Saturday, 13 February 2016

In which The Guardian reminds us why we like Top Gear

Cars - what's not to like?

It was good of The Guardian to remind us why we like Top Gear:

Top Gear fetishises the totally unnecessary consumption of fossil fuels in the name of sport, entertainment and feeling better about your premature ejaculation disorder; it normalises dangerously fast driving; it contributes to the hunger for more and more cars that we neither need nor can sustain; it treats the sheer act of moving a machine as if it’s a display of heroic bravery and skill; and it paid Jeremy Clarkson’s salary for over 25 years.

I don't know where to start with all the goodness in this quotation for it gets right to the heart of Top Gear's appeal which is to wave those two fingers made famous by English archers at Agincourt in the direction of all the spiritless, pinched, judgemental, snobbish bores like Nell Frizzell, its writer. What Top Gear provides is a brief escape from the endless dribble about climate change, from the institutionalised attack on the motor car, and from the dreary moral high ground inhabited by people who write for The Guardian and appear on Channel 4 News.

Cars are great. They sit at the heart of our civilization. Nearly 90% of journeys made are made in cars. The manufacture, sale, maintenance and support of cars is a massive slug of our economy. The modern car is a remarkable feat of engineering, filled with innovation in engine management, fuel efficiency, communications and comfort. And millions - I really mean millions, far more than ever even glance at The Guardian - enjoy the stuff that goes with cars and motor sport.

So Nell Frizzell doesn't like cars (I probably don't believe her on this one but we'll take her at her word). That is, without question, her loss. For the rest of us, we'll carry on enjoying programmes that celebrate cars and car culture, that do so with wit and charm, and that provide the tiniest piece of opposition to the endless boilerplate of green nonsense that infects our media.



Anonymous said...

May I be the first to disagree.

Cars are dangerous and driven dangerously by criminals or even "law-abiding motorists" who don't count speeding or driving whilst distracted as criminal acts. These clumsy objects pollute the air, endanger children so that they are no longer allowed out to play, result in the ruination of cherished cityscapes and landscapes through road building and are generally a just a damned nuisance. They promote obesity at massive cost to the NHS; they result in the decline of public transport and thus deprive those without cars a means of access to jobs and services; and they can only be accommodated through urban sprawl, concrete and ugliness. Motor sport is stultifyingly boring and stupid, just like cars themselves. Cars are incompatible with dense urban areas and need to be banned from them forthwith so that people might gain some quality of life.

The car, if properly managed as a valuable resource, could be good. It could be used sensibly: for longer trips, or in rural areas or carrying disabled relatives or heavy items for which public transport can never do the job. The Dutch know how to manage cars even with higher car ownership and more miles of motorway per head of population than the UK. I might even be friends with cars if only we had a popular, people-oriented transport system based on short journeys being travelled actively on bike or foot combined with quality public transport, where short car trips are managed out through filtered permeability. We might then have cities that are a pleasure to visit, that compete successfully with the internet for trade and that attract economically active people to their centres.

There you go. I disagree with you. But I might be more accommodating if I thought some brains might be put into gear instead of dogmatically pursing a daft and incorrect idea that building our way out of congestion is both desirable and workable. Next time someone proposes to build a big and self-defeating road within sight and sound of your back yard, what will you say then?

Anonymous said...

Oh bore off!

Dave H said...

Well as 60% of Bradford's main conurbation's households don't own a car that means that you really must be making up for their lack of car use. I spent a while living in Bradford, sadly in the days when the heart of the city was a racetrack round through off Canal, Leeds and Manchester Roads before firing off up Morley Street or Thornton Road and looping back to Manningham Lane. It you didn't fancy the inner circuit there was always the outer race-track. I used to own a car when I lived there (the only years I've actually owned a car!) but often rode my bike in to town as it was quicker, and I never had to find anywhere to park.

Where the race-way roads have not destroyed the original layout of the city there remains a healthy mix of small local shops where local residents spend their money and that local economy keeps the money working locally. Remember that for every household not burdened by the cost of running a car you can reckon on them having between £2000 and £3000/year more to spend on optional purchases, without putting up the local wage bill.

Of course in these austere times you may also be under pressure on Council operating costs, and I'd encourage your officers to take a look at measures which have saved significantly on 'staff' travel costs. paying 45p/mile (and more I believe in nearby Leeds) to the running costs of a car which may not be the newest and least polluting, especially when I compare this to the 23.75p/mile it cost me for my last hire of a VED-exempt near new car, with excellent fuel economy. As I only pay for a car when I need one I've rarely paid out more the £1000/year for motoring - driving nice cars - which are always someone else's problem when they break down.

I'm looking forward to Top Gear returning to the style of the Angela Rippon era - could be fun

Anonymous said...

More on this:-

Sad about Scalia.

Anonymous said...

It's a common failing to confuse 'the car' with what it's really all about - and that's personal freedom of mobility. That's what the motor-car has delivered, it has democratised personal mobility, enabling almost everyone to live a freer and fuller life.
Consider this - (if you live outside the M25) which examination you took had the greatest impact on your everyday life? If you're honest and realistic, it will be the Driving Test, simply because of what it enables you to do, how and where it enables you to live and work, how it enriches your social life, etc.
Worship of the car is largely driven by the commercial forces behind its supply, but what we should revere is how that machine has transformed our capacity for life over the past hundred years. The car may be seen by some as a villain, but the genie of personal mobility that it brought will not easily go back in the bottle.

Michal Zadrag said...

Annon at 14 February, it's a common failing to confuse ''freedom of mobility'' with the car. The car is useful for certain types of journeys, namely for the people with certain conditions, for longer distances, and with heavier loads. However, it is laughable to claim they have given us some form of great mobility.

If we look across to the European mainland, the Dutch have recognised that cycling is ideal for a large number of trips - and they cycle 25% of all their journeys. This is a form of transport that does not pollute, make noise, wear surfaces significantly, or cause anything near of a danger that cars do.

In Britain, on the other hand, with our car sick policies, we have urban environments that are congested and polluted. Masses amounts of space are given over to the storage and operation of the car. Our population is desperately in need of greater exercise, something that could easily be filled with active travel.

Now, you claim it provides mobility to the population. The facts show you wrong. Those under 17 cannot drive, those with various medical conditions cannot or should not drive, those who are poorer cannot drive, and probably many others. This is probably a benefit to society at large, as adding more vehicles increases the costs cars impose on society - and do not doubt they are subsidised as has been found in research. So, none of these people deserve mobility? Or they should just be ferried around? Again in the Netherlands, the cycling infrastructure gives them mobility, and the many who use mobility scooters, and the many who cannot walk easily but can cycle.