Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Clarkson’

Take the Last Train to Clarkson

It would be fair to say that Copenhagenize and indeed Copenhagen Cycle Chic were strong influences that led me to set up the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. I saw images of people on normal bicycles in normal clothing (‘Citizen Cyclists’ to coin a phrase from the author of both sites, Mikael Colville-Andersen). It was guaranteed to make a profound impact as the images seemed completely at odds with the cycling I was experiencing to carry out exactly the same range of tasks as the normally dressed people smiling back at me through the pixels (or doing their best to look European and sultry). I wondered why the act of riding a bicycle in Britain was regarded as, at worst an extreme sport, at best a specialist activity or hobby requiring financial outlay beyond just the bicycle.

Fast forward just over a year and it would appear to have had the same influence on Jeremy Clarkson.

Last weekend, The Sunday Times ran an article by him that read as follows:

“I suspect even the Danes are baffled about why they keep being picked out as a shining example of humanity at its best. Just last week a newspaper in Copenhagen suggested it must be because, while cycling from place to place, visitors enjoy looking at all the pretty Danish girls’ bottoms.

“In fact, I’ve decided that the world’s five best cities are, in order: San Francisco, London, Damascus, Rome and Copenhagen. 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.

“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.

“In Copenhagen it’s just a pleasant way of getting about. Nobody wears a helmet. Nobody wears high-visibility clothing. You just wear what you need to be wearing at your destination. For girls that appears to be very short skirts. And nobody rides their bike as if they’re in the Tour de France. This would make them sweaty and unattractive, so they travel just fast enough to maintain their balance.

“The upshot is a city that works. It’s pleasing to look at. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s safe. And no one wastes half their life looking for a parking space. I’d live there in a heartbeat.”

As to whether Mr Clarkson would join the multitude of people that cycle there is another matter but I’d like to think he would. I’d even pay for him to go on a Hembrow Study Tour to see how another country does it successfully. I personally find it no surprise that he compared cyclists to organisations that railed against the Thatcher era to which his car-centric, and wider views are inextricably linked, NUM and CND. If cyclists have to wear a uniform with a camera, it is surely because they are merely trying to adapt to the utterly hostile cycling landscape they increasingly find themselves in, and feel compelled to capture it for the rest of the World to see. Policies from successive Governments, and Thatcher & Major’s Conservatives in particular (having witnessed firsthand the M3 protests at Twyford Down, nr Winchester) favoured the motor car to the extent that motoring journalists were always going to do slightly well to ride the rising tide of a society basing itself on one mode of transport to the detriment of everything else – even Quentin Willson who still looks like Satan advertising the Brylcreem range. Therefore the irony of a motoring journalist enjoying Copenhagen that made, and is still making a conscious effort to remove motoring from people, is deafening, but also quite heartening. A bit like transporting the Marlboro Man to a modern pub to have a similar epiphany about smoking.

Mr Clarkson’s piece was discussed on the wonderful cycling blogs ’As Easy As Riding A Bike’ and ‘Cyclists in the City’ earlier this week and indeed the cycling websites BikeBiz and Road.cc. The latter contained comments from cyclists who saw it as part of a bigger agenda to get cyclists off the road. I personally believe that what the Sunday Times published was a well-respected albeit controversial journalist reasoning that sometimes the car is not the right tool for getting about and that in densely populated areas in particular, you have to hand that task to more humane and civilised modes of transport. He just wrote it his way, which was always going to get up noses as elegantly as an ounce of snuff in a Victorian Drawing Room.

As I was reading all this, an article sprang to mind from a couple of months back that made me chuckle. As a response to a new law passed recently, allowing Parisian cyclists to go through red lights the wonderful satirical website, ‘The Daily Mash’ wrote the following spoof report:

THE combination of pedal-based transport and motor vehicles on roads is utterly insane, it has been confirmed.

As France changes its laws to give cyclists a small, survival-rate-increasing head start at traffic lights, the Institute for Studies has stated that fast metal boxes and slow, wobbling dangerously-exposed humans can never happily co-exist.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “One of the key reasons for this whole car/bike thing not working at all is that little eggshell hats offer somewhat different levels of protection to, for example, a big f***-off lorry cab.

“We’d all like this relationship to work, but for the same reason that riding a pogo stick through a herd of panicked bison isn’t a great idea, it doesn’t.

“Cars and bikes playing nicely together is a bit like weekend ‘mini-breaks’ to countries more than three hours away, or the simplistic pacifism of the John Lennon song Imagine – a basically flawed notion that humans can’t resist clinging to.

“Maybe the solution is two separate roads. Or that everyone in the country cycles on a Tuesday.

“I don’t know, it’s a real toughie.”

Cyclist Emma Bradford said: “Cycling to work helps the environment and brings an exciting element of immense peril to my otherwise hum-drum routine.

“Personally I’m pinning my hopes on fossil fuels running out before something really bad happens.”

The fact is that you can lead people to the soundest reports stating that statistically the roads are safe, you can hold all the conferences you like, train all the people you like, young and old but if the roads look dangerous or unpleasant, bikes are going to be returned to sheds to collect dust and all the hard effort and work (often voluntary it must be added) will be for nothing. The articles above from The Sunday Times and The Daily Mash portray, in their own unique ways, what the general public thinks regardless of whatever cycle campaigning organisations may say or do. Indeed, as I was writing this, the Department for Transport has released a report entitled ‘Cycling to School: A Review of School Census and Bikeability Delivery Data’ . The first part of the conclusion reads as follows…

‘Overall this report shows the level of children cycling to school in the last five years has remained stable. There have been small increases in the actual numbers of secondary school age children cycling to school between 2006 and 2011 across the UK. However, this has been almost matched by a very small decline in the proportion of primary school children cycling to school.’

For further reading on this subject, I strongly recommend ‘Cyclists in The City’ and David Hembrow who incredibly have covered this already.

I personally believe two things have to happen that aren’t a million miles away from Jeremy Clarkson’s piece; I think we have to start spending on high grade infrastructure with fully segregated routes (as explained here – it’s probably not what you think) and calming the desire to compress high volumes of motor traffic through our most densely populated areas. Yes, it will cost money, nice things do. But it means that all the hard work put in by cycle trainers will bring change currently beyond their wildest dreams. We also need to return the bicycle to the masses by normalising it (where the promotion comes in). Just normal people of all ages, riding in normal clothing (or lycra if they wish, let’s not be picky), doing normal things without fear, discomfort or prejudice, not even from Mr Clarkson.

On that bombshell, I leave you with this film from Top Gear involving a race across London involving James May in a car, The Stig on public transport, Jeremy Clarkson in a speedboat and Richard Hammond on a bicycle. Mr Hammond of course has to look like Robocop having a crack at speed dating but it’s still good fun with an interesting conclusion.

and then you go and spoil it all, by saying something stupid like….

I was sitting at home last night minding my own business when I got sent this nugget by the good folk of Spokes – The Lothian Cycle Campaign via Twitter. It is from FACTS, The Transport Professional’s Magazine (issue 65, 2011).

Now, I know there are many within the haulage industry that are doing their best to alleviate the tragic and needless suffering that occurs on our roads on an all too frequent basis with some particuarly high profile and dreadful incidents in London recently. In fact I bet there are many in the industry that care more than the Tory Assembly Members that walked out of yet another meeting that just happened to have the issue of cyclists safety on the agenda (and let’s be frank here, they don’t give a shockingly shiny shit about bicycles or people that use them).

However, it doesn’t help matters when Phil Flanders  (Scottish Director – Road Haulage Association) settled down last June/July to write something joyless & slightly moronic like this….

(I have added links, either to articles referred to or to stuff that I think will calm you down. I seriously advise you open this link in a seperate window and enjoy the soothing music whilst reading the following)

“There have been a spate of accidents involving cyclists and lorries recently and as usual the lorry is the big bad bogeyman. It reminded me of an article I read last year in New Zealand where they have a similar problem. It appeared in the New Zealand Herald and was written by Eric Thompson. He refers to a report mentioning that Mercedes-Benz Vice President of Safety Engineering, Ulrich Mellinghoff, told a road safety conference in Melbourne that mixing bicycles with motorised traffic was an ‘unsafe practice’ that needed changing.

A public road with motor vehicles is no place for a cyclist, no matter how they bleat about having every right to be in the same place as a car. A cyclist will always come off second best in an accident with a motor vehicle. No matter whose fault it is, in any type of motor versus pushbike altercation it’s not going to take a rocket scientist to work out who’s going to end up in the back of an ambulance.

He suggests that for road safety reasons:

All pushbikes must be fitted with rear-vision mirrors – as other vehicles are required by law;

All pushbikes must be fitted with indicators, or a similar device – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law.

They can only ride single file on a single lane road unless overtaking as other vehicles on the road are required by law;

Be fitted with headlights that must be on at all times as other two-wheeled vehicles on the road are required by law.

All bike riders must pass a road-license test as are all other people who venture out on public roads;

All pushbikes must be registered and pay a road tax – as all other vehicles on the road are required by law. They should be able to get a reduction for low emissions!

I would go further and add that all must have adequate insurance for any accidents they cause and maybe even liability insurance for those who knock people down.

Those cyclists, and there are many, who play their iPods or other types of mobile music should also be charged for committing an offense of cycling without due care etc etc as they have no chance of hearing any vehicle approaching and are totally unaware of what is going on around them.

Some have started to fit small video cameras to their helmets. If you are unfortunate to upset them on the roads they will report you to the authorities and will have evidence of whatever it was that you did. There are cases of this already where the police have taken action!”

I won’t dwell on what we have just witnessed as it’s difficult to know where to start and he is of course entitled to his opinions. I hope the music helped. To try and deconstruct such ill-informed guff is as futile as trying and mop up the River Thames with a J-Cloth. Maybe this is what happens when the Conservatives get in power and organisations such as the RHA get a little bit over excitable.  I wonder if he has any children or grandchildren that try to cycle and whether he brainwashes the freedom and happiness out of them? Lest to say come in Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Littlejohn and all others who have inflammatory views for money, your time is clearly up.

Jeremy Clarkson - Must now be classified as 'a bit tepid'

Speed Cameras

A new report from the TaxPayers’ Alliance (TPA) and the Drivers’ Alliance (DA), or as I like to call them, the Jeremy Clarkson Reliance Alliance (JCRA) collates for the first time the full figure for fines raised through speed cameras in 2008-09.

According to their press release, ‘The report features full data for local Safety Camera Partnerships and Magistrates’ Courts for all areas of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. With the boom in speed cameras and speeding fines in recent years the issue has become highly controversial, particularly among motorists’.

I bet it has, I bet it has.

‘The report concludes that British policy should follow the good example of Swindon, which scrapped its speed cameras in 2008 with apparently no increase in road casualties as a result’.

I bet it does, I bet it does.

Amongst its key findings are the following:
– A total of £87,368,227 was collected in speeding and red light offences caught on speed cameras in the financial period 2008-09 in the UK. This also includes fines from magistrates’ courts for speeding offences and neglect of traffic directions in 2008. So don’t speed then and pay attention.
– The total includes £65,748,850 from fixed penalties detected by cameras operated by safety camera partnerships in England and Wales. It doesn’t matter who operates the cameras, they were caught speeding.
- It also includes £19,214,594 in fines from magistrates’ courts for speeding offences and neglect of traffic directions in calendar year 2008 in England and Wales. So don’t speed then and pay attention.
– It also includes £1,641,630 collected for speeding offences by the Scottish Courts in 2008-09. So don’t speed then.
- It also includes £763,153 from fixed penalties detected by speed cameras in Northern Ireland. So don’t speed then.
– The road casualty rate has declined at a slower rate since speed cameras were introduced in the early 1990s, compared to the rate prior to their introduction. It can be estimated that 1,555,244 more road casualties occurred between 1991-2007 than would have if the 1978-1990 trend had continued. Complete speculation. If I’d made it to the newsagents and got my lottery ticket on the Saturday before Christmas 2007, I might be a millionaire.

Matthew Elliott, Chief Executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said:
“Motorists have long suspected that speed cameras are more about raising money than keeping the roads safe. These findings show that the state has been squeezing a fortune out of people using these cameras, but if anything the rate of reduction in casualty numbers has slowed. The whole country should follow the example of Swindon, which has scrapped cameras altogether. People are sick of being fined under the guise of road safety.” If you drive properly, you don’t get fined. It’s that simple.


Peter Roberts, Chief Executive of the Drivers’ Alliance, said:
“Speed cameras have been a false hope in improving safety on British roads. Close statistical analysis of road casualties shows that, since speed cameras have been the main driver of road safety policy, the road casualty rate has not gone down at the trajectory expected. It is time to rethink road safety policy so that it has broadened focus, not solely based on speed. No more speed cameras should be funded by local authorities and existing speed cameras should be removed.” Which basically means “We want to drive like The Stig. Please remove the cameras because when we saw an advert for the Vauxhall Astra on ITV3 during ‘Midsummer Murders’ and it clearly depicted it speeding through city streets and nothing bad happened. Another advert clearly showed all roads being as clear as a Scottish Glen with no pedestrians, cyclists or any other life apart from Hondas”.


This is a bit weak by anyone’s standards. The simple fact is that if you’ve been caught breaking the law, you pay a fine and/or get points on you licence. They are not a cash cow. Casualty rates may not have come down at the ‘trajectory projected’, but they have still come down (they even created a graph depicting this). Cameras are large, usually painted bright yellow and have warning signs alerting you of their presence. If you get caught you really have only yourself to blame as you clearly can’t drive according to the correct speed limit and road conditions (and please remember that they are speed limits, not speed targets). I guess a bad workman always blames his tools. The fact that £87.3m has been collected in fines on Britain’s roads means there are A LOT of bad workmen.

The brilliant Roger Geffen, Director of Campaigns at CTC, issued this excellent statement.

“CTC supports both a substantial increase in traffic policing and the use of speed cameras – it’s not an ‘either-or’ situation.

“Contrary to media mythology, around three quarters of the public supports speed cameras, and for a very good reason: they save lives and make our streets safer, particularly for pedestrians, cyclists, children and older people. These groups are disproportionately the victims of irresponsible driving on our roads and streets.

“Speed is to blame for around a third of all road fatalities. Nobody likes to put a monetary value on a human life, yet the Department for Transport does just that. They say that cost to society of a death on our roads is £1.7M. On that basis, the cost to society of the 740 people killed last year by people driving too fast was a cool £1,200M.

“So there can be no justification whatsoever for these self-appointed representatives of ‘drivers’ and ‘tax-payers’ whingeing about £65M of fines being taken from criminals. If they don’t like the laws of the land, let them argue for higher limits – we think most decent-minded people will strongly disagree. But to argue against the enforcement of society’s rules, designed to protect human life, is simply beneath contempt.”

So drive properly then.