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BBC presenter's comments cause Twitter furore - oh, and we don't pay 'road tax'.....

Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson and co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond may have had their knuckles rapped over recent comments about Mexicans that resulted in the BBC issuing a formal apology, but happily for the doyen of the petrolhead community, there is one minority it still seems okay for him to disparage with impunity – cyclists. Oh, and Albanians too, going by last night’s show, as well as the French.

Hammond, a keen cyclist, had been talking in last night’s episode – the segment starts 21 minutes 27 seconds in – about last week’s BBC News feature about cylists wearing helmetcams “so they can video examples of road rage and people cutting them up on their bikes,” to which Clarkson interjected, “But cyclists deserve it,” the exchange continuing:

Hammond: “Don’t say that!”

Clarkson: “But they do deserve it, honestly. The other week, no honestly, there I am sitting in a traffic jam in London” – oh, the irony – “and a Frenchman, he was tried to cycle between the pavement and my car and after he’d removed most of the paint with his brake handle thing he came round to the drivers door to tell me off in that silly accent French people have.”

Hammond: “What, a French accent?”

Clarkson: “Yes, that, and I said to him, listen if you just work hard you can have a car.”

Hammond: “You are exactly the reason why I want a camera on my bicycle helmet when I cycle.”

Clarkson: “Why?”

Hammond: “When idiots like you get out of their car having cut me up – ”

Clarkson: “Who pays the road tax?”

Hammond: “Well – ”

Clarkson: “I’m sorry, I don’t mind if cyclists want to come on the road with their silly Victorian distractions, I’m not bothered, but they must behave themselves.”

News of Clarkson’s disparaging remarks against cyclists quickly spread through the Twitterverse, presumably giving a slight boost to Top Gear’s viewing figures as people who would normally not even consider tuning in switched over to see what the fuss was.

More than one pointed out that rather than being a separate species, most adult cyclists do in fact own cars – they just choose not to use them to the exclusion of all other forms of transport.

While some might hold that Clarkson’s comments are just banter, and that he’s playing a kind of pantomime villain role, the fact is that Top Gear is one of the BBC’s most successful programmes, and he also pens motoring columns for The Times and The Sun that enable his views to be read by – and perhaps influence – millions.

One cyclist is organising a group ride from Chipping Norton in Oxfordshire next Saturday with the itinerary taking in the nearby road where Clarkson lives, which we assume will be included on a number of loops – details here.

Meanwhile, the Save A Cyclist campaign urged Twitter users to “Make sure you let everybody @BBC_TopGear know what you think of Clarkson's attitude to cyclists.”

Although Clarkson, portrayed by the comedian Steve Coogan in a piece in yesterday’s Observer as akin to a school bully could be viewed as having made something of a schoolboy error in his reference to the non-existent ‘road tax,’ we’re guessing that the slip-up is a clever ruse on his part - it will let him show how clued-up he is about the whole issue of Vehicle Excise Duty and the fact that roads are funded out of general taxation when he corrects his error on next week’s programme.

At the same time as apologising to cyclists, Albanians and, yes, the French.

 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

76 comments

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BigDummy [314 posts] 5 years ago
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Oh for goodness sake. It's Clarkson. He's a cretin. He presents a programme for cretins. We should be delighted that in the very midst of the driving and chauvinism programme for cretins the best looking and funniest presenter is taking the cretin to task for his trolling.

The one thing that really won't influence him in any way is the collected outraged cyclists of Chipping Norton riding past his house. He's just weathered an official diplomatic protest from a populous sovereign state...

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martin [11 posts] 5 years ago
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Clarkson is a fool, but it wasn't that bad, he says these things for effect and if everyone reacts it works, riding round his front gate, surely that is a form of harassment and bullying? There are far more motorists out there with a worse attitude than him

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step-hent [719 posts] 5 years ago
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A bit of an overreaction from the cycling community methinks. Bear in mind that Hammond is there as a counterpoint to Clarkson's views on this, and that they deliberately say provocative things (Clarkson in particular) to wind each other (and the public) up.

That said, if the 'protest' ride is done in the same vein as the original comments (a deliberate wind up intended to get an amusing reaction) then I guess it's just playing the game.

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workhard [397 posts] 5 years ago
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If you were in a saloon bar of a pub and someone started spouting his nonsense you'd just ignore them surely?

This sit-com is probably the BBC's most profitable franchise, aimed globally at overgrown VIth formers with a petrol habit, so what is the point of rising to Clarkson's tedious baiting? He is a poseur aiming to get a rise out of people and in so doing ensure more publicity for his inane and vulgar programme and more money for him and his bitches Hammond and May.

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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Be good if those Chipping Norton cyclists rode passed dressed as Mexicans.

I love Clarkson whenever he sounds off about cycling it gets people talking about it and for among the haters there's always someone who thinks "maybe I'll give it a go"… I'd credit him with helping to start Britain's cycling renaissance  3

Plus in a funny sort of a way, if Top Gear has to correct or apologise for getting it wrong on "Road Tax" that will get the message across to far more people that need to know it than pretty much any other medium.

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robert.brady [155 posts] 5 years ago
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The problem is Clarkson's cretinous fans who hang on his every word. I dare say a lot more "get off the road" and "you don't pay road tax" comments have hurled at cyclists this morning.

These sort of people probably reacted to the Mexican comments by laughing along, displaying little more than ignorance.

If they react to the cyclist comments by attempting to assert their dominance on the roads, the consequences could prove fatal.

Rob

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GrimpeurChris [60 posts] 5 years ago
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Yep It's Clarkson ... get over it!
Someone should point out to him that he doesn't pay "road tax" either ... It's Vehicle Excise duty car owners pay (and so do most cyclists)! We all pay taxes of which some goes to the upkeep of the roads (sometimes!)

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simonmb [353 posts] 5 years ago
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No harm done. The Michael Winner of motoring. As so many have commented above - it's Clarkson! He's a product of the late twentieth century and a great entertainer! Whatever he spouts may be picked up but some ill-informed bigots, but they'd be ill-informed bigots regardless. Can't wait for next weeks edition of Top Gear.

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michophull [131 posts] 5 years ago
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Clarkson is a public school ponce and a bore of the lowest order.

I've never worked hard in my life and I don't intend to either. Death to car culture and death to the work ethic.

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Decster [246 posts] 5 years ago
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who's clarkson then  37

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mrsminx411 [86 posts] 5 years ago
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Top Gear is just Loose Women with men. And they're all tw*ts.

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cslattery [84 posts] 5 years ago
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The sad thing is he has so many fans that the abuse we all suffer on roads is going to get worse!

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simonmb [353 posts] 5 years ago
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Decster, this is Clarkson. At least riding a bike never did this to anyone's face...

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Mat Brett [612 posts] 5 years ago
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And so is this...

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Rob Simmonds [251 posts] 5 years ago
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I can't work out what the best approach is. Either ignore the fat twerp and deprive him of the oxygen of publicity or tackle his cretinous idiocy head on.

Depriving him of oxygen does have a pleasing ring about it....  19

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hammy33 [46 posts] 5 years ago
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road.cc why have you even brought it up, no need, everyone needs to relax.

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Simon_MacMichael [2448 posts] 5 years ago
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hammy33 wrote:

road.cc why have you even brought it up, no need, everyone needs to relax.

Your first name isn't Richard, is it?  39 3

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Shugg McGraw [24 posts] 5 years ago
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Isn't Clarkson right?
'I don’t mind if cyclists want to come on the road with their silly Victorian distractions, I’m not bothered, but they must behave themselves.'
This seems to me to be both funny and unobjectionable - even liberal (relatively speaking). Cyclists surely hold the same views about motorists.
Of course his comments about the French are thoroughly reprehensible and I will be writing to the French ambassador suggesting that he demands a full apology.

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hammy33 [46 posts] 5 years ago
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Nope its Colin, keep life in perspective though.  22

p.s. Top gear have given cycling good exposure over the years through their different challenges.

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Paul M [356 posts] 5 years ago
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May just be banter but the old crock about who pays road tax got trhough unchallenged - again.

Fact is that roads are funded from general taxatrion including VAT on hamburgers, and income taxes. On that basis Clarkson pays a lot towards roads not because he drives a car, but because he is an overweight, overpaid twat.

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Fringe [1047 posts] 5 years ago
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michophull wrote:

.

I've never worked hard in my life and I don't intend to either. Death to car culture and death to the work ethic.

 10

+1 for that!

and that picture of clarkson on the beach, now that is offensive..

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dave atkinson [6201 posts] 5 years ago
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Quote:

'I don’t mind if cyclists want to come on the road with their silly Victorian distractions, I’m not bothered, but they must behave themselves.'

he's got his silly victorian distraction, i have mine. the car and the bike were invented at more or less the same time, so what's good for the goose... anyway, i have both kinds, as do most people. replace 'cyclists' with 'motorists' and the quote isn't any less true or applicable.

personally i wish cyclists would behave themselves too, as the thing that gives most grist to the mill of the haters is not idiots like clarkson but the idiots we all see riding as fast as they can on the pavement, or without lights, or just badly. I also, of course, wish car drivers would behave themselves, so that i don't die. the pent-up frustration of motorists stuck in a traffic jam who finally realise those open-road ads have sold them a pup is no more or less palatable to me than the self-righteous indignation of cyclists who think conservation of momentum is the first law of the road.

Quote:

Fact is that roads are funded from general taxatrion including VAT on hamburgers, and income taxes. On that basis Clarkson pays a lot towards roads not because he drives a car, but because he is an overweight, overpaid twat.

amen to that.

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cakewalk [14 posts] 5 years ago
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Complain about this.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/forms/

This sort of banter gives support to people who thinks it's OK to mistreat other road users.

Try talking through the dialogue above replacing the word cyclist with children (another group who pay no 'road tax' and also seem to get killed by cars rather a lot).

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Simon_MacMichael [2448 posts] 5 years ago
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Paul M wrote:

Fact is that roads are funded from general taxatrion including VAT on hamburgers, and income taxes. On that basis Clarkson pays a lot towards roads not because he drives a car, but because he is an overweight, overpaid twat.

Astute observation. When I saw him in the local before Christmas, he did appear to have just polished off one of their (admittedly very nice) hamburgers.

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ja88a [5 posts] 5 years ago
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Have now realised that I'm turning into the archetypal 'Grumpy'.

Yes I know that Road Tax doesn't exist anymore, I even have the jersey (nice one Carlton Reid) and gawd forbid I'm even a 'petrolhead' depsite being an avid cyclist. A more obvious defintion of schizophrenia there will never be  4 but.......here comes the 'ol grumpy' bit

TG is going to the way of all the other shows on TV which have any amount of popularity i.e. an inevitable dumbing down to the level of stupidity and banality.

Having spent a lot of last year ranting at idiots in their metal boxes cutting me up on my commute to work I've decided to chill out and not dignify their existence with a reply (mainly cursing) or the flipped finger. The adrenalin rush may boost a little performance but the stress, ultimately increased by my response is detrimental and I can do without it thank you.

So Clarkson falls into this category, he's a plank, he's wrong but am I going to lose sleep over it, no  22

Nuff said.

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Tony Farrelly [2868 posts] 5 years ago
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The irony of the "Work hard and get a car" remark is that if all the research on the subject is correct, most British cyclists already own more cars than the general population, they earn more money too. You'd imagine there were probably a fair few of them in the Top Gear audience – except cyclists are also supposedly better educated and slightly more intelligent than the average… so maybe not eh  3

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Chuck [530 posts] 5 years ago
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simonmb wrote:

No harm done. The Michael Winner of motoring. As so many have commented above - it's Clarkson! He's a product of the late twentieth century and a great entertainer! Whatever he spouts may be picked up but some ill-informed bigots, but they'd be ill-informed bigots regardless. Can't wait for next weeks edition of Top Gear.

I agree up to a point but I think a big part of the reason people still think they pay road tax (or that women don't know anything about football, or that Mexicans are all lazy, or that all cyclists are RLJing lycra louts etc. etc.) is because it's constantly reinforced at a low level by exactly this sort of thing. Sure it's jokey and banter (well, the sort of painful pub-bore guff that passes for banter on Top Gear anyway) but it's stuff like this that seeps in and lets things persist when they should be long dead. So yes, it is a shame and a bit disappointing that road tax crops up and goes unchallenged yet again.

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dave atkinson [6201 posts] 5 years ago
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if you haven't seen this, it's a very good waste of 15 minutes... (NSFW)

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simonmb [353 posts] 5 years ago
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All you need is Rapha, 'Road Tax', and Jeremy Clarkson. The topics that launched a thousand comments!  24

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OldRidgeback [2567 posts] 5 years ago
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So we're agreeed, Clarkson is a cretinous, ex-public school bully and some of his less intelligent audience will respond with the usual anti-cycling sentiment and aggression towards cyclists on the roads. I do think it'd be nice to have Clarkson ride a bike across the UK - it'd make for good TV as he's terrified by vehicles being driven poorly. Whether the fat, potato-faced windbag will ever do this is another thing entirely.

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