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Top motoring journo supports segregated bike paths, calls for tolerance on roads

In an interview giving his support for The Times Cities fit for cycling campaign, Top Gear presenter James May has slammed the poor quality of many bike lanes, demolished the idea that 'road tax' gives drivers more rights on the streets and called for an end to "road sectarianism".

“I’m all for bicycles in cities,” May told The Times' Kaya Burgess. “We use bicycles to go around locally and also for fun occasionally. Typically, our bike rides would be three or four miles. I go to the shops on it.”

May owns three bikes, and has been riding since the age of three. He said he supported the Commons transport committee recent call for the government to spend £600 million a year on cycling.

"I think that is fair enough,” he said

He added, however, that many cycle lanes found on roads were “complete bollocks” and created confusion rather than improved safety. Urban planners should spend more time riding bikes to understand what was needed, he said.

May also came out in support of segregated cycle lanes on roads.

He said: “That would take a lot of brains and thought, but it is an essentially good idea.

“Cycling is becoming more popular in London, there are a lot of bikes and people are starting to recognise that they need to be accommodated.

“There are so many more bicycles now than there were, say, a decade ago, that people notice them and subconsciously we are modifying the way we drive around town.

“There are people who talk about wanting to make safety clothing mandatory, road tax for bicycles, registering them and insuring them,” he added. “I think all that stuff is utter nonsense. The whole point of the bike is that you get on it and you ride it and you can ride it when you’re a kid or when you’re absolutely flat broke and it’s so agile.”

And speaking of road tax, May clearly understands that it doesn't afford drivers any extra rights, and, indeed, isn't a road tax at all.

"The roads belong to everybody,” he said. “That old argument that ‘I pay road tax and the bicycle doesn’t’ often isn’t true. In any case, roads are funded centrally so the tax [from Vehicle Excise Duty] doesn’t actually go on roads, so no one has a greater right to the road than anybody else, that’s nonsense.”

While he supports better cycling facilities, May thinks the curent situation could be helped if we all just got along better.

“We need to get rid of road sectarianism,” he said. “Car drivers supposedly hate cyclists, cyclists hate taxi drivers, taxi drivers hate motorcyclists, bus drivers hate lorries. I just think if everybody was a little bit more pragmatic, that would do more for safety.”

He added that cyclists should look for quiet backstreet routes to avoid dangerous roads and suggested that it was reasonable for cyclists to ride “slowly and carefully” on wide pavements.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

54 comments

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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That James May, always liked him. Top bloke. He should just get rid of those other two tossers*, bring back Quentin Wilson, and Top gear could be watchable again.

* To be fair, Richard 'Hamster' Hammond's views on caravans are wreathed in righteousness.

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KiwiMike [1206 posts] 1 year ago
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You appear to have swapped the above text from an interview with Saint Boardman.

File this alongside Clarkson's likewise excellent pro-cycling 'I'd live [in Copenhagen] in a heartbeat' article: http://road.cc/content/news/56433-jeremy-clarkson-turns-cycling-advocate...

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SevenHills [205 posts] 1 year ago
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At last sensible comments from Mr May.
It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.
Heavily influenced by Clarkson methinks

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dp24 [201 posts] 1 year ago
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SevenHills wrote:

It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.

Playing to their audience.

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SHFbikebloke [6 posts] 1 year ago
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or the programme producers who are the content gatekeepers ...

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SHFbikebloke [6 posts] 1 year ago
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or the programme producers who are the content gatekeepers ...

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nuclear coffee [209 posts] 1 year ago
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Good, and utterly unsurprising.

If it may be permitted to piss on the bonfire... far too often cycling advocacy comes with a "with us or against us" mentality.

Okay, there are some people who are just dicks and hate all cyclists. But there are plenty, like mr may, who might have little interest in promoting cycling - but are perfectly sensible people, who can recognise that - in this case - bike lanes are sometimes crap, that's not the fault of cyclists and it's in everyone's interest to fix that. They just need to be treated as such - give them the facts, let them make the decision, instead of the "don't agree with us? CYCLIST HATER!" approach I so often see.

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Shades [294 posts] 1 year ago
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Agree with the 'complete bollocks' cycling lane comment. If you're using some bit of cycling infrastucture for the first time you invariably end up stopped and wondering where to go next, often wishing you'd just stuck to the road. That said, it only takes a couple of journeys to get it 'sussed' out and then you can make a more accurate assessment as to whether it's 'complete bollocks' or not.

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kie7077 [877 posts] 1 year ago
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The only 'quiet backstreet routes' in London are the ones that have been deliberately blocked to stop rat-running. This needs to be done on a much larger scale, most residential roads do not need to be through-routes. Drivers simply don't respect 20mph zones. Even with speed bumps and giant 20mph lettering on the road, drivers still piss about trying to over-take when I'm doing 20mph down the 'quiet backstreet'.

Other than that, it's nice too hear a top gear presenter talking good sense.

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ragtimecyclist [158 posts] 1 year ago
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Can't argue with that. In the words of someone smarter than me whose identity currently escapes me, "painting the roads does not constitute a cycling infrastructure".

(might have been Jon Snow??)

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Das [242 posts] 1 year ago
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Well said Mr May.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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So when does the new series start then?

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 1 year ago
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kie7077 wrote:

The only 'quiet backstreet routes' in London are the ones that have been deliberately blocked to stop rat-running. This needs to be done on a much larger scale, most residential roads do not need to be through-routes. Drivers simply don't respect 20mph zones. Even with speed bumps and giant 20mph lettering on the road, drivers still piss about trying to over-take when I'm doing 20mph down the 'quiet backstreet'.

Other than that, it's nice too hear a top gear presenter talking good sense.

We live on a 20mph road, and are used to hearing cars driving too quickly along here (raising a wry smile when they bang the exhaust bouncing over the speed bumps), but I find crazy the guy that comes belting along here in his people carrier, dodging the kids playing football, then pulls up across the street at his house and lets his little boy out who then joins the kids playing!  102

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parksey [343 posts] 1 year ago
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dp24 wrote:
SevenHills wrote:

It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.

Playing to their audience.

Exactly this. They are essentially caricatures of themselves when on the show, as that's what Joe Public wants.

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koorby [2 posts] 1 year ago
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Spent four days riding in Holland recently, in Amsterdam, Haarlem and Sandvoort. Pure bliss, top-notch infrastructure and utter respect from motorists.

By comparison the UK is still in the dark ages. I'm in the Portsmouth area and what little bikes paths there are, aren't fit for purpose, full of potholes, not weeded by the council and generally a mockery to cyclists.

The government needs to create a "work for the dole" scheme where every bloke on the social nationally is put to work making bike lames and paths; solve two massive problems in one go.

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oozaveared [937 posts] 1 year ago
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truffy wrote:

That James May, always liked him. Top bloke. He should just get rid of those other two tossers*, bring back Quentin Wilson, and Top gear could be watchable again.

* To be fair, Richard 'Hamster' Hammond's views on caravans are wreathed in righteousness.

But Richard Hammond is also an avid cyclist.

"The truth is I've always loved cycling, ever since I was a kid. I do think that if you have a meeting in London and it's 45 minutes away, you can get in an hour-and-a-half's decent aerobic exercise."

"I've lost count of the times I've pulled up to the lights on my shiny Specialized bicycle and heard someone yell, 'Hey, mate, where's your Ferrari?'"

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oozaveared [937 posts] 1 year ago
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SevenHills wrote:

It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.

You do realise that its an entertainment magazine style programme not a documentary don't you.

BTW Hammond is also a cyclist in real life. see my comment above.

also read this:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3755751.ece

it's what Clarkson thinks when he is being a journo and not an entertainer.

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bikebot [1925 posts] 1 year ago
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oozaveared wrote:

But Richard Hammond is also an avid cyclist.

"The truth is I've always loved cycling, ever since I was a kid. I do think that if you have a meeting in London and it's 45 minutes away, you can get in an hour-and-a-half's decent aerobic exercise."

"I've lost count of the times I've pulled up to the lights on my shiny Specialized bicycle and heard someone yell, 'Hey, mate, where's your Ferrari?'"

Indeed, it was Hammond that took a bike a few years ago when they raced across London, against a car, public transport and a boat.

And he won!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkOzNK4l8KY

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Blackhound [439 posts] 1 year ago
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Similar to koorby I recently spent 3 weeks in Sweden and Denmark. Bikes everywhere in the cities. In Copenhagen there wes road for cars, cycle path and pedestrian walkway parallel to one another. Each kept to there own lane.

In the UK the non road sections people walking will walk where they like - almost picking the cycle lane as default where I am!

Councils do need to start sweeping cycle paths where they run along side a main road. So much rubbish ends up on the cycle path leading to punctures and a poor surface and cyclists end up on the road.

We all need to get along though.

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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oozaveared wrote:

But Richard Hammond is also an avid cyclist.

That in itself doesn't stop him from being a tosser on the telly.

Nice article by Clarkson. But in itself doesn't stop him from being a tosser on the telly either.

Top Gear used to be watchable, not lads' testosterone fodder  2

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HKCambridge [222 posts] 1 year ago
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oozaveared wrote:
SevenHills wrote:

It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.

You do realise that its an entertainment magazine style programme not a documentary don't you.

BTW Hammond is also a cyclist in real life. see my comment above.

also read this:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3755751.ece

it's what Clarkson thinks when he is being a journo and not an entertainer.

Willing to believe all the presenters actually cycle, and have more nuanced views on the subject that one might think.

I don't think that excuses their behaviour on Top Gear, and the effect that has.

The sectarianism May complains about is writ large in Top Gear. He wants to make a difference to the driving culture in this country, he doesn't need to go very far to see one of the influences on it.

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cyclingDMlondon [489 posts] 1 year ago
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SevenHills wrote:

At last sensible comments from Mr May.
It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.
Heavily influenced by Clarkson methinks

Nggggggghhh ..... .it doesn't 'beg the question'!

Please, people .. stop thinking that 'begs the question' is the same as 'raises the question'. It isn't!

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jacknorell [966 posts] 1 year ago
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oozaveared wrote:

You do realise that its an entertainment magazine style programme not a documentary don't you.

BTW Hammond is also a cyclist in real life. see my comment above.

also read this:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3755751.ece

it's what Clarkson thinks when he is being a journo and not an entertainer.

I think you'll find that some people on here have their prejudices stuck so far up their .... that this is simply being ignored  2

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oozaveared [937 posts] 1 year ago
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HKCambridge wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
SevenHills wrote:

It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.

You do realise that its an entertainment magazine style programme not a documentary don't you.

BTW Hammond is also a cyclist in real life. see my comment above.

also read this:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3755751.ece

it's what Clarkson thinks when he is being a journo and not an entertainer.

Willing to believe all the presenters actually cycle, and have more nuanced views on the subject that one might think.

I don't think that excuses their behaviour on Top Gear, and the effect that has.

The sectarianism May complains about is writ large in Top Gear. He wants to make a difference to the driving culture in this country, he doesn't need to go very far to see one of the influences on it.

What they do on the telly is banter. These are comedic formulaic positions that make people smile even at their own ridiculousness. The argument as to whether a particular ferrari is better than a particular porsche is Pythonesque in being straight from a secondary school playground. Hardly anyone in the audience has either one let alone a chance to compare and they probably don't care either, it's the banter that they are amused by. This is motoring and a general interest in cars used as a backdrop to an entertainment programme that relies on humour via banter.

It's a game that blokey blokes play elsewhere such as which premiership right back is the best. There is no answer, It can go on forever. It saves you having to talk about serious stuff and ruining the atmosphere. Banter is an essential part.

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Nick T [913 posts] 1 year ago
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truffy wrote:

bring back Quentin Wilson

I think you mean Quentin "Two L's" Willson. That Tiffany Dell was the real talent anyway.

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truffy [653 posts] 1 year ago
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But James May's Toy Stories was very good.

I like choo-choo puffers.

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ronin [265 posts] 1 year ago
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 102

When is something going to be done about this, all the talk is just annoying. We all know what needs to be done. The question is, when is someone going to do it? It's not as if we don't have examples of how things could be done. We are not in pioneer territory here.

If kids could ride to school, there would be less traffic and no obesity problem.
Who doesn't want less pollution and less congestion? For London specifically, the next mayor should be elected on a promise to provide better cycing infrastructure. Why not just divert all the money from the congestion charge to creating better cycling infrastructure...

A friend came to visit from overseas and wanted to visit London. The joke was, 'Ah UK, great past, but no future'. I reacted, "Come on, that's a bit harsh". In hindsight it was probably spot on. Whilst we have these idiots in power, nothing will change.

Cycling makes you feel positive. Imagine all the positivity if half of the population cycled on roads made for cycling. You'd be able to run the economy on that much positive energy.

Rant over.

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congokid [263 posts] 1 year ago
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Blackhound wrote:

We all need to get along though.

We've been saying this in the UK for the past 40 years - and May says it above - and where has it got us?

The problem we have now is that the 'shared use' solution to UK cycling infrastructure, currently highly favoured by LAs who persist in creating it inadequately and to wildly different standards, rather than helping us all get along, generates enormous conflicts between vulnerable and other road users as well as the tiresome tit-for-tat debate we're all fed up with.

As you yourself also said, with clearly demarcated and properly designed infrastructure for each kind of user, you naturally gravitate to whichever best suits your journey, so positioning yourself to avoid conflict with other types of road user is easy and becomes second nature.

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HKCambridge [222 posts] 1 year ago
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oozaveared wrote:
HKCambridge wrote:
oozaveared wrote:
SevenHills wrote:

It then begs the question WTF was that crass idiotic film shown about cycling on Top Gear about.

You do realise that its an entertainment magazine style programme not a documentary don't you.

BTW Hammond is also a cyclist in real life. see my comment above.

also read this:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3755751.ece

it's what Clarkson thinks when he is being a journo and not an entertainer.

Willing to believe all the presenters actually cycle, and have more nuanced views on the subject that one might think.

I don't think that excuses their behaviour on Top Gear, and the effect that has.

The sectarianism May complains about is writ large in Top Gear. He wants to make a difference to the driving culture in this country, he doesn't need to go very far to see one of the influences on it.

What they do on the telly is banter. These are comedic formulaic positions that make people smile even at their own ridiculousness. The argument as to whether a particular ferrari is better than a particular porsche is Pythonesque in being straight from a secondary school playground. Hardly anyone in the audience has either one let alone a chance to compare and they probably don't care either, it's the banter that they are amused by. This is motoring and a general interest in cars used as a backdrop to an entertainment programme that relies on humour via banter.

It's a game that blokey blokes play elsewhere such as which premiership right back is the best. There is no answer, It can go on forever. It saves you having to talk about serious stuff and ruining the atmosphere. Banter is an essential part.

http://road.cc/content/news/112411-top-cycling-well-what-did-you-expect

“Work Harder. Get a car.”

Yeah, great work crossing the Sectarian divide there. When people actually have 'get a car' shouted at them on the street, for no other reason than that they are cycling, it's disingenuous to claim 'It's just a bit of a laugh' and that Top Gear has no part of creating, and reinforcing, a culture that doesn't take cycling, and the lives of cyclists, seriously.

“Cyclists: red and green – learn the bloody difference.”

Thus suggesting that cyclists are a victim of their own lawlessness, when STATS19 shows us that the biggest danger to people on bikes is drivers not looking, or not seeing.

Clarkson, May and Hammond may be cyclists. How many of their viewers are?

It's only banter when all parties understand and appreciate the joke.

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Beaufort [270 posts] 1 year ago
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James May is 100% correct. I cycled 15000km last year.

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