If you came across Jeremy Clarkson in the wild, I’m sure his mating call would be “More power!”. His Top Gear persona projects a single-mindedness in favour of cars and a distaste for all things that hinder their progress.
He’s seems a bit confused aboyt bikes, though. It’s as though he’s not sure if he can afford to be in support of cycling, like if he does then he’ll betray and then loose his audience. On the one hand, he tweets his annoyance with cyclists (Twitter and more Twitter) and makes fun of them in Top Gear episodes. On the other hand, he shows signs of believing that they have a right to use the roads, even if those rights are secondary to those of motorists.
Loads of people are in this position, where they are entrenched firmly in the motorist camp and yet can’t escape the reality that cycling has legitimacy. The problem with people like Clarkson is that he’s got over 2.7 million twitter followers. He’s got influence. What he says fuels many peoples prejudices. But the good news is that he seems to be softening to the case for cycling on his roads. The problem may be turning into the solution… or, a solution.
A short piece where he and Jeremy Vine of BBC Radio2 give their positions on the matter has Clarkson saying that cyclists are a pain, but that they should be able to use the roads. In the Sunday Times encourages “normal people” to ride a bike but also contains more than its fair share of negative cycling stereotypes (go here). Basically, through gritted teeth, he says that cycling should be accommodated. The height of his praise for cycling can be found here. Maybe the short skirts had something to do with it.
I suppose the positive we can take away from this that even the most hard core …autophile (I know that technically means something else, but you get the idea) isn’t beyond hope. We may not be able to convert the car-centric masses into cyclists, but at least we can make them sympathetic to our cause (ie, supporting cycling infrastructure) .
Cycling isn’t going away any time soon – that much can be said with with absolute certainty – and that means the presence of cyclists on our roads will continue and likely increase. While this is happening, cyclists should have goals in mind for their towns and cities, organise, and get involved, at least on some level. Clearly not everyone will write their council members or attend local council meetings, so what the rest of us can do, every day, is ride your bike, and remain calm. Stake your claim on the road (don’t be a dick – I’ll get into this in another post), but engage with traffic with poise, with soupless. Don’t get sucked into a shouting match with the idiot who nearly squeezed you off the road. By all means, let them know that you know that they lack good judgement, but unless you are able to engage in a conversation with them about law, morality, spacial relations and logic, any screaming or revenge tactics will only inspire in them increased animosity for cyclists. Don’t worry, we have the momentum. What we need to do is be smart and make the most of it.