“I can’t hear myself think over the sound of public transport,” says Jeremy Clarkson against a background of vehicles that are decidedly not public transport passing by in a video interview with Drivetribe, entitled 'Bikes can f*@%k off'. “Stop sulking, you’re driving a car, you blithering idiot,” he adds. Because no car driver in London was ever made miserable by being held up by, you know, other motorists.
It's a bit of a contrast with the comments supportive of cyclists made just last week by his co-host of Amazon Prime's The Grand Tour, and previously BBC's Top Gear, James May.
Clarkson is sitting outside a café in the affluent part of west London where he has his home in the capital. It’s on the road where Transport for London’s plans to install a cycleway to protect vulnerable road users was blocked recently by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.
“So this is Holland Park in London, one of the most beautiful streets in London because of all the tree that line it,” says the motoring writer and broadcaster. “And these are trees that the Mayor of London wants to pull down to make way for a cycle lane. Well, he can f*ck off. I mean, the man’s obviously deranged. You can’t pull trees down so people can cycle.
“I know that cycle lanes now are seen as the single most important thing in the world by all those lunatics with five hardened bananas on their head and a little GoPro, but they can f*ck off, they’re not.”
No tree was ever harmed in the building of a road.
“I was just coming just now into London on the A40 … well, they’ve taken one of the lanes away to make a cycle lane, massive traffic jam resulting from it, and stuck in it is an ambulance.
“Someone is dying of a heart attack somewhere up in Acton, the ambulance can’t get there, because they’re building a cycle lane.
“We live in absurd times. Absurd.”
He certainly has a point there. Though many people may see these times as “absurd” for reasons other than the ones Clarkson does.
The patient in the ambulance could perhaps have been a cyclist knocked off his or her bike by a motorist due to the absence of safe infrastructure.
Would he have complained had the roadworks been for anything other than building a cycle lane? Somehow, we doubt it.
And once built, cycleways actually provide a quicker way for the emergency services to get to where they are needed, a motor traffic free route, rather than trying to thread their vehicles through queues of cars, buses, vans and lorries.
“In Hyde Park, they took half the road away to make a cycle lane, even though there was already a cycle lane running parallel to it 30 feet away.”
There was a shared use path, which is a different issue altogether. And what motor traffic there is through Hyde Park flows as freely as it ever did.
“So now there’s a choice of cycle lane when you’re in Hyde Park, why?
“Let’s have a look here. Car, car, taxi, van, bicycle. Well, not really a bicycle, one of those foldaway ones. It’s ridiculous, car, car … and it’s a lovely summer’s day, you’d imagine people would cycle but nobody wants to, You’re sweaty, you smell!
“Look at him! How much has he contributed to the economy today? Nothing. Nobody wants to sit next to him because of the smell of his armpits.”
A succession of people on non-folding bikes cycle past throughout the video, by the way.
And it’s well documented of course that where cycling infrastructure is put in place, the local economy benefits.
And perhaps more people would cycle through Holland Park were it safer to do so. Particularly heading towards Notting Hill, it is a hugely intimidating place for people on two wheels due to road furniture, coaches, buses and lorries, and vehicles trying to get in front of you to turn left at the succession of traffic lights.
Waving at a double decker bus, Clarkson says: “And you can’t go on those because you’ll get a disease.”
“If when you get to work and you cycle there and you need to make up for the calories you lost by cycling and you have an avocado that’s been flown from, I don’t know, the other side of the world, you’d be better off environmentally going to work in a Humvee.”
In terms of gross weight, a Humvee – the military version of a Hummer – is roughly the same weight as getting on for 10,000 California Hass avocados.
And of course, the carbon footprint of an avocado ends when you eat it on your sourdough or other bread of choice; but when you proudly take delivery of your ridiculously sized vehicle, you’re only just starting with the environmental cost.
The video, you’ll have noticed, is entitled ‘A cup of tea with Jeremy Clarkson’, although it looks more like a cup of coffee to us … leafy environs or not, neither tea leaves nor coffee beans are indigenous to Holland Park, or anywhere else this side of Africa, Latin America or the Indian sub-continent …
“And this information is not coming from my head. It’s coming from the Guardian newspaper. That’s where I found it.”
Google “Humvee” plus “avocado” plus “Guardian” – never happened, did it?
“The Guardian will tell you that you have to eat to get the calories you need to ride a bicycle. Is anyone paying any attention to any of this? No they’re not. ‘We’ll just have cycle lanes, it’s good for the environment’ … No it isn’t! It isn’t!
“It’s just ridiculous, we’re living in stupid times where people say, ‘It’s really important we have cycle lanes’, it’s the latest thing … ‘Oh, we’ve got to have a cycle lane we’ll have to drive one through the middle of the Tower of London, yes, we must do that, pull it down, pull it down, we must have a cycle lane, it’s where we want one’ … they can f*ck off.”
News for Jeremy; the East-West cycleway starts just to the east of the Tower of London, and passes right in front of it; not THROUGH it, IN FRONT of it. Go take a look if you don’t believe us.
“And you know how things are with green stuff, we must all buy diesels ‘Oh, you can’t have diesels you must have petrol, you can’t have petrol, you’ve got to have a hybrid, you can’t have a hybrid, you’ve got to have electric’ … they’re going to do the same … ‘You’ve got to have bus lanes, because buses are the most important thing, oh we can’t have bus lanes, buses are bad, we’ve got to have cycle lanes …
“And then they’ll say one day, ‘Oh, we can’t have cycle lanes’ because everyone’s decided that bicycles are bad for the environment – which they are, by the way,” he says with what is presumably meant to be a knowing look towards the camera – and we’ve got to use Spacehoppers and everyone needs Spacehopper lanes so they can bounce to work.”
Oh, Jeremy. Mate.
“And here’s another thing. The cycle lane they were going to build along here, four and a bit miles, £42 million, that’s what they were quoted. They can f*ck off, you can’t charge forty … that’s £10 million a mile for just painting a little bicycle on the road, you can’t charge £10 million a mile for that. I’d have told them to f*ck off.
“And that’s the good thing, the council has told them to f*ck off, even before the consultation period was over, they’ve actually said, ‘No, we’re not going to have a cycle lane here, it’s idiotic, and the Mayor is arguing with them, ‘People are going to be killed’, yes they are, you are absolutely right Mr Mayor, if you get your cycle lane.
“Because, there will be a huge amount of congestion and all the ambulances won’t be able to get through.”
A planned cycleway, let’s remember, on a route where cyclists have been seriously injured and – in the case of Eilidh Cairns – lost her life. There's still a ghost bike in her memory there ... on the very route that Clarkson opposes.
As for the £10 million per mile … well, compared to say the £1.5 billion being spent on upgrading 21 miles of the A14 in Cambridgeshire, that strikes us as a bargain.
“And do you know what their solution is to that? Only as I speak to you today, whatever it is, August the second, some left-wing think-tank that advises Corbyn has come up with a really good idea, which is to ban all private cars from London in 11 years’ time.”
What a great idea. Could we ban black cabs, Ubers, HGVs and delivery vans while we’re at it? Asking for a friend.
“So why build a cycle lane, then? No cars, so why build a cycle lane then? Because you’re going to have no cars, so why build a segregated cycle lane?
“Why spend £42 million of our money on something which you say you aren’t going to need?”
We know British politics can be difficult to follow at the moment, but clearly we missed the bit about Jeremy Corbyn forming a government and being able to implement something that is advice from a think-tank, not policy.
“They can all f*ck off. All of them.”
You said that before.
Oh wait, there’s more.
“I sunburned the top of my head today. And that’s global warming. No, wait … it’s August, that’s what it is, it’s August.
“I’m well aware a lot of people are going to disagree with what I’ve said, but let’s not have a row, let’s not shout and yell and scream, as we do on the roads – well, you do on the roads – let’s not have a Jeremy Vine moment out there when he films some poor woman who he’s inconvenienced and she has to go to prison as a result.”
So we can add climate change denial to the list. And,. for the record, Shanique Syrena Pearson was convicted in February 2017 of driving without reasonable consideration and using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour in an incident recorded on Vine’s helmet cam in July the previous year.
However, her nine-month jail sentence was not due to that incident alone.
She was already subject to a suspended sentence for actual bodily harm and assault, which is what triggered a jail sentence; in the absence of that, the likelihood is that she would have received a non-custodial sentence.
“Let’s have a debate, comment below … If you agree with what I’ve said, comment below, let’s have an intelligent debate, let’s not just … “ [he makes the wanker sign]
The invitation to comment does not seem to have been extended to people who disagree with him.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.