What do you do if you're a cyclist who Jeremy Clarkson has accused on Twitter of "point-making" because you took the lane to protect yourself from being passed dangerously? You take to the internet and set the record straight in great detail.
That’s what a user of the forums over on mountain bike site Singletrackworld did when Clarkson posted a snap of him behaving perfectly legally on Twitter last week.
Here's Clarkson's intitial post:
It's middle of the road point-makers like this who make car drivers so angry about cyclists. pic.twitter.com/4vCcK548t1
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) January 10, 2014
Unsurprisingly, a few cyclists responded that he was using a mobile phone to take a picture while in control of a vehicle and therefore possibly committing an offence himself.
Many also responded that the narrowness of the road meant the rider was doing exactly what Bikeability, the Institute of Advanced Motoring and even Transport for London recommend: taking the lane.
— CyclingMikey (@CyclingMikey) January 10, 2014
Clarkson implied that the rider was making a point because he'd sworn at drivers who tried to overtake him:
Ti be clear, the cyclist I tweeted about earlier rode constantly right in the middle of the lane and hurled abuse at anyone who overtook.
— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) January 10, 2014
Your usual Twitterstorm ensued, with Clarkson's more petrolhead followers wishing death to anyone on two wheels while cyclists tried to point out that the rider was doing nothing wrong. As usual it got heated.
Discussion spread to the always-lively forums on Singletrackworld.com, where user Itsme posted this lengthy account of what happened:
Right then, from the horses mouth so to speak.......
I was riding home from work (this is one of my regular routes) down Sloane Avenue in Chelsea towards Sloane Square. As I approached this island at the junction of Ixworth Street, a Range Rover over took me, because he had to veer left to avoid hitting the island I got pushed owards the kerb.
There was no point to this pass as there was slow moving traffic a little bit further down the road.
Now I was pretty cheesed off with this and most of you will know a close pass starts pumping adrenaline. Sloane Ave is a nice flat road and it's really easy to keep up with the trafic and just past the island I was keeping pace with the Range Rover, the driver was looking in his N/S door mirror giving the 'stare'. I admit that I was fairly vocal at this point and shouted 'What? you f*****g c**k, f****** knobstick' not much of an insult but I was too riled up to think straight.
As we approached the junction with Cadogan Street the traffic started slowing so I moved to the middle of the road to overtake. As I passed the Range Rover the window started to come down and a few words were exchanged by both of us as I passed (I can't remember what, I don't think it was as bad as the first reaction though as I tend to calm down fairly quickly). I then kept up with the traffic for the rest of Sloane Ave, and then in to Draycott Place which is quite narrow for a two way road.
Keeping up with the traffic in Draycott Place is easy as well, and as I approached the crossing at the end someone was waiting to cross so I stopped (I always do this, and stop at red lights as well believe it or not!), before it, and not on the crossing as some have suggested.
I was turning right at this junction to go down to Sloane Square, so as I moved off I was positioning myself for this.
At the junction I looked behind me and saw Jeremy Clarkson just pulling up behind me with his head and arm out of the window, holding his phone and shouting 'gotcha' and looking well smug with himself. He was driving, and there was nobody else in the car. I got off my bike and pushed it back to his car and pointed out that he was overtaking me going in to a hazard, and made me change course. He just kept shouting increduously 'you were four feet from the kerb, but you were four feet from the kerb, I'm a cyclist and you were four feet from the kerb!'.
After a couple of attempts to explain to him why I thought he was wrong I gave up as he just kept shouting, I then rode off. Throughout this exchange I stayed reasonably calm.
At no time did I abuse any other road user or pedestrian on my journey home.
What JC's pic on twitter doesn't show is how much traffic was about at the time. Before I stopped at the crossing the junction was busy, and the traffic was queing all the way down to Sloane Square. I was probably well on my way to Parliament Square by the time JC got through Sloane Square. The ambulance wasn't parked either, it was moving.
Thanks for your patience reading my longest ever post!
Among the many who responded to Clarkson was Radio Two presenter Jeremy Vine, who pointed out: "He has every right - you muppet".
This morning the Daily Mail posted an essay by Vine on the dangers of cycling on London's roads, and the Twitterstorm he online argument he and Clarkson sparked. The permanently angry attitude of many drivers is a very real problem, he says.
Vine writes: "On Twitter such a spat is entertaining. But take that hostility on to the road — put that angry mind in charge of a metal hulk on four wheels or even 12 — and it becomes a threat to the life of any cyclists."
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.