Bicycle beats all-comers in cross-town test on Top Gear
12.11.07 by Buffalo Bill
I don’t hate cars. The car is a machine. It’s silly to hate a machine, as I remember telling myself when I got the 4 or 5th puncture of the day…
I do find them inconvenient. They are too big, they smell and they make too much noise.
No, I don’t hate cars. What I dislike is the things that people do in cars, and I particularly dislike the marketing that the motor industry peddles. Now that they are no longer able to show cars going fast, carving round corners and other macho manoeuvres, the motor industry portrays cars as a cipher for freedom.
You will frequently see cars in ads on deserted country roads, cruising through beautiful scenery, the happy occupants transported by the wondrous power of their vehicle into pastoral paradise. This image, of course, is yet another example of misleading advertising. The desire of advertisers to mis-sell is what George Orwell referred to when he described advertising as the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.
The reality of driving a car is that you are imprisoned in a metal box, breathing poisoned air and burning money with every revolution of your engine. No bicycle messenger, indeed no cyclist, needs me to point out that cars are a waste of time, space and energy. The average speed of motor traffic in central London is around 6 miles an hour. That is slightly faster than a brisk walking pace. Not to mention parking restrictions, speed-cameras, bus lanes cameras, and all the other regulations that motorists have to contend with. Poor lambs.
So the notion of freedom through motoring is a myth, at least in this part of the world.
But that is the car – a myth-maker. My other favourite motor-myth is that driving a car is a right, which is an assertion that you see often in the press and other media, particularly when congestion-charging or increased fines for motor-crimes are proposed and discussed. A right is something that everyone has, or should have, like the vote, or freedom of association, speech or thought. As far as I can remember, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does not include the right to car ownership and use. Check for yourself if you don’t believe me.
Why was this overlooked by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948? Because the use and ownership of a motor-car is a privilege not a right, which is obtained by having sufficient money to pay for it. This is why most households in Inner London do not have the use of a private motor-vehicle – they cannot afford it. This fact may also explain why, despite many commentators predicting a new poll-tax uprising, and even a campaign against it using human rights legislation, Ken got re-elected after bringing the Congestion Charge in.
Anyway, Top Gear, featuring my favourite ever person Jeremy Clarkson, yesterday screened a race between a cyclist, a motorist, an Oyster Card user and Berkson in a power-boat from Kew to London City Airport. This is a distance of around 16 miles by road.
Needless to say, the cyclist won, followed by Berkson in the boat, then the Oyster, with the car last. Nuff said, really.