3 March 2014

Oh, Top Gear did a thing.


Look, it doesn’t take an exceptional degree of intelligence to work out that Top Gear is not intended to be taken seriously. Equally, it doesn’t take an exceptional degree of cynicism to work out that it is a small but real part of a landscape around which people construct their views.

I’m at best ambivalent about Top Gear: yes, it’s jumped countless sharks; yes, it’s more It Ain’t Half Hot Mum than Brasseye in terms of acerbic wit; but at the end of the day it’s mostly just affably undemanding entertainment with some generally unremarkable humour in it.

Point out its flaws by all means, but if you’re actually going to get properly outraged by Top Gear then I’d suggest reprioritising where your blood pressure gets spent.

That said…

I do have just one question, though.

Obviously, a crumpled bike on the ground with a pithy jibe printed on top of it is a bit of a giggle.


That image we see in the news dozens of times a year, where you know the person who was on that bike moments beforehand is now dead? Yeah, that’ll make a good basis for a little Sunday night gag based on a lazy stereotype.


Does it work if we transpose it onto Top Gear’s territory?

Earlier this year, two McLaren staff died in a collision near the McLaren base in Woking involving a Transit van (the driver of which sustained serious injuries) and the Impreza in which they were travelling.


That image we see in the news dozens of times a year, where you know the person who was in that car moments beforehand is now dead? Yeah, that’ll make a good basis for a little Sunday night gag based on a lazy stereotype.


Would Top Gear show that?

Would they have the balls to rock up to Woking the following day to borrow a P1 for the Stig to play with?

Would they expect the staff there to have a bit of a chuckle about it?

Maybe they would. Maybe everyone is fine with that.

You be the judge: I’m not your conscience.

Footnote 1

Footnote 2

In case it’s not clear from the above, I am making no comment on the tragic collision in Woking. I have seen no information to indicate whether the driver who died was at fault, nor would I feel that a cheap joke would be justified even if they were. If you’re uncomfortable with the above image implying that Impreza drivers are twats that we can laugh at when they die, then you get my point.

Footnote 3

Photo used is by cheran on Flickr, used in accordance with Creative Commons licence.


  1. Jim Davis 3 March 2014 1:19pm #

    As Frankie Boyle once said on Mock The Week during ‘The Hamster’s’ high speed smash convalescence, ‘I think the next anti speeding advert should be Richard Hammond trying to remember his wedding day’. Of course, it’s just a joke, like on Top Gear.

  2. rdrf 3 March 2014 4:38pm #

    Another good post.

    It’s worth noting that Clarkson and his cronies are a bit one-arm butler on this (they can dish it out but not take it). A piece on Clarkson pointed out that “speedophiles” (like him) kill more kids than paedophiles do. He wrote to say that he found this comment “hurtful”.

    Now, what was that about bullies being cowards?

    • Kevin ‘Herbie’ Blackburn 3 March 2014 7:38pm #

      Ooh – that’s good, I like that!

  3. Kevin ‘Herbie’ Blackburn 3 March 2014 7:40pm #

    I know Top Gear is pretty tongue in cheek, but I do seriously believe that the attitude they peddle, and that especially of Clarkson himself incite other road users to acts that endanger lives. On the cycling related part of the show their very starting point is null and void – ‘bicycles are dangerous’ – no, motor vehicles are dangerous! Then they just go on to make themselves look and sound like dorks, even leaving the labels on their clothing as if that made cyclists out to be stupid, but in fact just made them look even more stupid than normal. Apart from that it seemed pretty harmless, and in fact they did bring out some reasonable messages amongst the drivel – buses are dangerous, and why do they put cyclists in bus lanes; the roads are in a terrible state; make cycling attractive to bus passengers is not a bad idea as well; pedestrians step off pavements without looking. The worst bits were making out that cyclists don’t know red from green, when in fact only 4% of those who jump red lights are cyclists, and 67% are car driver, the rest are commercial vehicles and motorcyclists, plus red light jumping has worse consequences when it is done by a ton of metal! the rest of it was just petty and pathetic!

  4. John 4 March 2014 8:02am #

    I like bus lanes – wide, well surfaced, clear of motor traffic – generally an overtaking lane available for the odd occasion anyone wants/needs to overtake.

    Sometimes you even get a bus to draft for a while đŸ˜‰

    • Dan Bassford 4 March 2014 1:34pm #

      I agree – when there isn’t a bus or taxi or motorbike trying to squeeze through a non-existent gap on the way into a red light. In fact, the width of a bus is almost exactly the same as a good enough segregated bike lane.

    • Nico (@NicoVel0) 6 March 2014 12:02pm #

      I don’t, round here (LDN) the surface is often completely wrecked, you regularly get stuck between two buses, and on occasion they try to bully you out of their way. Oh and you get black cabs cutting in and out. And that’s even before we look at the stop-start of buses that means cyclists permanently have to weave out of and back in the bus lane. General motor traffic often blocks entrances to bus lanes as well. Not a fan here.

  5. Alistair 12 March 2014 12:11am #

    I finally got around to watching this episode of Top Gear tonight. The part about cyclists ignoring red lights made me chuckle, although I wasn’t chuckling when I saw it happen right in front of me only a few hours ago at roadworks.

    I saw the two cyclists coming up behind as I was at stationary in my car waiting at the red lights. As the two of them past, I noted that they were on what looked like modern well maintained bikes, they had proper cycling gear on, including helmets. Bravo.

    Then they just carried on right through the red light, through the roadworks, into on coming traffic, and off they went!

    Bad enough, but the problem with doing that at roadwork TTL’s is you have no idea what is ahead, an open track? An HGV reversing? Men in the middle of the road?

    Top Gear’s piece was in bad taste in sections, arguably going too far even for a comedy item, nobody can argue the criticisms weren’t valid though.

    • Bez 12 March 2014 8:19am #

      The criticisms might be valid, but the stereotyping is perhaps not. Most “cyclists” are, after all, “motorists”. And although fewer cases of light-jumping are committed at the wheel of a car, that’s often because they can’t pass someone in front who’s already stopped – whereas someone on a bicycle can. Indeed, so can someone on a motorcycle, and – personally, anecdotally – I see roughly as much light jumping for motorcycles as I do bicycles. Regardless, let’s not pretend that people don’t jump red lights in cars (nor that the consequences aren’t potentially grave when they do: just a couple of days ago we saw sentencing in a trial where two children on the pavement died as a result of a collision involving a car jumping a red light), nor that people are somehow less law-abiding when on bicycles: they may treat different laws differently, but each individual will still strike broadly the same balance between legality, convenience and safety that they would in any vehicle.

      Roadworks are a funny old one. Obviously I haven’t seen the specific ones to which you refer, but if you jump the light, you often have endless options to duck into the coned area when traffic is oncoming. Whereas if you wait for green, you often have a considerable distance to cover with a dense column of already-irritated drivers behind you, all unable to pass. I don’t myself, but I can understand why people would choose to jump the lights at certain road works.

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