Top Gear’s Top Tips

Most viewers would be entirely surprised to find cyclists even mentioned on Top Gear, given the typical contempt that the presenters hold all other road users in, but the 5 million or so weekly viewers were served up 20 minutes of cycling absurdity this week as Clarkson & May took to the task of creating a public information film on cycle safety.

As with any Top Gear piece that suffers the perils of straying into genuine transport journalism, a great effort was made to enshroud all content with egotistical posturing, dismissive diatribe and comic denunciation of the topic in hand.  That said underneath the ridiculous caricature of the urban cyclist, some veiled but serious messages found their way into the final cut.

Give Cyclists Space – for a motoring show to advocate leaving 6 feet of running lane for a cyclist is welcome news indeed. All too often the contention around road space leaves cyclists feeling like they should ride in the gutter and motorists unclear about how much room to give… the answer is plenty!

Maintenance – slipping your gears on a busy junction can be pretty scary and add to the level of risk you are exposed to.  Whilst you do not need to be bothered with James May’s 58 minutes of basic cycle maintenance, a few rudimentary checks on a regular basis will make a difference.

Beware filtering around buses – when cycling on an urban bus route think about the particular challenges for both yourself and the driver. He is trying to stick to a schedule whilst stopping for passengers, watching his mirrors, CCTV cameras and the rest of the traffic, so filtering up close on either side and he might well miss you.  The other challenge is bus passengers and pedestrians, their only focus is getting on or off the bus and they might not expect to see you coming so definitely take care on the near side if passengers could be boarding or alighting.

Take care turning right – Clarkson adopts the spurious stance of only turning left, which clearly cannot work, but extra care on right turns is something for us all to remember whether on the bike or in the car.

Application of Chamois Cream – …not going to tackle that one here!

One of the most striking things about the whole piece is the idea that “It’s not as bad as you think!” The general tenor of mutual respect does seem to be growing even as the number of cyclists continues to rise. This general sense is probably helped enormously when you are being shielded by cars containing film crew, nevertheless casualty numbers for cyclists have recently shown a small fall for the first time in ages which has to be welcomed.

So it was full of the usual TG drivel which seems to keep their popularity simmering, but it could have been a whole lot worse a piece on cycling.

Watch the episode on iPlayer: [link available until Sunday 23rd March 2014]