Tag Archives: war on the motorist

The speed camera conspiracy

The petrolhead community have long fought to expose the conspiracy behind speed cameras. In the name of transparency and ending The War On The Motorist, the DfT have collated some of the data on speed cameras. And guess what? At a couple of camera locations, there have been more injuries. With over five thousand cameras and data reported for both minor and serious injuries, what are the chances that campaigners who scour the data will be able to find one or two camera locations where one or the other measurements happens to have risen? It must be a significant result.

But wait, I’ve discovered something even more sinister in this speed camera conspiracy. Using the speed camera map, I discovered that there are speed cameras in Bath, Lewisham and Leicester, and more speed cameras in Worcester, Cambridge, and Southampton.

Don’t you see what this means?

This isn’t just any conspiracy. This is a Jewish conspiracy!

Based on an idea from Stephen Colbert (unfortunately I can’t find a video of the time he found a star of St David in CNN’s weather map), and with a tip of the hat to Matt Parker’s alien navigation system.

“Driving has never cost more”

End to the war on the motorists?  No, driving’s never cost more,” declares Mark King, Money Editor, in The Observer today.  To be fair to King, he doesn’t actually say anything as absurd as that driving has “never cost more” in his article — but newspaper headline writers have never let reality or the actual content of an article get in their way.

Why would a headline writer, having glanced at a boring but reasonable article about saving money, think to write “driving’s never cost more”?  Where did they get that idea from?

Are cars more expensive than ever?

You would guess not: the manufacturing process has become vastly more efficient over the decades.  But it was really difficult to find data on this.  By difficult, I mean Google, Google Scholar, Wikipedia and WolframAlpha all failed to find anything useful with my keywords (thanks perhaps to the hundreds of excellently search engine optimised spam sites), and I’m too lazy to do proper research.  Instead, I pulled out a quick and crude graph of the US consumer price index for new cars compared to that for all items, showing how the cost of purchasing a car has fallen compared to general inflation in the cost of living.  (Obviously there is a plethora of caveats with this data and the contributory factors to the cost of living over here are quite different to the US — if anybody can find a more appropriate data set, please let me know.  Data from the UK for 1997-2009 is given further down the page, and shows a massive fall in the price of a new car even over that short time.)

Is fuel more expensive than ever?

Mark King could have read his own newspaper to find out that, no, fuel is not more expensive than ever.  Fuel prices are high, and Motorists can’t hide from the fact that dwindling resources are ever more difficult and dangerous to harvest.  They’re at the top-end of the post-war range, but not outside of the range that we should be used to:

That must be because oil is getting cheaper, right?  Because everybody knows that fuel tax is always going up.  Actually, as Mark King’s own editor pointed out in October, thanks to repeated freezes in fuel tax to appease the tabloids and roads lobby fuel duty remained 11% down on 1999 rates when inflation was taken into account.

So the price-per-litre is high but not exceptional.  But during all that time, the amount of distance you can get for that litre has been rising as cars get more fuel efficient.  Wikipedia has a graph for average fuel efficiency of car models available in the US.  (Average fuel efficiency of cars on the road, in the UK at least, will be higher and may not follow exactly the same trend, because we purchase more cars at the high end of the fuel efficiency range.)  You may be paying a little bit more each time you fill up, but unless you are driving further, you should have found yourself filling up less frequently over the years.

What about the other costs?

Is it more expensive than ever to pay your “road tax“?  Only if you have a really absurd car.  You could pay £950 in the first year of owning a car that emits over 255 g/km CO2.  But only expensive SUVs and sports cars fall into that category — if you own such a car, you are already rich enough to not notice the tax.  Normal cars fall in the top three or four tax bands, where tax has fallen and owners will pay only a token amount of tax, if they pay anything at all.

I couldn’t find much information on maintenance and insurance costs — though I didn’t try very hard, since these are not a significant proportion of overall costs anyway.  If anybody can find good data, I’ll add these to the post.

One area where “costs” might be rising is in depreciation — the decline in resale value.  People aren’t buying second hand cars so much, for all sorts of reasons — because new cars are so cheap (especially during the scrappage scheme and with all the other government subsidies) to the fact that nobody who buys second hand cars wants an old inefficient SUV.

So driving is more expensive than ever?

Mark King (or his headline writer) could have read his own newspaper to see that the Department for Transport estimate that the cost of driving fell 9% between 1980 and 2007.  Alternatively they could have read the Economist last month, which estimated an even more dramatic fall in the cost of driving — especially compared to the rise in disposable income — even during Labour’s famous “War On The Motorist”:

A lot of things happened in the past 18 months, but it’s not plausible to suggest that this trend has completely reversed.

Why do so many people think driving is more expensive than ever?

I don’t think they do.  Most people who are complaining are trying their luck.  Some of it is recall bias — they just don’t accurately remember how expensive cars and fuel used to be.  Some of it is the fact that the costs which are falling — annual VED and upfront vehicle purchase — are one-off or rare payments that one forgets about, unlike the weekly payment at the petrol pump, even though for most people the cost of the vehicle still makes up the bulk of the cost of driving.  Some of it is the Daily Express, the Taxpayer’s Alliance, and the rest of the roads lobby talking bollocks about the poor hard done by Motorist.  But, really, most of the car users I know are complaining about the costs no more or less than they always have.

What is probably true is that motoring is a painful cost for many people.  But paradoxically, it’s the fall in the cost of motoring that has caused this problem.  During the good times of the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, more and more people have built themselves into a car dependency.  Car ownership is higher than ever because the cost has been falling for so long.  And so, with everybody owning a car, our houses have moved further from our work places, our village shops and services have closed, and the bus service has been withdrawn.  This in turn pushes more people to buy and run a car, even if they can not really afford to do so and were quite happy living without one until the shops closed.  And when the good times turn bad — when wages are frozen, when office locations are merged, and when redundancies are handed out — you can not simply give up the car.  The world changed.

Driving is not more expensive than ever.  Fuel is not more expensive than ever.  Not even fuel tax is more expensive than ever.  Claims that they are don’t even come close to reflecting reality.  And for most people, the fall in the cost of vehicles is far more significant than the cost of fuel.

Rather, ever more people who can not really afford it have been conned by false promises of the aspirational and “liberating” car lifestyle or forced into car dependency against their will.  And the tabloid media and Motoring lobby want to capture the few who are left.  Our politicians and planners should be liberating poor and rural people from that expensive car dependency, not keeping them captive right on the threshold of what they can afford.

This is a hastily thrown together blog not a scholarly article — if you spot something not quite right, do let me know so that it can be corrected.

Punch and Judy town planning policy

“Pickles and Hammond to end the war on motorists.”

The Department for Communities and Local Government put these words in a press release and today 221 national and local newspaper journalists* copypasted them into their newspapers, noticing nothing nonsensical in their conjunction.  Great job, The Media.

The press release was announcing the abolition of two ten year old Labour policies: Planning Policy Guidance 13: Transport (PPG13), and Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3).  The department spin this as the abolition of an “encouragement” to local councils to charge for town-centre car parking, and of a rule that limited car parking in new developments in the hope that fewer residents would own cars as a result.

Given that the war “on” motorists is a war between motorists as ever more of them compete for increasingly scarce land and resources, these policies will of course merely serve to make people’s lives even more miserable as they sit in a whole new level of congestion.  Not that I expect there to be any noticeable difference to most people’s lives as a result of this policy — it’s a drop in the ocean given the mess that we’re in.  And anyway, the policy merely devolves these decisions to local councils, who are unlikely to make any changes given their own dire situations.

Philip Hammond said, “this Government recognises that cars are a lifeline for many people.”  Which is interesting, because a lifeline is “a line to which a drowning or falling victim may cling to.”  The person on the end of a lifeline did not intend to be there, and he does not intend to stay there.  To get there, something has gone wrong, and the lifeline user intends to leave the lifeline behind as soon his feet are safely back on solid ground.  Lots of people will tell you that they have no choice but to drive a car, but most of them would rather they didn’t have to.  The car is a lifeline that have grasped after the doctor’s surgery closed, and then the butcher and baker closed, and then the library closed, and then the post-office closed — all because of the rise of car-dependent development around them.  These people don’t want to have to drive twenty miles to town.  They want their services back.  Philip Hammond’s policy is to encourage new developments that force people to use a car against their will; he’s pushing you overboard and expecting you to be grateful as you’re dragged along on a “lifeline”.

On the announcement, “Decentralisation Minister” Greg Clark said something that is actually mostly true:

“Limiting the number of drives and garages in new homes doesn’t make cars disappear – it just clogs residential roads with parked cars and makes drivers cruise the streets hunting for a precious parking space.”

But this is no excuse for giving up.  It is a fact that there is far more wrong with recent development patterns than just car parking; car parking alone does not create car dependent communities.  But we have to tackle all of the problems — we need more action, not less — and car parking was a start, at least.

And of course, Hammond again plugs his hoverboard development programme.  I know I should have no reason to be surprised by the depths to which British politicians and newspapers can sink, but the scale of the current farce is just amazing.  It looks like Hammond’s entire tenure as transport minister will be based on the recurring pantomime of riding his magic car to rescue the beautiful Motorist from the nasty Labour men and their War.  Apparently this is the “new kind of politics“.

* or, rather, 221 websites indexed by Google News, which is an overlapping, but not identical set.  And some of nationals at least didn’t swallow the line whole.

Pickles and Hammond to end the war on motorists

Weekly War Bulletin, 19 June

Previously, Jag-driving cycle-fearing new Secretary of State for Transport Philip Hammond candidly told interviewers that his teenage son had asked him, “so, ah, what is the point of your job?”  Politics Home is now reporting that he has been candidly telling interviewers for The Spectator that not being a Lib Dem is the only possible reason he didn’t get a real job, the job of the moment, as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.  It’s almost as though he wishes he weren’t Secretary of State for Transport.  That’s one thing we’re all agreed on, at least. (Tip of the hat to Railway Eye)

However, the power hungry petrol head did find time amongst all the other Very Important Things that transport secretaries do to end the speculation over whether the new government would drop tools on Crossrail: they’ve promised carry on and finish the whole thing.  Just not said when by.  Presumably this means that it’s Thameslink upgrade, Great Western electrification, and HS2 that get cut instead.  (HT to London Reconnections)

Luckily, the economics boffins advising the government have developed a cunning plan for saving money on running trains.  It’s all about supply and demand, see.  If demand outstrips supply, you’ve got to do something to bring the two back into line.  The boffins suggest that the way to do that with rain travel is to rip out the seats.  Perfect!  Make trains even more crap and demand is bound to fall back into line with supply.  Even better, raise the fares by 7%.  If that doesn’t get ‘em back in their cars, what will?

Meanwhile, we find ourselves unlikely allies of the Daily Mail, who report that even in the age of the economy drive there’s still one publicly funded ministerial limo left in Westminster.  It belongs to one David Miliband, who has been clocking up the miles on the campaign trail, and allegedly leaving it on the double yellows while he pops out for some hand-shaking and baby-kissing amongst the party members.

Also, pity the poor hard done by driver as there are more new calls for a reduction to the drink-drive limit — do check out the wonderfully vacuous and inarticulate statement from the not-even-entertaining-anymore Association of British Drivers, who were brave enough to take a stand against those who will take away the right of the humble Motorist to go out and kill somebody of a Friday evening.  And then there are the trials of countdown displays on pedestrian crossing lights.  These should be fun: pedestrians have been so well trained by drivers to think that the phase when the green man and the amber traffic light are both flashing is a phase designated for rapid acceleration of vehicles, and now traffic planners have decided to make the situation more interesting by re-training pedestrians to think that they can still safely step out into the road just at that moment when drivers are eyeing the amber light with their feet poised.

Meanwhile, in the provinces…

York has decided against having congestion charging, in favour of “improving public transport and making walking and cycling more attractive”.  Staff at Dulux are on standby for a large order of blue and red from the city council as I write.

Pavement cyclists in Norfolk.  Tut.  More on these later.

Look at these unsporting fellows in Manchester, installing average-speed cameras.  That’s basically a war crime.  Everyone knows that average-speed cameras take all the thrill out of speeding without getting caught.  The comments are, as ever, entertaining.

Cyclist rides naked through Suffolk village.  “We don’t have this sort of thing in Acton.”  Nope, I tellin’ ee, that’s the sorta nonsense them there folk up London way gets up to, with their disgusten by-cyclen ways.

Sustrans claims huge success in getting kids to cycle to school.  The people of Northamptonshire must be shocked and appalled.  There, the council’s opposition Labour group think it’s an absolute disgrace to suggest that kids should be doing something so dangerous as cycling, and want a stop put to it at once.

In Wales, man with mentally crippling micropenis condition desperately seeking some sense of purpose but running out of ways to try finding it.

And finally, secret recordings leaked from the BP boardroom, here re-enacted by actors:

France sends naval support for War On The Motorist

The scene at Tower Bridge during the evening rush hour, 6:25-6:50 this evening, a French Naval frigate arriving in the pool, to the faint notes of La Marseillaise blowing on the fresh sea breeze:

While not especially known for their military prowess, the French fought hard and brave, with an inspired strategy, sitting stationary downstream of the bridge for a good ten minutes after it opened, ensuring that the traffic was halted for the best part of a half hour at the height of the evening rush.  Word had leaked out in advance and assorted photographers and media gathered, while tourists and City workers flocked to the river to enjoy the evening sunlight and the show.  A flotilla of tourist river boats accompanied the French for their arrival, and open-top tourist buses accumulated on London Bridge.  It was a great street party; all the citizens came out onto the streets of London, happy, relieved, hopeful, excited by the developments.

And all the while that the French were dawdling up the river, a vast crowd of subversives quietly moved in for a parallel attack: while the bankers, drug dealers, and delivery vans (collectively, “the types of people who drive in London”) grew ever more irate over the money they were being forced to waste by burning petrol while going nowhere, just watching the queue ahead of them, the subversives were creeping past them with bicycles, cleverly building up a critical mass surrounding the Motorists.  So when the seamen finally pulled up alongside HMS Belfast, and the bridge decks had crept back into position, the poor white van drivers were still unable to go anywhere, as the cyclists held the bridge for the next five minutes.  (click thumbnails for full size images.)

The rumours are that the French will be playing the same hilarious military trick in reverse during the morning rush hour on Monday.  But for now: at ease, boys.  Mission accomplished.

Ceasefire!

The new transport secretary, Philip Hammond, who enjoys driving his Jaguar and is frightened of the dangerous situations that cyclists bring upon themselves, has pledged to bring an end to the war on the Motorist.  We, the British people, welcome Mr Hammond’s position and hereby declare our willingness to enter into negotiations for a ceasefire.  Here are our demands.

  1. Stop the killings.  The occupying Motorist governments have systematically turned a blind eye to the massacre of British civilians, including countless women and children, by Motorist soldiers.  The institutions of Motorist society have handled such atrocities internally, punishing the worst war-crimes, such as the herding of pensioners onto their mandatory “Zebra crossings” before violently killing them, with symbolic non-punishments, such as the six-month suspended sentence and the £60 fine.  If the Motorist establishment expects a ceasefire, they must make the first move.
  2. End the occupation of our cities.  The Motorist government must set in motion the withdrawal of troops from our historic centres of culture, ending the destruction of British cultural heritage and the intimidatory disruption of daily civilian life and health.  The Motorist administration must arrange for the dismantling of illegal Motorist settlements in the few existing designated de-Motorised zones — the pavement, footpath, cycleway, and pedestrian shopping street.
  3. Equal treatment.  The British Citizen has subsidised the Motorist way of life (contrary to their propaganda that a mythical “Road Tax” and meagre “fuel duty” sufficiently cover the cost of their infrastructure, mitigation of their environmental destruction, lost economic productivity, and the injury, ill-health, and loss of life that they cause); the motorist has enjoyed superior publicly funded infrastructure and services at the expense of our communities and environment.  Under a ceasefire, we would therefore expect this situation to be replaced by one of equal treatment.  The Motorist government must give equal per-user street space to the non-motorist; Motorist councils and businesses must consider the safety and needs of the non-motorist, not just the convenience of Motorist troops when planning construction and maintenance projects in our streets.  While the cost of most conventional forms of travel, such as bus and rail, has consistently risen above the rate of inflation since conventional infrastructure was given away by the Motorist government to private companies with a focus on taking money rather than providing service, the Motorist government has engineered for the cost of the (still largely nationalised) Motorist way of life to fall behind inflation.  The Motorist administration must dismantle these state mechanisms for making the Motorist way of life cheaper and those for increasing the burdens on the normal citizen.
  4. Re-integration of troops.  The occupying forces must integrate into British society, including, but not limited to, adopting and being bound by the British legal system.  If the war is to end, Motorist forces will become civilians, and must therefore cease breaking civilian laws, and cease to be allowed to get away with breaking civilian laws.  Reintegration of troops into society requires that Motorist troops accept the responsibilities of civilian life and an end to their exemption from the laws that are in place to protect life and limb, and to preserve our cities and environment.

These are the initial simple demands that would allow the British people to live and work alongside the Motorists, and we hope that the Motorist generals will agree to these reasonable first steps towards dialogue and peace.  Over the coming weeks and months, this blog will track the progress of our negotiations to end this bloody war.