The hollowness of the war on the motorist exposed

There was an inadvertently hilarious piece in the Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2002906/Ever-dreamt-world-traffic-wardens.html – yesterday on the story of Aberystwyth which, through an oversight between the county council and the police has been left with no traffic wardens. The reporter, the paper’s science editor, Michael Hanlon wrote in the introduction that ‘since the beginning of this month, a bureaucratic mix-up involving police and council has meant that the three police-employed traffic wardens are no longer patrolling the streets. The result should be a motorist’s paradise.

Well, no Michael. Anyone with two grey cells to rub together would realise that it wouldn’t be. Essentially, traffic wardens are there to ration what is a limited resource, parking spaces, and without them it is inevitable that there would be the chaos that you found on the streets: people touring round the whole town looking for somewhere to park, disabled spaces being used by the able bodied and parking rage becoming, well, all the rage.

The sheer crass stupidity of the Daily Mail and its supporters is beautifully exposed. This does actually highlight a wider point and exposes the whole ‘war on the motorist’ for the nonsense that we know it is. Away from transport, too, it shows that regulations are there for a sensible purpose and that without them, anarchy reigns. People – and especially motorists – are not self-regulating.

It does highlight, too, the idiocy of the campaigners against road pricing which is seen as yet another part of the war on the motorist but which, actually, would have an enormously beneficial effect on them.

Contrast the scenes in Aberystwyth with those of the Aldwych and the Strand today, closed off by a fire, but suddenly livable and pleasant places to be because cars have been banned. If only the Daily Mail could understand that the way back to the Britain of old it wants to see is through more control of cars and not less.

  • Fandroid

    Christian is hoping for a miracle!  Car lovers are not open to logic or commonsense arguments. It’s an article of faith that any regulation of their behaviour is bound to be against their interests.  I would love to know if the abolition of the Heathrow M4 bus lane has resulted in the ‘reduced congestion’ that it was supposed to bring. Sorry guys, queueing in three lanes to enter a two lane road is no better than queueing in two lanes with the same end. The queues are shorter but the cars travel slower, so no gain to anyone.

  • Greg Tingey

    Fandroid is also wrong.I cycle for short distances (up to 5-10 km) if I’m not carrying a heavy load.
    I use the car for out-of-town journeys where there isn’t a rail alternative, or I wan to carry big stuff (It’s a real Land-Rover)
    I use the train/tube/tram for London journeys and long-distance stuff.I try to avoid flying (because of the “security”)

    Many motorists are quite rational about mode use, but they are not the ones making the noise.
    And, most importantly, there are huge commercial interests promoting the “war on the motorist” line – usually involved in heavy rod haulage ……

  • Anonymous

    Fandroid – I’m considering driving to London next month because taking the car represents almost a three figure saving (even at today’s fuel prices) over the ludicrous last minute fares being charged by East Coast and Virgin, and the so-called “low cost” airlines.  I don’t think you can find a more logical or commonsense argument than that.  Yes – driving is a hassle, but so too is taking the train at peak periods and flying also.  The view motorists take is that at least you have a degree of control over the hassles you are subjected to…..

    Or simply not travel at all, of course.

    I don’t think motorists deserve the demonisation that a lot of the pro-public transport lobby give them.  A lot of them would quite happily use public transport if it existed and went where they needed it to go, and was cost effective.  As a great supporter of the railways I say this as a motorist myself.   As Greg says – the majority of us are not making the noise, most people now are putting up with the “high” fuel prices and getting on with it.  And in the long term it will drive improvements in fuel efficiency, and electric/fuel cell technology.  Oil is going to run out eventually so we’d better start developing alternatives instead of sweeping the problem under the carpet for future generations to deal with.

    Driving into city centres is a nonsense – something I rarely do unless I have to.  I think road space should be rationed tightly in urban areas, but those who are forced to live in rural or semi-rural areas should not be penalised to pay for the selfishness of those who live in the city and have perfectly good public transport options open to them.

  • Fandroid

    Please note I wrote ‘car lovers’ not ‘car drivers’. I too have a car, and use it when public transport cannot cope with my planned journey. I have seen so much total nonsense written by newspaper columnnists and letter writers that I had to take the view that car lovers can lose rationality at times. The speed camera debate is one fine example. Speed fines are a totally voluntary form of tax, as well as a very good safety measure. All the driver needs is a working speedo, to be alert to speed limits (not to the cameras) and to start their journey with enough time left to avoid law-breaking. I don’t really agree with the ‘degree of control’  thing. Personally I find being stuck in a solid traffic jam deeply frustrating, as I cannot just walk off and find another way to get home. (However, my public transport habits did get me stuck for 5 hours last week when the SWT Mainline collapsed. Perhaps I deserved it!)

  • Paul Holt

    Sadly, this article exposes CW even more than the Mail.   If he’d read the Mail article further, he’d have found comments from Aberystwyth residents which explain how chronically inadequate the local parking is.   And that is the real problem.

  • Anonymous

    No Paul, not at all. I did read to the end and clearly there is a shortage of parking in Aber. But the lack of traffic wardens merely served to exacerbate it. Traffic wardens effectvely are there to ration a resource that is in short supply, and therefore are essential in urban situations given the lack of public transport. The Mail’s foolishness is to see them as the enemy of the motorist when clearly, as this article shows, they are their friends – or rather friends of the mass of motorists while being the enemy of the minority who transgress and end up with tickets. 

  • Anonymous

    The key word was “degree” of control.  With regard to speed cameras, I think you will find that the debate focuses on those camera sites that are placed on huge long straight bits of road, hidden around bends which are blatantly put there to catch unwary drivers out. There are few motorists (myself included) who disagree with cameras when they are used as a safety measure.

    It’s a question of priorities which p**ses a lot of drivers off – I can point to a bus-only section of road in the center of Glasgow which is regular haunt of the traffic copswho routinely pick off drivers using it from which they extract £40 fines routinely.  Nice work if you can get it.  Now wouldn’t that resource be better used out on the open road where you have safety risks posed by tailgating, overtaking in unsuitable places, aggressive driving – in other words all the stuff that can’t be measured by a machine, but cause just as many accidents as speeding.

    However I agree that there are too many facile and simplistic arguments for the pro-motoring lobby made by the Daily Mail reading fraternity. 

  • Christian Schmidt

    Traffic wardens are not just about parking but also about moving traffic. Without parking enforcement some idiot drivers will park where they block a whole lane.

  • Paul Holt

    Having identified inadequate parking as the problem, the question then becomes “what is the solution?”   My solution is to provide adequate parking, yours is virulent traffic wardens.   Which actually makes life better?

    Similarly, http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2011/05/rail-670-project-assessment-is-a-fiddle/ posits increased rail fares at peak times.   My solution is to increase capacity by making/remaking links broken by Beeching.   Which actually makes life better?

    Then there’s the motorist as cash cow, http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2010/10/road-pricing-faces-political-block/ is one of several articles cheerleading new motoring taxes.   My solution is to increase the viability of journeys by means other than the private car e.g. by making/remaking the links broken by Beeching.   Which actually makes life better?

    As an aside, the Ian Faletto case prompted the article http://www.christianwolmar.co.uk/2011/05/the-difficulties-of-defending-the-railway/.   Paragraph 4 contains “my hard journalistic nose suggests…that there is more to this than meets the eye”, and I think you’re right, but what was the result of your journalistic investigation?   In the absence of that investigation, and the missing facts, the only conclusion to be drawn is that you can draw no conclusion.

    We agree about more than you might think at first, it is when politicians cry “more! more! more!” (with apologies to Billy Idol) that we diverge.   You cheerlead the new or increased taxes, I call for existing taxes to be better spent, with the MP expense scandal only the beginning.

  • Peter

    I am afraid the “war on the motorist” is alive and well in South Yorkshire.

    If you pay a visit to Sheffield, you will fnd a city where practically nothing has been done to develop local railways as an alternative to driving, but everything has been done to make driving a misery.

    The line from Chesterfield into Sheffield via Beighton has considerable passenger potential, yet no local trains and the Woodhead remnant to Stocksbridge sees just one freight train a day, when it could easily pick up passengers all along the Don Valley. Even the remaining trans Pennine route cannot achive its local traffic potential because of the single lead junction at Dore, and there are several promising sites of former stations elsewhere that could easily be reactivated. And of course there is the Woodhead route itself, about which I will say no more.

    Needless to say, electrification for mainline services is not even on the agenda – even though the wires could readily be extended from Bedford through Sheffield to Wakefield and Doncaster.

    On the other hand you will find numerous wide, open and straight stretches of road with barely a pedestrian in sight and absurdly low speed limits, all equipped with speed cameras, with no obvious safety benefits. At the same time you will also find countless traffic lights, many of which have been programmed to halt traffic even when nothing is waiting to join at a junction. This must cause a huge amount of avoidable pollution as traffic continually starts and stops.

    All in all this must be a textbook example of how not to plan urban transport.

  • Peter

    I think most car drivers make a rational assessment of the costs and benefits of different modes of transport.

    Unfortunately in most cases the train comes a poor second, with over the top walk on fares and too much hassle at each end of the journey. If you have two people and the option of using a car, it will nearly always beat the train on cost – which matters a lot to most of us.

    I don’t take any pleasure in saying this, as I am not one of these “car lovers”, but that’s just the way it is.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting article below:

    http://www.cnn.com/2011/OPINION/06/26/ford.mobility/

    Even the chairman of Ford ackowledges that were are on the verge of global gridlock and something needs to be done about it – there is a bit of irony in here I am sure!

  • Fandroid

    Simple answer to the speed camera issue. Stick to the limits. Life is surely not that short that a few extra seconds here and there are going to ruin one’s life ? Rant about the limits maybe, but I doubt you’ll find one person who lives next to a main road that wants the limit increased.

  • Chris

    There is plenty on the internet about Ian Faletto, which shows a very different picture – try this blog post for a start: http://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2011/05/exclusive-sad-story-from-lymington-1.html

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  • Rickoshea52

    Christian, I think that you have failed to make a very important distinction between Traffic Wardens employed as part of the local Police Force and Parking Enforcement Officers employed by councils. Most motorists (note I didn’t use the term car driver) realise that TW’s are there for good reason and for the most part assert a fair degree of common sense and discretion. Enforcement officers are the exact opposite as far as I can see.
    Furthermore, Mr. Hanlon goes on to make a counterpoint to the phrase “The result should be a motorist’s paradise”, I cannot see any justification from him on this comment.

  • Paul Holt
  • Paul Holt
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