Jeremy Clarkson’s journey to becoming a cycling evangelist

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson is not the first person you’d think of as an advocate for mass-cycling. Recently though, he’s had his moments.

In 2012 ‘Jezza’ shocked the cycling world by endorsing Danish-style segregated cycle lanes. Of Copenhagen, he said:

It’s fan-bleeding-tastic. And best of all: there are no bloody cars cluttering the place up. Almost everyone goes almost everywhere on a bicycle. Now I know that sounds like the ninth circle of hell, but that’s because you live in Britain, where cars and bikes share the road space.

This cannot and does not work. It’s like putting a dog and a cat in a cage and expecting them to get along. They won’t, and as a result London is currently hosting an undeclared war. I am constantly irritated by cyclists and I’m sure they’re constantly irritated by me. City fathers have to choose. Cars or bicycles. And in Copenhagen they’ve gone for the bike.

Cycle campaigners should take note: if you want to sell cycle lanes to motorists, explain that they’ll get you out of their way. If it works with Clarkson…

He couldn’t resist a characteristic parting shot at British cyclists, though:

In Britain cycling is a political statement. You have a camera on your helmet so that motorists who carve you up can be pilloried on YouTube. You have shorts. You have a beard and an attitude. You wear a uniform. Cycling has become the outdoorsy wing of the NUM and CND.

Fair enough, he’s got to play up to his audience. But that wasn’t the end of it – last year, Clarkson bought a bike himself, and called – nay, evangelised – for mass cycling in the UK.

There’s only one way [militant cyclists] can be defeated. And that’s for normal people to start riding bicycles. We need to swell their ranks with moderates, people who ride a bike because they’ve had a drink and because taxis are too expensive. Ordinary people who ride in jeans and T-shirts and with no stupid helmet.

Perhaps he was recalling the episode of Top Gear where the presenters found cycling was the fastest way to get across London. But whether he knew it or not, he was echoing what many cycle campaigners have been saying  for some time now. He got a bit of a ribbing for it on Top Gear, though:

It hasn’t all been LCC-endorsed, Go Dutch ideological purity since he bought the bike, though. Early this year he publicly criticised a cyclist for taking the lane – accusing him of ‘point-making’.

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 15.03.49


Of course, in heavy traffic this – taking the lane – is what you’re supposed to do to keep safe: as London’s transport authorities often remind us:

Photo via Tom Watson's Twitter

Photo via Tom Watson’s Twitter

Another BBC Jeremy (Jeremy Vine) also ended up calling him a “muppet” for his tweet.

Where next for Clarkson? Well, one eagle-eyed Twitter user spotted him out cycling in January with fellow presenter James May, and a camera-crew.

 Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 15.07.45

I suppose we can expect more cycling in the next series of Top Gear! Let’s hope its positive.

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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.

17 Responses to Jeremy Clarkson’s journey to becoming a cycling evangelist

  1. Cas Burke 07/02/2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I have very mixed feelings about Clarkson going pro cycle.
    One one hand, he’s a prick. On the other hand, he’s a bigoted prick.

    • Patrick 09/02/2014 at 10:54 pm #

      spot on

  2. Kristian 07/02/2014 at 8:50 pm #

    Cycling evangelist? Who are you kidding? That’s a terrible misrepresentation of the truth.

    Clarkson had to behave himself after one of his key sources of income, his column in the Times, was at risk following the Mary Bowers incident and the launching of the “cities fit for cycling” campaign.

    Now that editor James Harding has moved on, the pressure on Clarkson to watch what he says on cycling is ebbing and he’s getting back to his old bigoted anti-cyclist rhetoric.

    Cycling evangelist indeed…

  3. Dunc 08/02/2014 at 1:56 am #

    Hmm, this is an odd blog post. He hasn’t become a cycling evangelist at all, so why imply he has in the title?

    • Jon Stone 09/02/2014 at 9:22 am #

      Can’t agree – if calling for cyclists’ ranks to “swell with normal people” whilst promoting segregated infrastructure isn’t evangelising for mass cycling, I don’t know what is.

  4. dalifnei 08/02/2014 at 8:22 am #

    I thought jezza had made some new speech following his recently publicised cycle in london to counter his terrible views and recent bad publicity about cycling. no, its just a misleading title! for the moment… maybe we shall hear something new soon?

  5. Paul Draper 08/02/2014 at 9:30 pm #

    Why have you posted this one facebook about 50 times?

    • Andreas 09/02/2014 at 7:28 pm #

      Thanks Paul for reporting. We used a service called IFTTT while I was away, which is supposed to auto-post to facebook once for every new article. I thought it would be fine, but clearly not. Anyway, I’m back now and if I ever take some time off London Cyclist again, I’ll leave a person in charge!

  6. Skippy 09/02/2014 at 3:22 pm #

    ONLY way you will get Clarkson on a bike , is on the Kindergarten playground !

    Checkout & ” LIKE ” :

    It is FOR ALL , though as a keen CYCLIST , that is the time i feel most Vulnerable !

  7. Pete Owens 10/02/2014 at 10:08 pm #

    How on Earth do you come to the conclusion that he is “pro cycle”? In his own words:
    “I am constantly irritated by cyclists”
    I think you are confusing being “Pro-cycle path” as being “pro-cycle”. The motoring establishment has always been keen on getting us off their roads and out of their way. It was not until very recently that they even started pretending that the farcilities were meant for our benefit.

  8. Chris 28/02/2014 at 9:51 am #

    I truly feel this is great for cyclists in London. How someone, that someone being a fairly followed celebrity in the world and on Twitter, has banished his previous hatred to embrace cycling.

    Jeremy has obviously abandoned driving around the City of London because of the gigantic traffic ques for a bicycle commute which I’m sure is saving him time and certainly keeping his bulging belly at bay, for now.

  9. Max 02/09/2014 at 2:33 pm #

    Cyclists are a plague in London. Law breaking and self righteous idiots.

    We the people need to make their lives as difficult as they try to make ours.

  10. Paul Draper 02/09/2014 at 2:53 pm #

    Max, people are already making cyclists lives difficult to the point where they are on life support machines. Cyclists break no more laws than motorists. You can’t show me an incident of a cyclist doing an illegal act that a motorist doesn’t do and I could mention a few illegal acts of motorists that cyclists don’t do but that would be to use ‘reductio ad absurdum’ which apparently isn’t fair in reasoned debate.

  11. Max 03/09/2014 at 8:14 am #

    There are many perfectly sensible people who choose to cycle, unfortunately a significant minority behave in an unacceptable manner.

    Stupid politicians have rendered many roads dangerous for vehicles by narrowing them too much to accommodate cycle lanes.

    There is a culture of ignoring the needs of pedestrians and drivers for the benefit of a minority and it is this illogical and stupid policy that is setting right thinking people against cyclists.

    The militant and illegal actions of certain factions closing roads and deliberately interfering with vehicular flow on days of their choosing is doing little to help.

    I haven’t the courage to cycle in London and believe that it is a dangerous pursuit. Drivers can be educated to think for cyclists but in the final analysis they are vulnerable and cannot afford to be aggressive on the roads if they wish to remain I injured.

    I have nothing against law abiding cyclists but they should be identifiable and insured like other road users. Unfortunately we live in a closely monitored and controlled society and it is unacceptable to have a class of road users outside this. This omission causes further resentment. I was told to F off yesterday by a cyclist riding through a park in Bloomsbury which was clearly signed No Cycling because I pointed out that there were children and animals that we’re being endangered by his selfishness.

    I don’t think cycles have any place on Central London roads and it is a matter of time until similarly arrogant and disenfranchised motorists start to take direct action themselves. Cycle lanes have already been vandalised by being seeded with tacks apparently.

    I blame the idiot policy driven local politicians who plough ahead with these ill conceived schemes without thinking about the consequences.

    Good luck to cyclists but as a central London resident who
    Witnesses daily the antics of a significant minority of rude and threatening cyclists I have little sympathy. The mix doesn’t work.

    • Paul Draper 03/09/2014 at 10:00 am #

      All the charges of thoughtlessness and dangerous driving can be equally laid on motorists. The difference is that cyclists don’t usually maim and kill people they collide with. Nor do they slowly poison the air and block up the roads.

      Regardless of the number of thoughtless cyclists we have now we need to replace the cars on our roads with cycles for all our sakes.

  12. Max 03/09/2014 at 8:16 am #

    Sorry for the typos. Thumb typed and auto correction !

  13. Max 03/09/2014 at 8:33 am #

    Oh, one more thing. I own a car but use a motorcycle to get around London.
    Do I go straight on from the near side of vehicles indicating to turn left and behave as though I have the right to do this ?

    No, I ride defensively and avoid car drivers who cannot apparently see motorcyclists. If I did not I could have an accident every day.

    Campaigns like Think Bike are decades old and drivers still don’t!

    Cyclists need to take care of themselves, it is a nightmare driving in London we all need to appreciate the difficulties of other road users but I think the fundamental problems are that cyclists have been made more equal by myopic and policy driven Eco nutters and that for some reason riders believe that they have more right on the roads than cyclists. Advance cycle boxes are a disgrace that further hampers traffic flow.
    Complaining about cyclists has become almost as popular as bleating about the weather. There really is a problem and the blame or responsibility cannot be fairly laid at the door of non cyclists.

    More driver education and more regulation of cyclists is the only solution that will end the pointless hostility.

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