If that sounds a bit one sided well, that's just
the way I see it - cyclists in this country have always been at the
mercy of the heavyweights on our roads.
But how are we to change
minds when shows like Top Gear Australia - and its parent in the UK -
continue to demonstrate the sheer malignancy of motoring culture on our
Top Gear is the poster child for bad
motoring behaviour, focusing largely on 0-60km/h performance, and engaging
in a range of dubious stunts to demonstrate how incredibly awesome it is
to drive like a lunatic.
Its style and tone contribute nothing
in terms of tempering the worst instincts of motorists. Its overarching
dialogue only about placing motoring first in the minds of viewers to
the exclusion of other road users.
When not glorifying motoring
culture the show has form in taking cheap and gratuitous shots at the
weak - that is, when they are not producing fiction about potentially planet-saving alternatives in the motoring world.Take, for example, Top Gear's line on electric cars. Casting aside any pretence of impartiality or rigour, it has set out to show that electric cars are useless. If the facts don't fit, it bends them until they do.
Gear's latest crime against society - this time right here in Australia
- is to entrench in motorists' minds a set of tiresome cliches about
cyclists, while themselves recklessly breaking the law to demonstrate a
Now you could say that this is just entertainment and the
scenes are staged, after all they will have received permission to (safely)
drive around like idiots. At least I hope they did.
beside the point. I'm trying to figure out what kind of entertainment is
it when the show targets a specific group of vulnerable road users for
the low brow amusement of its viewers? Maybe they take their cues from
Australia's Funniest Home Videos?
Television is a powerful medium
for a reason, imagery is more powerful than the spoken word, so what
you show, or stage, has an enormous impact. Wrong-headed and misinformed
visual statements about particular road users are not a joke. People
can get killed and maimed.
Maybe Top Gear should air a segment
on our hard-working long-haul truckies driving 24-hours straight on nothing but blaring Tamworth Festival favourites, No-Doze
and Jack Daniels and see what kind of reaction they receive from that
I saw the segment as designed to denigrate legal and
legitimate road users and quite likely give licence to motorists to play
fast and loose with the rights of cyclists to use the roads.
Ultimately, it was an irresponsible mockery and failed to advance the discourse surrounding our shared urban and transport spaces.
Follow Phil on Twitter: @Lycra_Lout