from Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg's, The Life of the Automobile, published in 1929.
Worldwide three quarters of a million people are killed every year on the roads. More people between five and 44 die in car crashes in the Third World than are killed by any single disease. 3,508 people were killed in road accidents in 2003 in the UK, and 33,707 were seriously injured. 171 of those killed were children. Since 1899 motor vehicles have killed over 2.5 million Americans, and permanently injured 43 million.
The Humane Society estimates that more than one million animals are killed every day on US roads. It has been estimated that motor vehicles kill more animals than the fur trade and animal experimentation industry combined, and more deer than deer hunters.
Despite these appalling statistics BBC TV continues to broadcast a prime time motoring programme aimed at young people called Top Gear. The programme is presented by media personality Jeremy Clarkson.
Lobbying group Transport 2000 recently accused Top Gear of:
- Glamorising speed and failing to make the connection with danger on the roads.
- Encouraging an obsession with unnecessarily powerful and heavily polluting cars.
- Through using Jeremy Clarkson as presenter, with his distinctive image, encouraging a ‘yobbish’ attitude on the road.
- Not focussing on responsible driving, ‘greener’ cars, road safety or the need to cut car journeys
- Using ‘macho’ themes of speed and power, and failing to cover the interests of women
Until two years ago I was forced to drive around 25,000 miles a year on business, I even had a BMW at one time. I then took the decision to opt out of that sort of motoring madness. For the last two decades I have also been a high mileage cyclist. My cycling experience includes Europe and the US, and I now commute by bike whenever I can, covering several thousand miles a year using pedal power.
I have seen the carnage on the roads. I have seen the young people die because they are encouraged to drive beyond their capabilities. I consider Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson to be a prime candidate for Public Enemy Number One in the UK. Recent Clarkson public outbursts have included calling for motorcyclists to be decapitated with cheesewire and to be shot in the face, and a declaration that he wants to run cyclists down in his car.
I was therefore delighted, no let's be honest, I was over the moon to read the following story this week:
Pie In The Face For Clarkson At Degree Ceremony
Broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson has been hit in the face with a custard pie at a degree ceremony. The outspoken Top Gear presenter was at Oxford Brookes University to collect an honorary degree in recognition of his "passion for engineering". But the decision has proved to be controversial, and protesters, including members of Oxford's Green Party, assembled outside the presentation dressed in Clarkson's trademark tight jeans and wigs.
Security was tight and police outnumbered the the protesters, who waved banners reading On Yer Bike Clarkson at the gates. But one woman managed to gain access to a media call after the degree ceremony. She dashed out in front of the television cameras and, as Mr Clarkson posed in his cap and gown, removed what appeared to be a custard pie from a wrapped-up newspaper and hit him full in the face (see photo). The startled presenter maintained his cool, quipped "good shot" and posed for a few more pictures before beating his retreat.
The pie was thrown by protester Denise Lock, who said Clarkson "makes a living out of offending people. While other universities are rewarding the likes of Nelson Mandela, Brookes is rolling out the carpet for a dangerous buffoon."
Mr Clarkson has been criticised for engaging in stunts such as driving a 4x4 through an environmentally-sensitive peat bog in Scotland and inciting people to break the law by hiding mobile phone use while driving.
Speaking before the assault, he defended his record on environmental issues, saying: "I do have a disregard for the environment. I think the world can look after itself and we should enjoy it as best we can."
Nearly 3,000 people signed an online petition against Clarkson receiving the honorary degree. ....................
And I thought that the art of student protest died after our anti-Vietnam activities in 1968. Please can someone award the esteemed Ms. Lock an Honorary Doctorate pronto (preferably a proper Oxford college)?
And can we then move on to stopping the BBC spending a fair chunk of their annual £3 billion ($5.5 billion) income on dangerous drivel like Top Gear?
And if anyone asks what has this got to do with music?- the automobile has wiped out some huge talent in our world as well. Legendary horn player Dennis Brain was killed while driving his Triumph sports car in 1957. He was just 36. Bass player of the Bill Evans Trio, Scott LaFaro died ten days after the classic Village Vanguard sessions in a road accident. He was just 25. In 1968 the multi-talented Swedish jazz pianist Jan Johansson, who made his reputation with the classic album Jazz på svenska (Jazz in Swedish), was killed in a car crash on his way to a church concert in Jönköping, Sweden. He was just 37.
The main statistical sources for this post were Divorce Your Car by Katie Alvord, and Bike Cult by David B. Perry. I've also driven around more than half a million miles since passing my test in 1968 - the year of those Vietnam protests.
If you enjoyed this post take an overgrown path to Keeping up with Lance Armstrong