Friday 30 September 2011

War, what is it good for?

.. raising speed limits, apparently.

Philip Hammond - a man whose smugness is directly proportional to the vacuousness of his speeches - is due to announce that motorway speed limits are to rise to 80mph.

It isn't really something I care hugely about. 80mph seems de rigeur  for most drivers on motorways anyway. I assume that the increase in speed limit will raise the average third lane speed to around 90mph instead of 80mph as now. If nothing else it proves that many people cannot be that worried about fuel pricing if they are prepared to use 20% more of it simply to get somewhere a bit quicker.

What does seem extraordinary is the language employed by the commander-in-chief on the fight against the "War on The Motorist". Hammond manages rhetoric such as

"Britain's roads should be the arteries of a healthy economy and cars are a vital lifeline for many." he blamed Labour's "shortsighted and misguided war on the motorist" for penalising drivers.
"This government has already scrapped the M4 bus lane, cut central government funding for money-making speed cameras and announced new measures to crack down on boy racers and reckless drivers while standing up for the decent majority," he said.
"Now it is time to put Britain back in the fast lane of global economies and look again at the motorway speed limit which is nearly 50 years old, and out of date thanks to huge advances in safety and motoring technology.
"Increasing the motorway speed limit to 80mph would generate economic benefits of hundreds of millions of pounds through shorter journey times. So we will consult later this year on raising the limit to get Britain moving."

Ah, the war on the motorist. A funny thing, this particular war. I am a motorist, and as such would be sure that I should have noticed if I was "at war". Clearly I escaped this "short-sighted and misguided" war - presumably by trying to not drive like a lunatic.

But let's look at the substance of Hammond's comments - this shouldn't take long... 

It appears that the war was over when the M4 bus-lane was removed. Even though a TRL investigation showed that it improved journey times for all traffic, including cars. And then "money making" speed cameras were cut. Which is strange, since speed cameras were being removed by local councils to save money, surely if they made money the cash strapped councils would be having Gatso festivals?

But Hammond isn't against the rule of law applying to the roads. Oh, no, for he does mention measures to crack down on boy racers - the specifics of which are somewhat less than clear.

Still, as he says, increasing the motorway limit to 80mph will generate economic benefits (presumably mostly for the fuel companies) to get Britain moving again. Which is good news. Clearly the reason why it takes me 4 hours to travel 70 miles on the M25 isn't to do with the horrendous congestion encouraged by road mad transport policies over a generation, but because I haven't been legally allowed to go at 80mph.

Hammond is, quite clearly, an attention seeking buffoon. Those old enough to remember that cornerstone of 90's TV programming "The Word" may remember a section titled "I would do anything to be on TV". Hammond appears to be enacting a political version of this game with gusto whilst some script writer is wondering how much more nonsense he can be made to say. But the real problem is that it is thought that everyone is a law-abiding, decent motorist whilst a few bad apples and some tofu eating enviro-mentalists are spoiling the party. Well, I am sorry to break it to Hammond but there is a very significant proportion of law breakers on our roads today, and declaring that attempts to regulate behaviour constitute "war" is beyond stupidity.

Drivers have their own internal justification mechanisms for disregarding laws. "I only speed where it is safe" being one - another being " I am always careful around schools". Even these fatuous rationalisations are wrong. Escorting my daughter to school is eye-opening in itself. The majority of motorists around the school break the 20mph limit. The school zig-zags are used as a drop-off zone at all times. And cars simply stop in the road to let their children out to the accompaniment of horn blowing by other parents who cannot wait to edge forward and do the same. If this is considered driving safely, no wonder I could fill my hard drive with examples of lunatic driving on the roads.

So, Mr Hammond, for you I leave you with some randomly picked examples of the type of driving I see every day on my cycle. The problem isn't the war on the motorist. It is the lack of law on the motorist.

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