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Show #135 (Special): Tesla Responds

Sep 14th, 2009 | By | Category: Podcasts

September 14, 2009

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Earlier today the Twitterverse was alive with comments about James Martin’s article that was supposed to have been a review of the Tesla Roadster.

Embedded within the article was a fairly decent review of the impressive $100,000+ all-electric sportscar, but it was wrapped in hate speech against cyclists including the following:

“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. . . .

“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.”

Cyclists around the world, including professional cyclist Bradley Wiggins, were shocked by what they read and tweeted, blogged and Facebooked (is that even a word?) about it all day long.

I contacted Tesla to try to get them to comment on the piece for tonight’s edition of The Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast, but didn’t hear back in time for the show.

A few hours later, however, I heard from Rachel Konrad, Tesla’s Senior Communications Manager. Rachel, a cyclist and occasional Critical Mass participant, was in Frankfurt for the upcoming Auto Show and offered to come on The FredCast to explain Tesla’s side of the story. This is the interview that resulted.

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  1. Great interview and super speedy journalism (that sounds like Ebay feedback), it’s good to get to Tesla directly shame about the price, still out of my league. Just sold my electric Lithium Ion commuter bike due to battery troubles, it never did 0-60 in 3 seconds but was great fun. Still can’t beat a bike in commuter traffic, I’m back to just muscles now and down to two bikes again. Thanks FREDCAST.

  2. […] was quickly established (I havent joined, as I dont really *hate* him. Just think he is a prat) – A cycling podcast in the states quickly arranged an interview with a rep from Telsa – the car manufacturer, who distanced themselves from the man. – Daily Mail turned OFF comments on […]

  3. Excellent interview – measured and not baying for Martin’s blood. Interesting comments about the British obsession with attacking cyclists/cycling in the media. I wonder what’s the cause of this obsession? Maybe you should follow it up, and contact James Martin’s agent for a response? Contact is: limelight.management@virgin.net

  4. Storm in a very small teacup. I am a cyclist but found the article highly entertaining. The protests makes cyclists look like humourless t***s.

  5. Barry, it’d be funny in a country where such a possibility was so remote as to be ludicrous (thus amusing).

    Like the Matthew Parris thing though, it’s not remote at all – intimidation, deliberate close passes and worse are things you can pretty much expect (in the UK at least). I don’t really give a monkeys whether Martin apologises or not, tbh, I just hope he’ll not pepper his articles with this unnecessary and irrational stuff in future.

  6. Barry

    I lead cycling club rides through the quiet lanes of Surrey and in the last two months, three riders have had objects, water or worse thrown at them by motorists speeding past intent – apparently – on having some fun. One rider took an egg in the chest thrown by a white van passing on the opposite side of the road at around 35mph. We were cycling at around 18mph in the opposite direction. Any higher… loss of teeth, facial injuries, a fall from the bike? Any article that jokes about intimidating cyclists like James Martin’s deserves to be viewed very seriously. I would recommend everyone to go to the Press Complaints Commission website and fill in their form, citing harrassment and intimidation as the root of the complaint because that’s what he did to those cyclists. If it’s OK to do this to cyclists, how about young cyclists? How about on their way to school?

  7. Forgot it is about cycling and or cars. It was appauling behaviour, which if not challenged will say to others that it is ok. He behaved like a hooligan and should grow up, act like man and give a heart felt apology.

  8. Ade – I sympathise very much with what happened on your ride. Surely this was just the actions of a few cretins in a white van and hardly representative of motorists generally.

  9. UK cyclist & motorist here. Unfortunately in the UK there is a sub-set of mindless motons and press who are aggressively anti-cyclist. James Martin’s stupid comments are typical of the type: ill-informed, inaccurate and nasty. James Martin has actually admitted to what is a criminal offence. I would not be surprised if there are cyclists getting in contact with the police and asking them to formally investigate the man. Oh, and he’s NOT a serious motoring journalist, he’s an adequate chef who has made some money cooking, likes fast cars and seems to think that makes him a motoring expert. The UK’s cycling advocacy organisation has asked for the cyclists referred to in Martin’s article to get in contact with them as they’d like to offer legal help 🙂

  10. great interview. Obviously his comments should not reflect badly on Tesla so with that out of the way I think that an apology is not enough. This ‘gentleman’ and I use the term very loosely described an incident that in my mind is assault. Cyclists are not just lycra clad spider-men they are people with families and loved ones that enjoy riding a bike. Anyone who has ever been on a bike has had a close call with a car. Comments like this needs to be taken seriously, the police should have a talk with Mr Martin.

  11. […] The Fredcast, a cycling podcast, managed to get in touch with a representative of Tesla to get their view on his comments. It’s an interesting listen, though I think describing Martin’s inane bloviating […]

  12. […] piece’ as a ‘pretty lazy way to get a laugh.’ The article also references last night’s special episode of The FredCast in which I interviewed Rachel Konrad, Tesla’s Senior Communications […]

  13. Perhaps we cycllists appear to overreact, but if you ride on the road regularly you know what it’s like, and it’s not nice. In fact it’s pretty scary. Unfortunately a significant number of car drivers have no regard for anyone else’s safety. Morons like James Martin just make it worse.

    Although I ride a pedal-powered two-wheeled contraption, I don’t drink herbal tea, I *really* dislike New Labour (including Ms Harman) and I even drive a car, albeit considerately. I also avoid using the term ‘hate’ or feel the need to blame other road users for my own shortcomings. If you substitute ‘cyclists’ for another group – schoolkids, doctors, parents, muslims – it might appear less innocuous.

  14. […] Telsa, which loaned Martin the car, wasn’t happy either. “In this case, we’re not even using it [linking to the review from our site]. It is really odd. I have to sadly admit this is not the first time a journalist in the UK has brought up this issue of wheatgrass-eating hippies riding bikes. [But] this is definitely the most extreme version of it,” Rachel Konrad, Tesla’s communications manager, told the FredCast cycling podcast. […]

  15. “Ade – I sympathise very much with what happened on your ride. Surely this was just the actions of a few cretins in a white van and hardly representative of motorists generally.”

    Barry – if it were the actions of the few it would be fine. Clearly you don’t see it from a regular UK cyclists point of view. I commute 20 miles a day by bike and/or car depending on where I’m going and the weather, so I see both sides, but it’s pretty much once or twice *per journey* someone purposefully tries to push you off the road (and I’m not just talking accidentally/didn’t see you there etc). I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve had abuse yelled at me, things thrown at me etc and I’m not a lycra wearing, red light jumping type either. It’s almost a sport for the idiots here.

  16. I always thought James Martin was an average cook and chubby arshole but I was wrong. He’s a fat idiot who’s lack of exercise means he can’t even keep a grielfriend. Anyone who saw his programme about the Italian motor race he took part in will realise he’s a very imature and egotistical little prick – hopefully he’ll end up wrapped round a tree someday.

  17. Great interview, thanks a lot!

    On a personal level, I could care less about James Martin – especially since I saw his attitude in the Mille Miglia special aired on UK television. He’s just another idiot to add to the list of people I ignore!

    I disagree strongly with what he has written, and I am sure that what goes around comes around … but I find it a little distasteful that people are actually threatening violence and bodily harm to the man! Don’t stoop to the level of unthinking thugs, please??

    Perhaps he needs to get on a bike himself? I was always careful driving my car near cyclists, but having taken up a bit of cycling over the last couple of months, I have realised how vulnerable a bag of flesh and bones on some metal pipework is! I am now extra extra careful and considerate towards cyclists.

  18. Great interview, David! You definitely want to take her up on the offer to drive the Tesla. I’ve had the opportunity to drive them three times and can attest to the incredible acceleration.

    I also drive an EV as my daily driver. Cyclists should not take this moron’s ranting as any reason not to like EVs since EVs are going to be cyclists’ friends. As a bike rider myself, I hate to breathe the crap from tailpipes when I have to share the road with cars. Once all those cars are running on electricity, we’ll never have to breathe that stuff again.

    If you’re interested in EVs, go to http://www.pluginamerica.org for more info.

  19. I don’t understand why David wasted time covering this brouhaha. Clearly Tesla Motors has no influence on what journalists say in their reviews; we didn’t need to hear an interview with a Tesla spokesman to know that. More than anything else, the whole incident shows how bored Twitter users are. I look forward to hearing David’s coverage of the Vuelta and possible comments on bike improvements in the government stimulus spending, but this podcast was not worth downloading.

  20. Here’s what I wrote on the anti-James Martin campaign….bit.ly/3GIPo3

  21. I live in Canterbury Kent. We’ve had cases of passengers leaning out of car windows to hit cyclists, both in this city and elsewhere in Kent. In one incident a young woman was knocked over due to this. The last thing we need is morons in the press who think they’re clever writing stuff like this.

  22. I’m glad you did the quick turnaround interview, but I think you left out an important point and one that Tesla will need to deal with.

    One of the reasons that Martin was able to so effectively frighten the cyclists was that vehicles operating on electric power are extremely quiet. I believe Martin was hinting at this within his article (“Knowing they wouldn’t hear me coming”) and that quietness, while somewhat desirable, does pose a safety hazard, especially to the blind and to cyclists who use the sound of an oncoming vehicle to take precautions.

    I believe that hybrid car companies are looking in to methods to develop a distinctive, audible but minimally invasive sound that would be emitted when operating on electric power and the same would be needed for the Tesla.

    I personally was almost hit by a Prius that was pulling out of an alley and that I was unable to see or hear until it pulled onto the street. Not sure if you can follow up with Rachel on this point but I think it is a part of the Martin incident that is specific to the Tesla (no other vehicle would be as quiet at high speeds).


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