The new LTN near my house turned a four-minute shortcut into an hour-long gridlock... agony with a very full bladder!
WITH the approach of Guy Fawkes Night, I feel tempted to drive down to Edenbridge in Kent to join tomorrow’s celebrations, at which the local bonfire society plans to burn an effigy of Sadiq Khan.
At least, the society’s chairman assures us that the figure destined for the flames this year represents the gabbling, posturing London mayor — though in truth it doesn’t look even remotely like him.
With its head in the form of an Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) camera and its body dressed in white overalls covered in badges (‘No entry’, ‘One way’, ‘20 zone’, ‘Toll’, ‘Have you paid?’ etc), it looks more like a cross between a robot and the Stig from the TV show, Top Gear.
But never mind. Tomorrow’s revellers will know who it’s meant to be from the name badge on its chest, ‘S. Khan’, and the cheque for the mayor’s £154,963 salary emblazoned on its stomach.
So it is that Mr Khan will join a host of celebrities, including Boris Johnson, Russell Brand, Harvey Weinstein, Katie Price and Donald Trump, who have been incinerated in November by the society, since it was founded a quarter of a century ago.
As for why Edenbridge has it in for the mayor this year, we need look no further than the Ulez warning sign in the figure’s left hand.
For though the town sits a few miles outside Mr Khan’s newly expanded Ulez zone, its commuters and businesses have been clobbered by the scheme, under which motorists who can’t afford newer cars or vans are forced to pay £12.50 per day if they dare to drive into any Greater London borough.
To give you some idea of how many drivers have been affected, the BBC reported this week that the capital’s Ulez zone raised £26 million in September alone, while the poor souls who’ve been forced to pay the charge were already floundering in the cost-of-living crisis.
Meanwhile, the scheme’s effect on the quality of the air in and around the capital is much less clear. All we can say for sure is that many scientists believe it will turn out to be barely perceptible.
Much as I applaud the society’s choice of victim this year, however, I don’t think I’ll make it to the party. This is because driving anywhere from my South London home takes an eternity these days, after the sudden appearance at the end of last month of a Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN), just to the south of my road.
As it happens, the neighbourhood in question had been pretty free of traffic — by London standards, anyway — ever since we moved into our present house more than 35 years ago. It is only since its official designation as an LTN, less than a fortnight ago, that it has become an absolute nightmare for everyone with a car who lives either in or near it.
Since then, the main roads bordering the zone have been almost permanently gridlocked, causing more pollution than ever before — and my own, once quiet road has become a rat-run for drivers seeking to avoid the jams.
Worst of all is the hellish experience awaiting anyone who ventures into the LTN unawares.
I discovered this to my cost on Tuesday evening, when I was following my usual route home from visiting dear friends in Surrey. I’d reached Streatham High Road — which should be four minutes from our home — when the traffic ground to a halt and the lights changed four times before I was able to cross to the north side.
When at last I could edge forward, I didn’t notice any signs warning that my usual shortcut had become an LTN. But I suppose I could have missed them, since it was a dark and rainy evening and — as many locals have complained — such signs as do exist are remarkably few and inconspicuous.
Nor did it help my concentration that by this time, I was bursting for a pee. Old man’s trouble, as they call it.
It was only when I eventually reached the north end of my shortcut that I saw a sign barring exit to unauthorised vehicles. So I executed a three-point turn and spent the next half hour or more hunting for a legal exit from the LTN. Again and again, having totally lost my bearings, I had to reverse when I came up against one of those accursed signs.
Nor was I alone in this, since many other drivers were doing exactly the same. Indeed, I’ve seldom seen more traffic in that neighbourhood than since the day the powers-that-be designated it an LTN.
In the end, I was saved by a publicspirited resident, who stood in the middle of the road in a high-viz jacket, warning us that we’d be fined up to £130 if we drove past the signs, and directing us back — to the misery of gridlocked Streatham High Road. She was a driver herself, said this good Samaritan, and like many of her neighbours, she loathed the LTN.
So once again I waited, and waited at those ever- changing lights, while my bladder threatened to explode. Thus, my four-minute shortcut left me writhing in pain, while holding me up for the better part of an hour. Ah, well, at least I was in no danger of falling foul of the preposterous 20 mph speed limits sprouting all around us!
Now, I know I can’t blame Mr Khan directly for the rash of LTNs in my neck of the woods, since these are the responsibility of our local council. All I will say is that the Labour councillors who run Lambeth appear to be gung-ho supporters of the mayor’s campaign to bring London to a standstill, milk motorists dry, make life wretched for residents, waste everyone’s time and pile on costs for struggling businesses.
But that’s socialists for you. All over the world, they’ve proved themselves brilliant at taking money away from those who earn it, and giving it to those who don’t. But again and again, they’ve shown they haven’t a clue about what makes an economy tick and grow, or the price to be paid for over-regulation.
Harder still to bear is their smug insistence that everything they do, they do because they know what’s best for us.
Take this new LTN (and before you start thinking you don’t have to worry about mine, you can be sure that if you’ve escaped so far, one will appear near you before you know it). In a letter to local residents and business owners, Lambeth’s Transport Strategy Team declares: ‘The Streatham Wells LTN is designed to make the neighbourhood safer, healthier and more climate resilient. As well as reducing through traffic, we will improve walking, wheeling and cycling conditions.’
Leave aside that figures out today show there has been no increase in walking or cycling nationwide, despite the £2.3 billion spent on infrastructure promoting ‘active travel’ since 2016.
Are my local Labour councillors unaware that many of the roads in this particular scheme are built on some of the steepest hills in London? The idea of walking or cycling up them would daunt many an athlete in peak condition.
How are pensioners and the less than super-fit supposed to get to the shops and back, if they make it impossible for them to drive?
Speaking for myself, I haven’t ridden a bike since I left university some 50 years ago — and I’m damned if I’m going to start again at 70.
Speed bumps, congestion and Ulez charges, 20 mph limits, soaring tolls and fines, road closures outside schools, cycle lanes, exorbitant taxes on fuel … and now LTNs. How much longer can we drivers put up with our tormentors — before we pile the whole lot of them atop a bonfire?