London Closed for Business

(Article written for Taxi magazine prior to No Car Day).

 

Are we all looking forward to No Car Day on September 22nd? I expected taxis to be exempt, but it seems we’re all going to be punished on the big day. Reading further, it seems the Mayor’s “No Car Day” is a bit of a marketing con anyway. I thought the whole of Central London was going to be closed, but it’s only certain roads. In fact, it looks like any number of weekend days closed off to accommodate a programme chock full of disruptive cycling and running races, organised demos and marches, and non-organised flash demos.

I’ve already taken a handful of days off this year that I didn’t want to take off, and here comes another enforced holiday. I hear this event – if you can call it that – is costing London taxpayers one million pounds. I thought the aim would be to save money. Who else is paying? Anyone who has to drive on that day will be making a contribution in lost time and wasted fuel. Those forced to work will be sat in traffic queues on the few roads that are open pondering on their situation. It’ll cost many individuals and organisations money.

I’m convinced these events are arranged as part of an anti-car agenda. At one time it was just the London Marathon and Gay Pride. Now, as many disruptive events as possible are scheduled throughout the year; mostly at weekends, but sometimes on weekdays too. The idea is to make the environment as hostile as possible so people keep away.

In August we had the Notting Hill Carnival. Every year we hear calls to scale down the carnival or move it to a park (it then stops being a carnival and becomes a fete). It must be very disruptive if you live in the area and need to move around, but Notting Hill is unaffected by travel disruption for most of the year, and the carnival is at least concentrated in one area; it doesn’t usually form part of the demonstration route for angry crustafarians.The carnival procession doesn’t go from Piccadilly Circus to Ladbroke Grove, and it doesn’t affect our work too much. The event also provides enjoyment to thousands. I can’t see any fun in a No Car Day.

Even on a Sunday few people drive in London for fun. Some people have little choice but to drive. Anyone on ComCab will tell you that lots of folk need to get to and from hospitals every day of the week on Taxicards; people with limited mobility who find it difficult to use public transport. Most events that shut our streets are for the benefit of a small minority. The rest of us have to suffer.

Extinction Rebellion are the biggest nuisance. They’re like those boorish neighbours in the flat upstairs who decide to throw a noisy party when you’re trying to sleep. You see them bringing crates of beer up, but you give them the benefit of the doubt until the music and dancing starts up, and there’s a yacht captained by Emma Thomson on your garden. Call the police? They’re co-ordinating the dancing.

While I’m at it, have you noticed how (mercifully) short demonstration marches are these days? The BBC to Trafalgar Square? That’s not a march, that’s a sightseeing excursion. In my day a Rock Against Racism march would run all the way to Brockwell Park. That’s in the Deep South in case you’re wondering.

How much does the London Mayor earn, I wonder? (I could look it up, but I’d rather not know). Perhaps London taxpayers could have a whip-round and finance a No Mayor Year. Another million should do it. Few people would notice the Mayor’s absence, though London might get some peace and quiet and we might be able to get on with our jobs without botheration. A Mayor’s job should be to open things, not close them. I should have asked him to open the new KFC near me. Its opening has caused a buzz around town, and it’s open until 11.30. No more shall Leighton Buzzard’s nightlife be in the shadow of the bright lights of Luton. I’m sure any Mayor worth his salt would want to be part of that event. Yes, put Mr Khan on light duties and let him do the things Mayors normally do; like wear a chain and a tricorn hat and cut ribbons at village fetes. At least he’d be opening something.

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