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