Tag Archives: Driving in London

The day I turned down Jeremy Clarkson

It’s something many Guardian readers would like to have done, the opportunity of casting Jeremy Clarkson out into a snowy night.

Imagine the scene: It is a cold night with snow flurries being blown horizontally across Shepherds Bush Green and I get a booking on my screen.

Bill Nighy wants picking up in Notting Hill Gate and taken to his flat in the West End. No problem, I rather like Bill, always willing to chat during the journey, so I hit the accept button which tells the customer I’m just minutes away.

Slightly in awe of picking up a famous face, I forget to turn off my ‘For Hire’ light.

Travelling around the Water Tower roundabout and pulling up at the traffic lights opposite the Kensington Hilton Hotel, I see a familiar face, head lowered trying to get some protection from the enduring blizzard.

It’s Jeremy Clarkson: “Can you take me to…?” he asks in that familiar authoritative voice.

“Sorry Jeremy, I’m booked.” The crestfallen TV star goes off into the night in search of another cab.

Minutes later I relate the incident to Bill Nighy, who finds it really funny that the right-wing icon has been turned down for this left-wing liberal.

The Tyre Collective

As someone who has spent half his working life pushing a cab around London, the vehicle’s contribution to air pollution has not escaped my attention.

So when coming across this interesting research I just had to investigate it further. The findings discovered that tyres wear out from friction every time we brake, accelerate or turn a corner (including unexpected tight u-turns by cabs), and the particles become airborne affecting our lungs.

The Tyre Collective monitored the amount of tyre wear produced by a No. 9 London bus running between Hammersmith and Aldwych the route called ‘London’s oldest existing bus route’, which has its origins going as far back as 1851. At a distance of just over 5 miles, each journey on average released 4.65g per journey and a total of 65g a day.

The particles become airborne affecting our lungs, more are swept into our waterways and oceans eventually entering our food chain.

Tyre wear is the second-largest microplastic pollutant in our oceans after single-use plastic and accounts for up to 50 per cent of air particulate emission from road transport. Clearly, this is of interest to anyone driving a cab.

With the objective of Transport for London to only allow electric public service vehicles one would have thought lower tailpipe emissions will mitigate the majority of pollution on London’s roads.

Now here’s the problem, tyre wear is projected to increase due to the added battery weight and torque.

The Tyre Collective came up with an ingenious solution mitigating emissions by capturing tyre wear at the source. The carbon in rubber particles is charged as they tear off the tyre, not dissimilar to rubbing a balloon against a sweater, these charged particles under 50 microns are small enough to be captured and reused in new tyre walls, along with other exciting applications.

The Tyre Collective device is positioned close to where the tyre meets the road. Consulting with the Imperial Department of Aeronautics the optimum position was identified to take advantage of airflow around a spinning wheel.

The device currently captures 60 per cent of all airborne particles, it can only be a matter of refining this device and retro-fitting it to vehicles to improve London’s air quality.

Driving Lessons

Ten things you learn when learning to drive and passing your test in London

If you live here and want to learn to drive, London’s probably where you’re going to do it. A word of warning – don’t it’s not for the faint-hearted. I know my son is a driving instructor.

1. You’ll need a master of the ancient Buddhist practice of meditation to mentor you

Navigating London by car takes the patience of a saint, everyone, and I mean everyone, drives like an idiot. Shop around online for instructors with reviews that include keywords like: ‘calm’, ‘understanding’, ‘relaxed’ and ‘didn’t swear at me when I did an emergency stop in the middle of Hyde Park Corner’.

2. Don’t take someone sounding their horn personally

You’ll get beeped for pausing three seconds to let a little old lady slowly cross at a pedestrian crossing, just relax into that. In plenty of situations, your fellow motorist will helpfully second guess what you’re about to do wrong and honk you before you’ve even done it. Driving a cab I would be disappointed should I not be reminded of any hesitation or transgression.

3. Don’t expect to travel faster than 15mph (or should that now be 24.14016km/h?)

The fact is, if you manage to travel at the blistering speed of 20mph for more than 60 continuous seconds in central London, you’re probably in the bus lane, thus giving the London Mayor £80 to waste on bike lanes.

4. Use Zipcars to practice

The trouble with passing your test, if you don’t have your own car, is staying street-wise, once in a while it makes sense to go for a quick spin. While Zipcar et al aren’t thrifty, they’re still far cheaper than advanced lessons by the hour and there’s no faffy paperwork/credit card nonsense that comes with many car hire companies.

5. Manuals are very . . . well manual

If you don’t fancy changing gear more times than the government changes Covid advice, an automatic transmission is for you. You’re not likely to get into third gear, let alone fourth, fifth or sixth in central London. So instead of contemplating which gear you last selected, concentrate on that cyclist about to commit hara-kiri beneath your wheels.

6. You’ll suddenly feel an affinity for drivers

As a dyed-in-the-wool pedestrian, it’s easy to badmouth cars for little things like blocking zebra crossings, mounting the pavement and giving off a general air of wanting to mow you down. With your sudden transformation into a driver, prepare to experience the other side of the story: Low Traffic Neighbourhoods are tougher to escape than the Crystal Maze; Pedestrians idly strolling out in front of you like they’re at the Chelsea Flower Show; E-scooters falling out of the sky; and taxis deciding to show off their tight turning circle as you approach. Nobody is your friend, it’s a jungle out there.

7. If you can drive in London, you can drive anywhere

Except maybe Rome, Buenos Aires, Mumbai and Hanoi . . . hang on, let us rephrase that. If you can drive in London, you shouldn’t have any problems in Guildford, just give Glasgow a miss for the moment.

8. There are one or two ‘magical moments’ to compensate for the rest

Driving’s often a chore, and in London’s rush hour you probably identify with Edvard Munch’s painting of The Scream. But being behind the wheel does bless you with one or two magical moments. Like driving over the Albert Bridge at night, tourists looking surprised you’ve stopped to let them cross or seeing the BMW which cut you up is now stuck behind a tipper truck.

9. Don’t tell your friends of your brilliant achievement

Bragging about your life skills and qualifications can suppress most conversations. Admitting you can drive in London will qualify you to be the ‘nominated’ driver for the next few nights out.

10. Expect wear and tear

So you have ill-advisedly taken the plunge, or been persuaded by Rylan Clark-Neal to purchase a vehicle. Don’t expect it to remain pristine, despite the Clean Air Act, crap falls from the sky like snow. London has some world-class potholes, holes and humps proliferate Islington, drive faster than 8mph at your peril. Also, London drivers take pride in their ability to pass a vehicle leaving barely room for a cigarette paper between them.

And as a bonus: You don’t really need to drive in London

Being able to drive is a life skill, doubly so being able to drive in London. But the latter should be used sparingly like driving a pregnant woman to the hospital. Otherwise, London has one of the best transport networks anywhere, so as soon as you pass your test, reserve a car for your next countryside getaway, then celebrate by taking the tube, thus rewarding Sadiq Khan with the price of the fare, and not the congestion charge.

Image courtesy: Styles-Steering Driving School