Category Archives: A window on My World

A Sign of the Times

Road Sign Montage England has roads that are built to be safe with good surfaces, consistent lane widths and good visibility at junctions, but that is where it ends. Forests of metal poles supposedly warning the driver of death-risk hazards have sprung up everywhere. Signs that direct you to the right destination are fine but in other respects our streetscape has become a disgusting expression of bureaucratic excess. Alan Duncan, MP for Rutland & Melton, published a Private Member’s Bill in December 2006 which he had hoped would give local authorities duties to reduce the visual impact of street signs and traffic calming measures and to publish policies on ensuring that highways developments are in keeping with local surroundings. In his forthcoming book he estimates that there are well over one million unnecessary road signs in Britain.

[H]e goes on to say: “These signs are the result of the worst examples of official inertia. Highways departments take the rules, and then over implement them. A guideline or regulation that says that a sign ‘might’ be required is usually put before a committee, which decides that it ‘must be used. ‘Oh dear,’ the committee members fret, ‘We might be sued if we don’t put the sign in.’ Even the tiniest bend in the road is assumed to need a warning sign to avoid the risk of the local council being taken to court if someone drives into a hedge.

So, here is the start of a list of signs that could safely be removed without any detrimental effect on the nation. On any main road, roundabouts are announced by large green directional signs that provide route information. You can tell the sign relates to a roundabout because, not surprisingly, the image looks like a roundabout. So why do we need, in front of it, a red-edged triangular sign warning drivers they are approaching a roundabout? Take all the triangular signs away.

When nearing a set of traffic lights, whose coloured bulbs glaringly inform you that there are traffic lights ahead, why must we have a series of red-edged triangular signs with a picture of traffic lights on them? The whole point about traffic lights is that they are designed to be seen.

Perhaps the greatest explosion of useless metalwork is caused by the number of blue roundels marking a cycle path. Keep the cycle paths but get rid of those ghastly signs. There is no need for them. If it is a shared pavement, just a stencil on the ground can mark it out.

Arguably the worst signs are those that say ‘New Road Layout Ahead’, or any such supposedly temporary red signs that, under current regulations, should remain in place for a maximum of three months, most stay for much longer, some even for years. Only a few councils have a proper system for removing them after their ‘temporary’ life span and such a widespread display of neglect and incompetence is a sad reflection on local authorities’ attention to the standards we all deserve.

Our roads into the capital are shaming. The Finchley and Holloway Roads are a national embarrassment. Such was the lunacy of Transport for London under Ken Livingstone that red route signs have been fastened to a post or lamppost every few yards for mile after mile on the roads into our capital city.

New signs come in; yet old ones remain. One layer of signs is planted in front of another, creating obscurity and confusion. A lack of initiative at Government level, over-design by highways engineers and contractors, and the fear of litigation all combine to make our streets ugly and confusing.

Get rid of this street clutter. Uproot it all now.”

Thanks to Alan Duncan MP for permission to reproduce this article.

Photo: http://www.freefoto.com

From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step – Napoleon

Quiet Cabbie

[T]he next time you use a London cab; don’t be surprised at the eerie silence. No Capital Gold playing inane music, no talk from LBC 97.3 or Robert Elms beloved by cabbies on Radio London. Not a sound emanating from the cabbie’s radio, the only sound emanating from his mouth is putting the world to rights.

This is all down to the Music Mullahs; the Performing Rights Society who is insisting that everyone who plays a radio that can be heard by their customers will have to pay for the privilege, even on talk only stations.

This Performing Rights Society, whose royalty-collection service keeps many a struggling musician in Class A drugs, has recently raided the Essex workshop of mechanic Len Attwood because he wasn’t displaying one of their stickers to prove he had paid £44 plus VAT and had a licence to play music in public.

Len told them he didn’t need one because he didn’t have a radio. Ah, but your customers have radios in their cars, he was informed, and they don’t always turn them off when they drive into the workshop.

Therefore, unless he bought a licence, he could be fined £2,000. Either that, or put up a prominent notice ordering customers to switch off their radios at the door, and he cannot repair car radios. Since his first encounter Len has received six letters and two further phone calls.

If you look at PRS’s website you are asked how many customers you have, presumably this relates to the fee you will be charged for listening to your radio. So what does a cabbie do? Ten jobs a day with on average 2 passengers multiply by 5 days multiply by 48 weeks and then submit that figure.

Where will all this end? Technically, if you carry passengers in your cab, any music or even jingles from speech only stations, you play through the radio; i-Pod or CD player must constitute a public performance.

Soon they’ll be setting up road blocks in conjunction with the PRS.

“Why have you pulled me over, officer? I haven’t been drinking and I certainly wasn’t exceeding the speed limit.”

“I have reason to believe you have been listening to Radio 2 without a licence and in addition your fare’s mobile phone has just rung with an unauthorised ring tone. Hand over you keys, sir, you’re nicked.”

Karaoke cabbie

karaoke_cabbie

At the other end of the decibel scale, a Chinese taxi driver says business is booming since he installed a karaoke machine in his cab for customers. Fan Xiaoming spent £600 on three flat screens, 16 speakers, amplifiers and disco lights, reports New Culture Daily. And he says takings have shot up since he transformed his cab into what he calls “Changchun’s only karaoke cab” last month. “Many people ask for my number for their next trip,” he said. “And sometimes they even ask me to take a longer route so they can spend more time singing.” Fan says the passengers’ singing doesn’t distract him from driving, since he already knows all the songs and it’s just like listening to the radio. “I only sing during my lunch break with some cab driver buddies,” he added. Fan, a cab driver for nine years, said he had always harboured ambitions to be a singer himself, but never had the time as he was always behind the wheel. “Then one day I suddenly thought, since I spent most of my time in the taxi, why not install a karaoke machine in the cab?”

The ‘W’ Word

wedding It’s the ‘W’ word

There comes a time in every fathers life which he anticipates and dreads in equal measure. With just six words, your little girl grows up and your bank balance changes irrevocably.

“Dad, I’m going to get married” whoosh 30 years of your life has flashed by and it will never be the same again.

First came ‘the dress’, my luck was in, I would not be required during this part of the process, and only cabbie wife accompanied my daughter to choose said garment.

“The dress has cost double what we budgeted for” was the opening gambit as they returned from their shopping foray. My head snapped up with such force from a quiet read of my newspaper, that at first I feared a trip to an osteopath would be required.

“But never mind, we can economise with some of the other items”, was the solution for my wallet.

[N]o limousine for my daughter as she wants a white taxi just like Dad’s. Great thinks I, pick up from house off to church then on to the reception. Two hours work on tariff 2, £40 tops.

And this is where the ‘W’ word comes in. For whenever the word that dare not speak its name is mentioned (WEDDING) you add a nought at the end of the price.

“One white cab, flowers and ribbon £400, but to you Squire with a trade discount £360, do you require chilled champagne at £40 a bottle or a release of white doves?”

“We need a function room for late afternoon and evening, considering we are in a recession what’s your best price?” was my opening gambit on the phone. “Is that for a wedding? Then its £2,000”. “Oh! Yes and the meals we serve in the public restaurant costing £12.50, we will charge you £27 plus VAT.

The organist at the church you would have thought a rather charitable chap helping out on Sunday, his fee for 45 minutes graft . . . £100.

Now I’m the sort of husband that occasionally, just occasionally buys his wife flowers. So I know a thing or two about their cost, with when the ‘W’ is said 60 carnations wrapped in silver foil – £3 each! Vases on the tables, cost in IKEA £10 for six, “Well Sir, we can rent you the vases for £7.50 each plus VAT”.

Now, does anyone want a cab, I promise not to mention the ‘W’ word.

I’ve Got The Hump

Kwik Fit Fitters could be the sponsors for these carbuncles growing on virtually every street in The Capital.

Every regular driver in the City knows to their cost these humps inflect on the suspension.

Last week I encountered 127 road humps on a single shift, yes I know I’m an anorak but I derive a perverse pleasure compiling these statistics.

[P]utting in 50 standard humps on three or four connecting residential streets costs about £150,000 and some of the more upmarket ones are wonderful works of art, worthy of exhibiting in the Tate.

In the Borough of Islington they have even constructed humps on short cul-de-sacs, now it is proposed to remove them and impose a blanket 20 mph on all roads in their borough.

Some of my customers even ask me to make detours of up to a mile to avoid these obstructions in Islington and have you noticed the nouveau rich now buy 4x4s just so they can travel over these humps at 40mph, while the rest of us mere mortals, apart from white van man can only go at only half their speed?

Do emergency vehicle drivers have to wear gum protectors to spare their teeth when on a shout?

So here’s my suggestion, if we are to keep vehicle speeds down to a reasonable level, cameras loads of them. Okay I know we have more CCTV cameras in London than we can shake a stick at, and average speed cameras are useless as journey times across the Metropolis are down to Victorian averages. A set of eight average-speed cameras covering four residential streets cost £250,000.

Produce the cheaper normal speed cameras concealed in hanging baskets and stick them on every lamppost, a double whammy, beautiful streets and an income for The Burgers of London.

And you never know Rachel Thame might be tempted on Gardener’s World to extol the virtues of speed cameras in hanging baskets, or should she appear on Top Gear with Jeremy Clarkson.

Don’t get caught speeding, travel by Licensed Black Taxis for your comfort and security. Complementary opinions are available on current affairs, politics and football. Ask any driver for details!

Chinese Takeaways

rickshaws

[T]his blog tries very hard to avoid profanity and believe me sometimes it is tested to its very limits. But these f***ing rickshaws are now all over London. What started out as harmless fun pedalling the odd tourist around the pedestrianised confines of Covent Garden has turned into a nightmare. These rickshaws cause massive congestion as London’s traffic queues up behind them as they travel at little more than walking pace on major roads.

The Rickshaw riders charge exorbitant sums in order to recoup the high rental fees the operator’s charge for the bikes. Up to £12 a mile is normal, whilst £30 per mile is not unusual. If three people get into one of these contraptions they can expect to pay £12 to the driver and then have to negotiate the cost of the journey.

The safety of these vehicles is horrendous. The Transport Research Laboratory looked at the possible safety implications of allowing the continued use of these vehicles for hire and reward in London. Its scientists warned that ‘any impact with a motor vehicle’ was likely to result in ‘serious injury to both passengers and riders’. Transport Research Laboratory also warned that ‘The standard of braking for a Rickshaw fell well short of that expected of a car’.

I suspect members of Westminster Council and the Greater London Authority don’t go out at night and see this problem. If a major West End show should need to evacuate the theatre near to conclusion of a performance, 800 theatregoers would be confronted by a wall of these bloody contraptions. We have seen alas, what happens too many times before with people getting crushed and trampled on when an evacuation route is obstructed.

And if that is not bloody bad enough these crazy bastards ride down one-way streets in the opposite direction with young children in the back. It is only a matter of time before we have a tragic accident.

Whinge over, I feel a lot better now, can I get off the couch doctor?