BBC car show Top Gear stoked controversy last night with a feature in which two presenters, Jeremy Clarkson and James May, made spoof public information films about cycle safety, in which a rider is blown up.
The highly popular light entertainment show – often criticised for its childish humour – was aired last night in the UK. It featured petrolheads Clarkson and May cycling around London where they concluded motorists – apart from bus drivers – were courteous and well-mannered.
They showed their ‘public information’ films – intended to provoke an angry reaction – to British Cycling policy advisor Chris Boardman, Westminster Council’s commissioner of transportation, Martin Low, and Alan Kennedy of Road Safety GB. The trio were inevitably unimpressed and appeared angered by the films. In the film, Kennedy said: “You’re really trying to waste our time today.”
In one film – Clarkson’s – a cyclist defuses a bomb with a red and a green wire. The rider cuts the red, the bomb explodes and the film finished with the lines: “Cyclists. Red and green. Learn the bloody difference.” It’s a joke based on the reputation that cyclists jump red lights.
Though not meant to be taken seriously, the show inevitably caused a storm on social media. Author Simon Warren, who wrote Greatest Cycling Climbs, pre-empted the furore: “30 mins to the Top Gear cycling special. I am so angry I could put my fist through the TV. Wait a minute it hasn’t started yet.”
Cyclists and campaigners were angered but not surprised at the tone and content. One tweet read: “Top Gear on Cycling: Well, what did you expect? Cheap laughs & Pantomime prejudice!”
Meanwhile, today the AA announced its campaign to break the ‘two tribes’ mentality between cyclists and motorists. The Times reports that the AA was urging its 15m members to fix yellow stickers to their wing mirrors to remind them to look out for motorbike riders and cyclists. The stickers will also be available through Halfords.
Edmund King, president of the AA, tweeted: “If you saw
#TopGear on cycling you may be interested in another ‘motoring’ take on cycling in The Times tomorrow.”
Clarkson has often been noted for stoking controversy with the cycling community. In January he tweeted a photo of a cyclist in London with the caption: “It’s middle of the road point-makers like this who make car drivers so angry about cyclists.”
Did you see the show? What did you make of Clarkson and May’s approach to ‘cycle safety’? Let us know in the comments section below.
Top Gear is available on iPlayer.