A couple of weeks ago I posted a piece outraged at Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about running cyclists off the road. Today I received the following reply from Andy Wilman, Executive Producer of Top Gear. I suppose I should feel honoured:
Dear Mr Rowlands
Thank you for your feedback about Top Gear broadcast on 6 February 2011. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying.
Jeremy was singling out what he sees as aggressive cyclists, like the one who scraped his car. I don’t think anyone can deny that, as with motorists, there are cyclists out there whose road behaviour is hardly ideal. Jeremy made it clear that in his view cyclists are free to use the roads as long as they behave themselves. Whilst he’d clearly prefer them to defer to motorists, I think his comments stop a long way short of encouraging aggression. Of course Jeremy’s views were balanced out by those of Richard Hammond, who stood up for cyclists.
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Rather than any feeling of satisfaction from this reply, I felt an overwhelming sense of dismay over what Mr Wilman was saying. Now personally I don’t go in for naming and shaming and I would normally hesitate to republish personal correspondence. However, I decided to for two simple reasons: first, as you can see from the end of the reply, it was sent from an email address which does not receive replies and I therefore have no other means of replying; second, after a quick scan of the cycling tweeters it became blatantly obvious that this was a stock response to every complaint so we can hardly call the response personal. Sorry Andy but I’m going to have to sink to Jeremy’s level instead.
What do I make of it? If this was a well drafted response designed to provoke reaction it has done the trick. Is a touch of post hoc rationalisation meant to placate complaints? Are we to believe that Clarkson, a man whose Newspaper columns are myopic and whose comments in the flesh are generally offensive, wants us all to let bygones be bygones and share the roads ? Is it really just a matter of a scratched wing mirror? Unfortunately I’m not convinced. The line ‘Whilst he’d clearly prefer them to defer to motorists’ is where Mr Wilman goes wrong. Far from not indicating any aggression to cyclists it displays an arrogance that the motorist is king and any other road user should be subservient to their rights. Here I could discuss at length how only cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders have a “right” to use the road. I could highlight that motorists have a duty of care and attention whilst driving which overrides any deference by an other user who is using the road within the law. But no, I’d just like all road users to share the road space with care and respect for each other. And when one of those users is protected by a metal cage and the other by the flesh around their bones there is a lot of onus for the motorist to defer.
It is sad that the BBC has chosen this as their defence and for Richard Hammond to be put up as the case for the defence (need we mention that stunt which wrong again?). It is even worse that through Clarkson’s actions more lives are put at risk the actions of a few motorists ‘whose road behaviour is hardly ideal’ after heeding his advice. When will people wake up to their responsibilities in life. And that means you Andy and Jeremy.