Say what you like about Jeremy Clarkson, he knows his audience and he knows his brand. Today’s Sun column does more than just flirt with self-parody as he takes aim at cyclists.
London’s Boris Bikes are his main concern. He questions the worth of last year’s 10.3 million hires on the basis that “eagle-eyed researchers have discovered that nine of the ten most popular trips on the bikes in the past five years were around Hyde Park.”
His position therefore is that “the bikes are mainly being used by tourists who just want to pootle around looking at Mrs Queen’s swans.”
But then he broadens things out, asserting that “the only people who use bikes instead of cars are lunatics who are waging some kind of idiotic war with anyone normal.”
Odd, considering that Clarkson himself was out on his bike one day after being fired by the BBC.
He goes on to describe last week’s video of a truck driver losing it with a bunch of cyclists – one of whom had been hit after going straight on from a left-turn lane – and presents it as if it were a typical example of the kind of thing being targeted by West Midlands Police’s close-pass operation.
He describes the case of Dean Littleford, the truck driver who was baffled to become the operation’s first court conviction, and takes issue with the recommendation that drivers allow 1.5m when passing cyclists.
“So let’s just work that out,” he writes. “The bike needs to be two feet from the kerb to be safe. It is a foot wide and it needs five feet of clearance. That’s eight feet for a bicycle, which on most normal British roads leaves two feet for the car or truck to get past safely.”
You’d think after all his years of driving, Clarkson would have discovered that those broken white lines down the middle of the road aren’t actually impenetrable.
Or perhaps he’s just adopting an exaggerated and confrontational position purely for his column.
It’s worth remembering that the presenter has previously spoken effusively about the cycling-centric nature of Copenhagen and said that he would move there “in a heartbeat”.
Perhaps his position is best summed up by his assertion that in Britain “cycling is a political statement” whereas in Copenhagen “it’s just a pleasant way of getting about.”