Clarkson & May on safer cycling – what did you think?

12.00 | 3 March 2014 | | 5 comments

Alan Kennedy represented Road Safety GB on Top Gear last night (Sun 2 March) as two of the show’s the presenters set about creating a public information film to promote safer cycling.

Alan joined British Cycling’s Chris Boardman and Westminster Council’s Martin Lowe on a panel of experts who commented on Jeremy Clarkson and James May’s typically tongue in cheek attempts to make the film.

While the majority of the segment was conducted in typical Top Gear fashion, two important safety points were highlighted: the difficulties cyclists face when turning right on busy roads, and the dangers posed by larger vehicles – in this case buses.

While the pair exonerated car drivers from any reckless or dangerous actions towards cyclists – perhaps not surprising given the programme’s audience – bus drivers came in for fierce criticism from Clarkson.

 Here’s what the Telegraph said about the programme: “Jeremy Clarkson’s relationship with cyclists could generously be described as ‘strained’. Top Gear’s resident alpha dog has dismissed biking as a ‘silly Victorian distraction’ and suggested that, if they worked a little harder, members of the lycra and handle-bar set might one day aspire to owning an actual car.

“Still, recent photographic evidence of Clarkson barreling around London on a two wheeled contraption that looked suspiciously like a functioning bicycle suggested rapprochement was in the air.

“In fact, he and co-presenter James May were conducting field research for a public safety film aimed at cutting down on cycling mishaps – a jape only moderately less ludicrous, surely, than inviting Lady Gaga to share tips on dressing for a job interview.

“As it turned out Team Top Gear weren’t quite as serious as the exasperated transport officials they had roped into the endeavour may have hoped: their ‘safety’ videos mixed awful puns ("Christ on a bike" thundered Clarkson as a Jesus impersonator freewheeled past), Hitler gags (or, at any rate, a man pedaling about dressed as Hitler) and, of course, a bicycle with a jet engine strapped to the end.

“Far more illuminating was the footage of the pair wobbling down Regent Street at rush-hour. Clarkson squawked in horror as public transport loomed close and emanated existential dread when required to salve his aching nether regions with anti-saddle sore cream.”

The episode is currently available for viewing on iPlayer.


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    This article was nonsense dressed up as a “public information” film. In fact, calling it nonsense is a compliment. It wasted twenty minutes of my life which I’ll never get back, and pretended it had something to do with the safety of cyclists. The fact that they both wore cycle helmets, when the evidence is clear that they do not improve the safety of cylists, says it all. Prime time tv having a bit of a laugh, but a million miles away from making any sense of the issue of the safety of cyclists on the road.

    No mention of the fact that in most cyclist/driver collisions, it is the driver at fault, no advice to drivers to look out for cyclists, just a bit of a laugh really. Just such a shame that an opportunity like this was wasted, and that more cyclists will die because they didn’t take it.

    Richard Burton, Bristol
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    Of course it was dressed up in the usual facile manner that only Top Gear could manage, but in their own way I thought there was some small endeavour to address the issue at hand.

    Ignoring any of the specific details in the piece, the very fact that Top Gear felt compelled to even address cycling within their normal fossil fuelled hour of frenzy, and for a solid 20 minute segment, is something we should not overlook. That in itself says that the debate on cycle safety is now really mainstream.

    There’s a more extensive blog piece here:

    Dan Campsall, Banbury
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    It can’t be considered serious in any way and it just allowed Clarkson and Co to do and say a few things that only they could get away with. Hitler and Jesus in a public information advert would certainly have been a first!

    I would imagine certain parts of it would have been considered highly offensive by those who have lost loved ones as a result of a collison whilst cycling. Did it do anything for road safety and cycling – I don’t think so but it was a good watch!

    Well done Alan for participating and showing that whilst road safety is serious business there are occasions when the industry can show it does have a humorous side without meaning to cause offence.

    Bill, Glasgow
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    It was a bit of fun – which is all that Top Gear is designed to be. Did it make serious points? I suppose so – it was certainly good to see the issues cyclists have with buses exposed by a traditionally non-cyclist pair.

    Neil Hopkins – Sussex
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    When you sup with the devil, sup with a very long spoon. – proverb.

    Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon
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