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Motoring journalist calls for "normal people to start riding bicycles"...

Jeremy Clarkson has urged readers of his column in The Sunday Times to take to two wheels – and has confessed he has bought a bike himself which he says he uses “for short distances of up to 100 metres in London.” He also reveals himself to be firmly anti-cycle helmet.

The column appears to mark a further thawing of the Top Gear presenter and petrolhead-in-chief’s typically frosty relationship with cyclists – last year, he said he’d move to Copenhagen “in a heartbeat” after discovering how pleasant a city could be where the bicycle, not the motor car, was the preferred choice of transport for everyday trips.

True to his trademark style, there are plenty of digs at those of us who choose pedal power as a regular form of transport – the headline, Bums on saddles, folks – let’s rout the pushbike Bolsheviks sets out the article’s premise, that current cyclists are a militant bunch and the only way to counter that is to introduce more moderate types to their ranks.

If there’s an analogy with the creation of New Labour that saw the party move away from solid left-wing policies and led to its election victory in 1997, it’s one Clarkson fails to appreciate, or chooses not to deploy.

“Cycling used to be how you got about if you were poor,” he maintains. “Then it became a pastime for children. Now though, it has evolved into something more. It’s gone beyond a way of life and become a political statement. A movement.

Clarkson takes issue with cycling shorts, which look “stupid,” cycle helmets which he asserts offer minimal protection and cyclists (all, apparently, vegetarian) using GoPro cameras “so that the shortcomings of van-driving painters and decorators can be uploaded to YouTube.”

On helmets, Clarkson says: “If you actually wanted to protect your head, you would wear the sort of thing that motorcyclists use, and if you wanted all-round visibility you would go to the people who supply the British Army. But instead cyclists choose to wear five hardened bananas on their bonce. It’s the 21st-century equivalent of the British Leyland donkey jacket.

He continues: “As far as they [cyclists] are concerned the roads are theirs by right. And the pavements. They do not ride through red lights to make their journey quicker; they do it to show the Tories that they will not be enslaved by convention. It’s political.

“And now they are demanding that their ecological, high-visibility, fair-trade, non-nuclear, meat-free lifestyle be accommodated into the mainstream, with junctions designed to put the bicycle first. They want the car and the van banished. Today the Embankment. Tomorrow the Bank of England.”

So far, so vintage Clarkson, as the column heads towards its conclusion. But then there’s an unexpected departure from the longtime bête noire of the cycling community.

“There’s only one way they can be defeated. And that’s for normal people to start riding bicycles,” he says.

We’ll skip over the fact that millions of normal (and, if we’re going to be totally honest, no-so-normal) people already do just that.

But it’s worth making the point that intentional or not, in eschewing helmets and cycle-specific clothing and promoting cycling to “normal” people, Clarkson seems to be aligning himself with the Copenhagenize school of cycling advocacy.

“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,” Clarkson goes on.

“Ordinary people who ride in jeans and T-shirts and with no stupid helmet.

“People who will walk into a restaurant with a sign on the door saying, ‘Cyclists welcome’ and ask for meat, with extra meat.

“I’ve started the ball rolling by buying a bike,” he admits. “And when I ride it I have a sign on the back of my jacket that says, ‘Motorists. Thank you for letting me use your roads.”

If Jeremy’s reading this, we’d strongly recommend an educational virtual visit to Carlton Reid’s websites, I Pay Road Tax and Roads Were Not Built For Cars – ed.

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.

46 comments

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 3 years ago
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I actually like what he's saying here. Love the hardened banana's and its TRUE.

There are FAR too many "HERO's" with camera's that upload the slightest movement from a car that they consider wrong....does my box in.

I do like a few of them, CyclingMikey and Gaz, but just looking at Gaz's site, it lists 390 in the UK http://www.croydoncyclist.co.uk/video-camera-cyclists/

I agree having a camera is good and gives you some sort of protection if you are involved in an accident. But some of the uploaders LOOK for trouble.

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Jonnyd [27 posts] 3 years ago
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Wow......I think I agree with something Jeremy Clarkson has said.....what the hell is happening?

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j1mmy76 [67 posts] 3 years ago
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And from the same paper that brought us the award winning cycle safety campaign.  7

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jackclark89 [9 posts] 3 years ago
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I take issue...

Drunk cycling is illegal.

Motorcycle helemts are designed for impacts at speed and can cause unecessary damage if worn (and put into use) for the wrong pursuit. They are also hot, heavy and limit vision.

Motorists STILL don't own the roads.

...and here I am still doing what I promised never to do - responding to Jeremy Clarkson's pretended idiocy which he only uses to keep himself making money and in the mix.

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SideBurn [890 posts] 3 years ago
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Revolutionary commie? Moi?
Che Guevara would have known what to do;
"Many will call me an adventurer - and that I am, only one of a different sort: one of those who risks his skin to prove his platitudes"

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Jonathing [72 posts] 3 years ago
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As a Bolshevik-vegetarian I'm inclined to agree with Clarkson (now there's something I thought I'd never say). It has been long recognised that the way to improve cycling conditions for all of us is to normalise it. If a trouser like Clarkson can promote cycling the message will reach an audience that most cycling advocates cannot.

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Dr. Ko [181 posts] 3 years ago
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Legal disclaimer:

The following lines may or may not contain irony, may or may not relate to a circular theater and his related author Shakespeare.  3

"How dare that tall foolish one call me a Bolsheviki?  47 Me, having traveled the majestic metro of Moscow rather than this smallish tube! ( http://innercitymobility.blogspot.de/2013/01/made-in-europa-greetings-fr... )
I shall therefor demand satisfaction in race of life or death, ours in one corner, his in the other!  45 No other way than to meet up at next critical mass by the final day of May to decide, who shall rule the streets of London! No pardon shall be given!"  19

Please note: UCI rules may not be applied. Testing will be performed according to WADA
standarts!

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SideBurn [890 posts] 3 years ago
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I am only a communist when it suits me  7 and only partially vegetarian... I love a nice bit of salad with my steak  16

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swldxer [84 posts] 3 years ago
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Cycling while drunk may be illegal, but it is not illegal to cycle whilst over the driver's limit as those laws do not apply to cyclists. One argument that worked in court was that the cyclist could not have been drunk as it is impossible to ride a bike when drunk.

Case dismissed.

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maccruiskeen [4 posts] 3 years ago
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The problem with Clarkson is his comedy. If you agree with him then you are the butt of his jokes. His comedy persona is of someone with selfish and reactionary views for gets everything wrong and has everything go wrong for him. So his 'Clarkson for PM' followers are actually his comedy subject matter. If you're offended by his views then you've also missed the joke because his intention is to make his offensive views ridiculous.

Sadly if you get that its a joke that gets boring pretty quickly because its his only joke and he's been telling it for a quarter of a century. So the people who get him aren't listening.

But he does make a good point here, and he does make a valid point now and again amongst all the gooning. We - keen, nerdy, forum-dwelling, n+1, spoke-sniffing enthusiasts are cyclings worst enemy - if the goal is that cycling is something that more people should do. We make cycling look difficult, expert and complex and expensive. We won't encourage a driver to get out of their car and onto a bike because we make cycling look like something that they can't do.

We're deeply uncool. Commuting on a cross bike, getting sweaty, wearing special clothes. We're ridiculous. We're having enormous fun but we don't do any good. Someone on a supermarket bike, cycling in their civvys, just going somewhere and not thinking about their bike or how the ride it - thats cool. They are the game changers, they make more difference individually than all of us put together.

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Dr. Ko [181 posts] 3 years ago
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maccruiskeen wrote:

The problem with Clarkson is his comedy. If you agree with him then you are the butt of his jokes. His comedy persona is of someone with selfish and reactionary views for gets everything wrong and has everything go wrong for him. So his 'Clarkson for PM' followers are actually his comedy subject matter. If you're offended by his views then you've also missed the joke because his intention is to make his offensive views ridiculous.

Sadly if you get that its a joke that gets boring pretty quickly because its his only joke and he's been telling it for a quarter of a century. So the people who get him aren't listening.

Agree. Mr. Clarkson is not mad, but provocative and in this a bit one dimensional.  37

The point is getting cycling Holland/Danish style, cycling to be socially accepted.  1

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pmr [197 posts] 3 years ago
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Clarkson on a bike, would love to see his face on riding up (or walking up more like) one of the Surrey Hills.
Anyone getting on a bike in London deserves respect in my book, car everytime for me.

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AWPeleton [3332 posts] 3 years ago
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He is fab, i love him and i love watching top gear.

He comes out with some absolute crackers and who cares if he does or doesn't like cyclists or anyone else for that matter.

If it results in more people cycling or more drivers being aware of cyclists then its a good call but in all honesty i just like him because at times he is funny.

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WolfieSmith [1323 posts] 3 years ago
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Fully agree with Maccruiskeen. I was out doing some laps of the local hill - trying to improve my fitness in my oh so perfect kit like the sad poseur Mamil I am and I met two families out for a spin and a granny and her 8 year old grand daughter.

It's so heartening that these people are out now taking the roads back and just making but normal and acceptable to find cyclists around every corner.

Clarkson over from the Darkside? Good for him. I don't watch Top Gear as it's childish and he's a bully but if he's seen the light cycling in the UK has received a real boost.

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Grizzerly [299 posts] 3 years ago
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True! I once had to shell out £25 for a taxi (30 years ago, £25 was a lot of money to a student then!) after stopping for a 'quick one' at the Wolverhampton SU beer festival before riding back to Brum. A 'quick one' turned into a not so quick 8 or 9. It made the bike wheels go a funny shape!

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700c [908 posts] 3 years ago
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Agree with the point he makes about cycling being used as a political statement by die-hard, camera-wearing antagonists.

I see this kind of attitude frequently, for example on you tube or on this very forum, and it's frustrating and by no means representative of the cycling majority.

If more 'normal' people took up cycling (ie those without agendas), then it would be a great thing in helping driver/cyclist relations, getting cycle safety issues into mainstream consciousness etc.

Of course most of us lycra-wearing enthusiasts are normal, but I understand the point he is making and it is a really valid one, in amongst all his provocation, jokes and BS (which no one should take too seriously).

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Kim [228 posts] 3 years ago
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On this one Clarkson is right, in that we do need to normalise cycling. Those who want to engage in cycle sport will still be free to do so, just look at the popularity cycle sport in places like Denmark and the Netherlands. However, for most people in those places the bicycle is just a means of transport, a way of getting from A to B.

Lets face, motor sport is not diminished by the fact that no one put on a flame suit to drive to the shops. Better still if we normalise cycling, more people will choose to take the bicycle rather than the car to pop down to the local shops.

So yes it is time that we Copenhagenized our towns and cities, if anyone would like to know more about this process then come to Mikael Colville-Andersen talk on Bicycle Culture by Design – Considering Design as a Placemaking Solution for Liveable Cities, in Edinburgh on the 15th June as part of the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling.

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russyparkin [570 posts] 3 years ago
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pmr wrote:

Clarkson on a bike, would love to see his face on riding up (or walking up more like) one of the Surrey Hills.
Anyone getting on a bike in London deserves respect in my book, car everytime for me.

hills in surrey! thats a joke yeah? dude you need to ride Dartmoor and cornwall. we have hills. surrey has elevated speed bumps. sheeeesh

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crazy-legs [769 posts] 3 years ago
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Maccruiskeen is exactly right - cycling seems to have acquired an image that it's the very opposite of normal.

I like Clarkson - behind his carefully managed persona of bluff laddishness he's actually a very good presenter and some of the stuff he says (if you look through the obvious jokes and the comments designed to get a reaction) is very sensible. However like any newspaper hack, he writes what is a) popular at the time and b) going to generate click throughs, comments, hits on the website, it HAS to be inflammatory.

Quote:

Clarkson on a bike, would love to see his face on riding up (or walking up more like) one of the Surrey Hills.

He's used a bike plenty of times, he just doesn't admit it. Many years ago in The Sun, there was a pic of him riding a cheapo MTB and a story about how he used the bike to lose weight. I believe his wife is a very keen triathlete. As above - he'll slag off cyclists when it means he can get a laugh, doesn't necesarily mean he wants us all run over by lorries...

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bikecellar [268 posts] 3 years ago
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maccruiskeen wrote:

The problem with Clarkson is his comedy. If you agree with him then you are the butt of his jokes. His comedy persona is of someone with selfish and reactionary views for gets everything wrong and has everything go wrong for him. So his 'Clarkson for PM' followers are actually his comedy subject matter. If you're offended by his views then you've also missed the joke because his intention is to make his offensive views ridiculous.

Sadly if you get that its a joke that gets boring pretty quickly because its his only joke and he's been telling it for a quarter of a century. So the people who get him aren't listening
But he does make a good point here, and he does make a valid point now and again amongst all the gooning. We - keen, nerdy, forum-dwelling, n+1, spoke-sniffing enthusiasts are cyclings worst enemy - if the goal is that cycling is something that more people should do. We make cycling look difficult, expert and complex and expensive. We won't encourage a driver to get out of their car and onto a bike because we make cycling look like something that they can't do.

We're deeply uncool. Commuting on a cross bike, getting sweaty, wearing special clothes. We're ridiculous. We're having enormous fun but we don't do any good. Someone on a supermarket bike, cycling in their civvys, just going somewhere and not thinking about their bike or how the ride it - thats cool. They are the game changers, they make more difference individually than all of us put together.

Somewhat like Warren Mitchell's Alf Garnett? Many of his "followers" never realised he was lampooning them either.

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joebee9870 [73 posts] 3 years ago
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Could people stop mixing cycling with politics, opinions of "celebrities" or world peace. If you want to ride a bike 10 metres or 1000 miles go do it or not. If you want to wear or not just do it. Its cycling, just riding a bike thats all. Why does it need to involve all this debate?

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ragtag [217 posts] 3 years ago
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If only people would stop mixing life with politics  3

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spen [127 posts] 3 years ago
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"“Ordinary people who ride in jeans and T-shirts and with no stupid helmet."" - perhaps Mr C hasn't heard of cycle chic?

http://www.copenhagencyclechic.com/ and others or the slow cycling movement

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koko56 [330 posts] 3 years ago
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like ohmaghad you ghais

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 3 years ago
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sigh, usual crap coming from this fat idiot, always to provoke reaction ... yawn ...

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kie7077 [877 posts] 3 years ago
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@Simon

" as it is impossible to ride a bike when drunk."

Lol, that is so not true, if I can stand then I can cycle, but I'm older now and refrain from drink cycling.

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betweenbikes [20 posts] 3 years ago
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he's still a tw*t

he's the main reason the 'emma way' type of driver exist
the youngsters worship him.

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Belaroo [44 posts] 3 years ago
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Clarkson is more complicated than the media he feeds can cope with.
He's missing out on comfort and practicality on his supermarket mountain bike. Who reads his column anyway?
My bike gets me down the pub, to work, to the shops. He has a point in a way, fixies might be sexy and vaguely politically threatening but give me a dutch bike with mudguards, a dirty great box on the front for my shopping and enough gears to get up a hill (I find three is plenty).
It's just a shame that Clarkson on the BBC turned so much of this country into the self entitled bunch of petrol heads to think that they pay road tax.

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Simon_MacMichael [2452 posts] 3 years ago
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swldxer wrote:

One argument that worked in court was that the cyclist could not have been drunk as it is impossible to ride a bike when drunk. Case dismissed.

Here's my mate Colin nodding his head in agreement. While giggling uncontrollably. Good night out, mind  3

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giff77 [1251 posts] 3 years ago
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russyparkin wrote:
pmr wrote:

Clarkson on a bike, would love to see his face on riding up (or walking up more like) one of the Surrey Hills.
Anyone getting on a bike in London deserves respect in my book, car everytime for me.

hills in surrey! thats a joke yeah? dude you need to ride Dartmoor and cornwall. we have hills. surrey has elevated speed bumps. sheeeesh

Hey russy. You need to get yourself up north mate. Then you'll know about hills. Not those wee bumps you think are hills down your way  19

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