Funny what some people think is funny.
A few years back, I helped introduce the world’s coolest car to the world. I’d been hired to write the marketing materials for the official introduction of the Tesla Roadster — the world’s first all-electric, high performance sports car, capable of doing 0 – 60 in under 4 seconds. Without burning a single drop of gas.
Though it inspired intense auto-lust, I remember thinking at the time that this car could be a nightmare for cyclists. Its virtually silent operation meant that a rider might never hear it coming until it was too late — something anyone who has ever been startled to find a Prius rolling up next to you can attest.
But I never occurred to me that some jerk would do something like that on purpose.
This last Sunday, though, British celebrity chef James Martin wrote about his recent Tesla test drive in London’s Daily Mail newspaper. Rather than just discuss the many attributes of the car, he focused on his hatred of cyclists.
And admitted — no, make that bragged — about intentionally harassing riders:
…But whenever I drive to London, dutifully paying my £8 for the privilege (on top of my road tax, petrol tax, parking and all the other rip-offs), without fail a cyclist will rap on my window and make some holier-than-thou comment, before zooming off_ through a red light where he knows I can’t get him.
God, I hate those cyclists. Every last herbal tea-drinking, Harriet Harman-voting one of them. That’s one of the reasons I live in the countryside, where birds tweet, horses roam, pigs grunt and Lycra-clad buttocks are miles away. But recently, there’s been a disturbing development.
Each Saturday, a big black truck appears at the bottom of my road, with bikes stuck to the roof and rear. Out of it step a bunch of City-boy ponces in fluorescent Spider-Man outfits, shades, bum bags and stupid cleated shoes, who then pedal around our narrow lanes four abreast with their private parts alarmingly apparent. Do they enjoy it? They never smile. I’m sure they just come here to wind me up…
Almost inexplicably, he actually devotes the next several paragraphs to discussing the car before returning to the subject closest to his heart:
…But I don’t care about any of that, and here’s why. Twenty minutes into my test drive I pulled round a leafy bend, enjoying the birdsong – and spotted those damned Spider-Man cyclists. Knowing they wouldn’t hear me coming, I stepped on the gas, waited until the split second before I overtook them, then gave them an almighty blast on the horn at the exact same time I passed them at speed.
The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my rear-view mirror. I think this could be the car for me.
You can probably imagine the reception it received in the cycling community. In fact, I had to add an extra sentence here just to include just a handful of the links — including the obligatory James Martin Hates Cyclists page on Facebook.
And this morning, Martin blamed his comments on a misguided attempt at humor:
Regarding the The Tesla Roadster Article…
May I take this opportunity to apologize for any offence I have caused through the article in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday. It was never my intention to offend the many cyclists who share our roads across the country. What was intended to be a humorous piece was clearly misjudged. Further more I do not condone any form of reckless driving.
Once again, I am sincerely sorry for any upset caused in relation to this article.
Evidently, he thought that he and the riders he terrorized would share a good laugh about it at the local pub afterwards.
Of course, the real problem isn’t some over-privileged Brit twit.
It’s that this sort of attitude is all too common on both sides of the Atlantic. And some people think they have the right to risk the lives of others simply because they don’t like us.
But it’s all in fun.
Flying Pigeon will be participating in this Friday’s Park(ing) Day LA. San Diego’s bike kitchen takes its services out to the community. A Tennessee driver calls for better education on cycling laws and testing for cyclists, while a Columbia MO writer correctly explains the correct way to control an intersection. And while we’re in the area, the Tour of Missouri concludes another successful year with a cloudy future. Traffic guru Tom Vanderbilt visits America’s biking haven. Let’s Go Ride A Bike presents a series on vintage fashion and cycling, for all you stylish riders. Reuters features a press release about the new DC Bike Station; the company behind it is headquartered right here in Long Beach (hint, hint, Mr. Mayor). Seoul gets serious about cycling infrastructure. Ottawa responds to a rash of cycling accidents by ticketing riders and handing out bells. Finally, a Boston cyclist defuses a dangerous situation with an angry motorist with an unexpected, and surprisingly effective, technique. And yes, I am taking notes…