4 Am Sunday Morning – 8th July 2012 – Nunhead Heights

Nunhead Heights is not called Nunhead Heights for nothing. I should know. I am the one who named it. You don’t realize how high up the ville is until you cycle. Its about 200 feet above the Thames. It may be downhill to town but it’s all uphill coming home.

A substitute for real car speed control in Nunhead Heights: A sign.

But that’s not why I don’t cycle in London anymore.

It is the steady news of friends and acquaintances injured or killed by motorized vehicles on London streets. And the war on cyclists being raged on our streets.

Most recent victim is my good friend American Liz Zitzow. She was mowed down by a motorcyclist and spent eight weeks in a private hospital recovering. I don’t have the private insurance to risk being run over.

[She is the Official Accountant of the Nunhead American community and owns British American Tax. She’ll be on our radio show Nunhead American Radio Monday, 9th July 2012 at 10:30pm London Time. Listen at www.resonancefm.com or 104.4fm in Central London.]

There are two classes in Britain: drivers and non-drivers. Drivers rule in Britain and drivers hate cyclists.

It isn’t like America where having a driver’s license is available to everyone. Driving is considered special here.  It costs a fortune to get one in the UK – thousands of pounds in lessons and tests – and only a third pass the first time in London. The system is designed to keep cars off the road to keep present drivers happy. It is completely anti-poor. A vicious regressive tax. And petrol something like £1.4o a litre. I haven’t looked recently because I stopped being a driver. Rich and poor have to pay the same. That’s a regressive transportation tax.

The worst abusers of cyclists are the working class users of the road – lorry and taxi drivers. They are the least likely to cycle themselves and probably didn’t cycle even when they didn’t have a driver’s license. At least the posh, like Mayor Boris Johnson and PM David Cameron, have bicycles and use them.

The working class people are doing the King’s ferrying and the King’s business on the King’s Road – and they act like Kings of the Road.

It isn’t like New York and “I’m walkin’ here!” of Ratzo Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy. Nobody here thinks the streets belong to anyone but the drivers.

Here there are speed limits but they seem completely un-enforced. And even if they were enforced, the speed limit for narrow residential streets is either 20 or 30 mph- too fast. I’ve yet to see a policeman on the streets of Nunhead Heights giving a ticket for speeding.

There are  speed cameras – but they are well marked and everyone knows where the speed cameras are.

There are ‘sleeping policemen’ [road humps]. Sleeping policeman are aptly named because the police are sleeping regarding their obligation to make our streets safe for cyclists and pedestrians.

The rich don’t care about speed bumps. They have cars that can handle the bumps and the money to fix them when their undercarriages get torn asunder.

‘Traffic flow’ is religion in London. Every day, more and more on-street parking is removed to make inner-city traffic move like it did when only the rich and their bidders owned cars. The Heights’ stretch of Peckham Rye East has been turned into Monte Carlo during Formula One by parking elimination. Cars zoom into the Heights at killer speeds.

What London needs to do is this:

It needs to enforce the traffic laws – Twenty is Plenty. Or make speed limits lower.

It needs to put parking back on the streets to slow traffic down – which will have the added benefit of making our high streets more desirable places to shop and lessening the attraction of car-only accessible superstores.

It needs to be easier to get a driving license. The more drivers and cars will make our streets more congested. Congested streets are slower streets and slower streets are safer streets. That may sound counter-intuitive but it has been proven true.

It needs to reduce petrol taxes – so the state doesn’t to punish the less well off. The poor get punished enough in the marketplace without the government making it worse.

Only time will make working road users respect cyclists.

And they need to do something about Nunhead Heights – making that damn hill not quite as high.

Please comment on this post. Rubbish, brilliant, incomplete, not funny enough? Say something. I wrote this while I should have been working on my Edinburgh fringe show but the views are sincere.

@lewisschaffer on twitter

Live in Soho “Lewis Schaffer is Free until Famous”
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Nunhead American Radio with Lewis Schaffer
Every Monday 10:30pm
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