The depressing state of transport in London

The transport situation in London has always been a disgrace. But the thing that has caught my attention recently is the sad situation for the few people hard-core (or stupid) enough to mount a bike and brave the streets of London alone and without protection just in order to save the environment (or a few pennies).

On many an occasion I have attemted to get from point A to point B in London within an acceptable amount of time. These numerous occasions have frequently left me disappointed to say the least, and more than a little stressed.

It is always said London is full of history. But nothing can convey the meaning of that better than living in the city itself. Everything about London is Victorian. The technology used for congestion charging (taking photos of cars and getting monkeys to write down number plates) is Victorian and that used for the tube is Medieval.

Let me try to explain what goes through my mind whenever I plan a journey. Walking is out of the question – it would take forever and be about as good for my lungs as smoking ten cigarettes at the same time, not to mention the broken bones from being run over. Driving in London is equally dangerous, this time owing to the risk of high blood pressure, lateness and the associated anger caused, and the occasional desperate idiot on the road and the associated dangers. The tube is out of the question; just listen to the surprised note in the announcers’ voices whenever they declare there is a ‘good service on the District Line’. The only alternative is cycling which I only began considering recently and almost immediately dropped as an alternative since London is built to combine quite neatly all its crap into a single vehicle. The second you venture onto the street you are honked at by some 18-wheeler accelerating towards you like in Duel while simultaneously verbally abused by a cigarette-smoking idiot gesturing at you while overtaking on the inside lane. While you swerve to avoid the greater of the two evils you are run over by a bendy bus and end up in hospital. After you recover you discover your bike to be stolen and receive a fine for swerving into a bus lane, and to add further insult to injury you discover pieces of your bike (or perhaps it in its entirety) to be stolen. Finally you die at the age of thirty of lung cancer. Such is the life of a cyclist in London.

Fortunately I note steps are already being taken to counter this. London is currently being made such a miserable place to drive in that no driver in his or her right mind would even dare to venture within its labyrinth. Such a mess of one-way systems has been created that one might run out of petrol before finding a way out, and the designing of the parking system has been delegated to a person sufficiently intelligent to understand how a phone can be used to run a pay service but not quite smart enough to grasp the idea of actually providing that service (to any acceptable standards). I applaud these changes and hope to see London clear of all traffic by 2012; I guarantee if things continue as they are, this vision will become a reality.

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6 Responses to The depressing state of transport in London

  1. Ketan says:

    you said you bike would be stolen twice in the same sentance…
    but amusing :)

  2. Theo says:

    Cycling in London is, as you say, dangerous, and it’s annoying. Seeing as you don’t drive yet you can’t really argue against driving fully, just as I can’t fully argue for it. However, I’ve been in more cars on the roads of London than on bikes, and I really can’t see what the fuss is about. Fortunately since I live in the C-charge zone it doesn’t really affect me and my family, so on a selfish and personal note, I am ignoring it as a point against driving in London. You say driving is dangerous because of high-blood pressure caused by getting to places late etc. I get it’s meant to be a joke, but I still think Londoners over-exaggerate the claims of traffic jams in the city. Of course I’ve been stuck in a traffic jam in London, but I’ve been stuck in a worse one on a country-road. Wherever there live people in Britain and there are roads you will at some point in time get traffic jams, and while they are all annoying, they are managable. In my personal experience London traffic jams are not as bad as people make out. One problem is petrol, which is expensive. This problem can only be avoided by buying an electric car (pointless and slow, and you’ll run out of juice sooner or later in a contraflow and make lots of people angry) or a hybrid car (you’ll look like a smug, new-middle-class prick and will still have a higher mpg than a small diesel car driven equivalently). However, the petrol-problem has to be faced by all car users, whether you live in London or not, so that can be taken as consolation to London motorists… or a very weak argument…

    All the same, I still think driving is the best transport option for londoners who can afford it. I mean, you say “I hope to see London clear of traffic by 2012”. If you meant traffic-jams then fair enough, but if you meant traffic, as in vehicles, then I think it’s a rather stupidly idealistic viewpoint. Imagine if all of London’s motorists began to flood our public transport system and pavements. Similarly, I think everyone turning to cars would be an even bigger disaster. However, I still think the current system isn’t working, and maybe it’s because the London motorist is being villified (or at least was by Ken Livingstone – let’s hope Boris makes some better changes…), or maybe because cyclists aren’t getting their rights on the road put into effect (even though I sincerely think they are – that scheme where cyclists can go up one-way streets in Kensington for example is absurd, if an accident happens the motorist is most likely the one to be blamed). Anyways, I’d like to say good article BT. Let’s start the revolution… :P

  3. […] thing about eco-warriors is, as Theo pointed out in a comment to my post on Transport in London, that there is a certain level of idealism involved. It’s interesting that many of them […]

  4. gedanken451 says:

    Oh yeh oops didn’t realise I’d repeated the bit about bike getting stolen. And I was sort of being ironic about London becoming ‘free of traffic’ – I was trying to take a jibe at the eco-warrior community by saying how London may slowly become their haven – completely free of vehicles. Obviously the fact that I wrote it at about midnight showed through…

  5. egbertonline says:

    A little food for thought on this wonderfully optimistic article: In which other country than England have you seen a dedicated cycle path; a patch of the road set aside soley for use by cyclists? Surely we don’t have it the worst. Try cycling in Southern America, where the B roads are larger and faster than our motorways…

  6. […] really is no way of getting around London these days. My only real option was to use the tube and being at the mercy of such incompetence is really quite scary. They can’t even spell ‘St James’ Park’ […]

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