On January 10th, professional troll Jeremy Clarkson tweeted this:
Any experienced cyclist will tell you that approaching a junction you should position yourself in the middle of the lane for safety and visibility. It’s known as primary position, and is recommended by cycling bodies and the Department for Transport.
Even the Institute for Advanced Motorists, an organisation of which I’m sure Mr Clarkson is supportive of, promotes riders taking the lane like this.
The IAM has urged cyclists to make themselves seen and to “claim their lane”, moving out into the middle of the lane when approaching a junction or parked cars.
… Our advice to cyclists, based on a comprehensive study, is to … assert yourself when approaching a junction, pushing out into the road and putting yourself in the direct view of drivers.
The cyclist in Mr Clarkson’s tweet was doing nothing wrong. Unlike Mr Clarkson himself however, who is using a mobile device when driving, an endorsable penalty which could see him the recipient of 3 penalty points on his licence and a £100 fine
Drivers should expect to encounter cyclists in the middle of the lane. There are many occasions when there is not enough room for a driver to safely overtake, or where there are parked cars or other hazards to negotiate, and it is the responsibility of the overtaking driver to be patient and wait for a safe overtaking opportunity. Any driver who can not handle that simple skill, should stop driving.
Then another Jeremy, Radio 2 DJ Jeremy Vine, who happens to be a keen cyclist himself, replied to Clarkson:
Whereupon Clarkson retorted “No. He. Does. Not.”
You can practically feel the sense of entitlement. “This is my road” Clarkson seems to be saying, “so fuck off out of my way”.
As we have already established, the cyclist did have every right to take the lane as he did. You would think that a professional motoring journalist would know that.
Clarkson went on to clarify:
If the cyclist did indeed “hurl abuse” then that’s far from ideal, but it would still not invalidate his road position, and it can be extremely stressful and intimidating to have impatient and ignorant motorists trying to force their way past you, which may well provoke an angry response.
In a further twist to the story, someone claiming to be the cyclist in question posted on singletrackworld. His version of events differed somewhat from Clarkson’s:
I was riding home from work (this is one of my regular routes) down Sloane Avenue in Chelsea towards Sloane Square. As I approached this island at the junction of Ixworth Street, a Range Rover over took me, because he had to veer left to avoid hitting the island I got pushed owards the kerb. There was no point to this pass as there was slow moving traffic a little bit further down the road.
Now I was pretty cheesed off with this and most of you will know a close pass starts pumping adrenaline. Sloane Ave is a nice flat road and it’s really easy to keep up with the trafic and just past the island I was keeping pace with the Range Rover, the driver was looking in his N/S door mirror giving the ‘stare’. I admit that I was fairly vocal at this point and shouted ‘What? you f*****g c**k, f****** knobstick’ not much of an insult but I was too riled up to think straight.
As we approached the junction with Cadogan Street the traffic started slowing so I moved to the middle of the road to overtake. As I passed the Range Rover the window started to come down and a few words were exchanged by both of us as I passed (I can’t remember what, I don’t think it was as bad as the first reaction though as I tend to calm down fairly quickly). I then kept up with the traffic for the rest of Sloane Ave, and then in to Draycott Place which is quite narrow for a two way road. Keeping up with the traffic in Draycott Place is easy as well, and as I approached the crossing at the end someone was waiting to cross so I stopped (I always do this, and stop at red lights as well believe it or not!), before it, and not on the crossing as some have suggested.I was turning right at this junction to go down to Sloane Square, so as I moved off I was positioning myself for this.
At the junction I looked behind me and saw Jeremy Clarkson just pulling up behind me with his head and arm out of the window, holding his phone and shouting ‘gotcha’ and looking well smug with himself. He was driving, and there was nobody else in the car. I got off my bike and pushed it back to his car and pointed out that he was overtaking me going in to a hazard, and made me change course. He just kept shouting increduously ‘you were four feet from the kerb, but you were four feet from the kerb, I’m a cyclist and you were four feet from the kerb!’.
After a couple of attempts to explain to him why I thought he was wrong I gave up as he just kept shouting, I then rode off. Throughout this exchange I stayed reasonably calm.
So, we have a cyclist who was correctly taking primary position, having been subjected to a close dangerous pass, then criticised by Clarkson for his road positioning. It is not clear whether the original driver who did the close pass was Mr Clarkson or not.
Clarkson was flat wrong to criticise the cyclist, and he ought to apologise for his ignorant and erroneous comment. He needs to learn more about correct cycling road position, and he definitely needs to drop the attitude. Bad attitudes towards cyclists manifest themselves as dangerous driving around cyclists.
More worrying than Clarkson’s ignorance though, is the attitude displayed by his fan club.
After the tweet, there were several dozen replies to Clarkson by his followers, many expressing a desire for the cyclist, and cyclists in general to be run over. For example:
There are some utterly repellent attitudes on display, and it’s people like that who Clarkson enables with his inflammatory comments. Obviously they are not all going to go out and run down a cyclist, but it seems quite likely that, their cycle-hatred validated by their idol, they will not drive as carefully around vulnerable road users as they ought to.
Footnote: Jeremy Vine later wrote an article about the incident, and cycling in general, which is worth a read. There is also a good article about it in the Guardian.