This week’s Christ-on-a-bike moment was the news of a single CCTV camera by Clapham South tube station in south London. Apparently the camera was aimed at a roadside spot near the tube station where drivers often drop off their passengers. In the first three months of operation, the camera fined 2341 motorists which, at the full fine of £100, is an annualised rate of £930,000.
The camera was erected by Wandsworth Council who didn’t add CCTV warning signs. However, the council says that the ‘Traffic Management Act’ doesn’t require it to install warning signs.
Locals say that the stretch of pavement the CCTV camera is monitoring is marked by a single yellow line but seems to have become part of a very extended bus stop. There’s also said to a sign announcing time limited ‘controlled zone’ parking, adding to the confusion.
Locals have a point. The roads have become a hideous mess of the coloured boxes and lines. Over the years regulation upon regulation has made the average busy street an obstacle course of regulation. Why do we have single and double yellow lines and single and double red lines? If the single red lines are only ‘live’ at certain times, how can a driver be sure of seeing the warning sign?
Signs are often only placed at the beginning and end of a Red route and how is a driver meant to clock tiny signs with the relevant information about when restrictions are and aren’t in place? Remember, a wheel strays into the lane even a few seconds while you strain to see the sign, you could get zapped by CCTV.
Drivers are so afraid of bus lanes painted red, they won’t go in them. But if you can see the single sign in time, it’s often the case that the bus route is only live in the morning and evening. There’s a bus lane on a steep hill in Wandsworth which I frequently sail down in the middle of the day, while other drivers sit in a long queue.
Why have white zig-zags on the run up to pedestrian crossings, when we could have red lines? And why have all the run-up to the pedestrian crossings around my neck of the woods been coated in beige gravel? Gravel which can’t get a grip and starts to peel off, rendering the road surface dangerously uneven.
This country needs a bonfire of the bureaucratic madness that’s built up over the years. We need to have a new set of fresh, simplified, road markings and parking restrictions that are far less baroque. Perhaps we should have LED lights in the kerbstones, or mounted on local signposts and lamp posts, so we know when a roadside is off limits and when it isn’t.
I would introduce a regulation that prevented a local council alighting on a single ‘offence’ and then spend months, if not years sending out fines. If the ‘offence’ is so serious, surely the council should be doing everything in its power to prevent repeats?
This war on the motorist is clearly endemic. A few years ago in North London, the local council painted the main roads with red lines and then used CCTV cameras to fine taxis when they stopped to let passengers out.
Last year I drove down a narrow residential road to see a small truck - engine running - being unloaded. I sat and waited for the driver to finish. After all, we’ve all got to make a living. Then a parking warden appeared out of the shadows and ticketed the truck. I flew down the street and jumped out to confront the warden, who came close to being filled in by the workmen. I’ve never met a more dense and officious individual.
I rang Wandsworth Council’s PR (yes, them again) office. The clock-watcher on the end of the line thought it was all highly amusing. ‘He could always appeal’. Really? The definitive waste of time. I was once ticketed for ‘parking on a pavement’. I actually had my wheel half over a yellow line on a pavement-less road.
I appealed. It was ignored. So I abused my position and rang the Westminster Press Office. ‘Ah yes, sir. Quite right, you shouldn’t have been given a ticket’. Really? The warden was adamant. I threatened a Freedom of Information request to uncover the extent of the scam in this Piccadilly side street.
They gave me prosecution numbers for the street in question, but who can trust them? Another driver fined for the same non-offence just paid the £40. ‘Not worth appealing’ she said ‘They just ignore you and threaten you with court and a bigger fine.’
But the prize for highway robbery must go to Islington in north London. If you get your car clamped and towed away you have to travel to Northampton Court 65 miles away to argue your case… and the cars are stored in Harlow, Essex. It’s a level of inconvenience that’s surely just trying to make motorists pay up, no matter how dodgy the council’s behaviour.