like this,” he says, as we drive further west. “It’s bad roads and bad drivers coming together. That’s clearly the thing.
Unfortunately for Vine, while part of its route, Hammersmith Broadway, has now a separate bike pathinstalled on another section, Kensington High Street, was removed by the local council after just seven weeks, following opposition from a small number of local people.
We drive along this last road, dodging the cars parked in what used to be the bike path. The vine points to the still visible burn marks from where it was removed. “Every day I see this, and it drives me crazy,” he says.
Sitting in a cafe on a side street, Vine explains how he “became more and more immersed in this question of why I can’t get to work safely”, something for which he is regularly targeted for social media abuse, as well as snipers. articles in some newspapers.
He worries about how making our cities safer for pedestrians and cyclists has become somewhat of a polarizing issue. “We’ve let so many of our cities switch to cars that we have to take them out, and that requires incredibly tough politics.”
Although, he says: “It’s not a political thing – if you can create a safe cycle space, you have the potential to free up thousands of miles of transport network and clean up the city, making it safer. .”
But what’s frustrating to him is that by doing this, “you run into the kind of opposition that makes no sense, the most bizarre pressure groups.”
Although he has an equivocal relationship with Twitter, Vine can give his best, not least his mischievous habit of stoking the myth that the curiously top-down footage taken by his camera actually comes from a drone. flying above him.
He thinks carefully about presenting the faces of disbelieving drivers, saving that for the most obviously aggressive or breaking the law, and doesn’t publicly endorse, for example, low-traffic neighborhood schemes he’s never seen.
But even as a BBC employee, Vine says his obvious views on the need for more cycling infrastructure are not a problem for the company. “I think the general principle is that I can speak honestly and from my own perspective on issues like cycling on this street, what I do every day, or fatalities on the road. We’re not impartial about death on the road – that’s a bad thing, and bike safety is a good thing, and it’s clear that the more separate bike lanes you have, the safer cyclists are. .
As the brief experience with the black Mercedes shows, Vine is as fascinated by the psychology of driving as he is by the politics of road infrastructure, constantly trying to figure out what might put him at risk.
“For too long we’ve had the idea that if you’re driving a car and you’re going 29mph down a street at 30mph, it doesn’t matter what happens in front of you, you’re not to blame,” he said. “You become much more aware of other road users when you yourself are vulnerable.
“But something strange has happened with car safety. Cars are sold on the basis that you will drive around in a massive shell, with airbags. Nobody who buys a car ever says, ‘What will happen- Does it hurt a child? Clearly the mindset has changed. Cars have become obese, followed by drivers.