Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, but I love zooming around London. Put me behind the wheel of my (fully electric) car and – toot toot! – I'm practically Mr Toad.
I look through the windshield with a huge smile as I buzz around town. I adore every chimney and shop front, sidewalk and palace. Memory Lane or Magical Mystery Tour, it's all the same. Driving is an ever-changing joy in the city that I call home.
At least it was.
Christopher Biggins, pictured with his electric BMW i3, has reduced his carbon footprint despite his best efforts, still stuck in terrible traffic jams caused by the new bike lanes of London Mayor Sadiq Khan
Mr Khan pictured wanted to make it easier to get around the city on foot or by bike after the government advised people to avoid public transport because of Covid
In the pictured Tooting High Street, drivers sat long delays while cyclists flew by
Everything has changed these days. The streets of London are not full of smiles. You are full of traffic. Every street in every direction is confused by road closures, new narrow alleys, suddenly wider (but oh so empty) sidewalks and bike lanes so big you could land a plane on them.
A year ago, I was able to take an emission-free ride from my home in my glamorous Hackney and be anywhere in London in less than an hour. Today I have to allow two. Could it be three soon?
And heaven helps anyone who has to take a train. Did you see the new all day jams on Euston Road, past King & # 39; s Cross and St. Pancras?
The stress is even higher when you have a hospital appointment. And let's not even think about waiting at home for a plumber, electrician, or delivery. Where are the workers? You are stuck in traffic on roads where two lanes have become one.
Why the madness? The people who run London say they need to block roads and widen sidewalks so pedestrians can create social distance.
Have you seen anyone on the sidewalks in town lately, Mayor? Seen a lot of buyers in the West End? I only see traffic. Everyone with meaning stays away.
Why else did London turn into a huge parking lot with every engine? Because of the bike paths. Now I'm just as hot as the next man who looks at handsome cyclists in shorts. But how many lanes do we need?
North of Battersea Bridge, cyclists have a choice of two. There's the old, green-painted bike path that takes up half of the pavement. Do you feel like it? Then a new one, painted blue, runs next to where cars used to go.
The same goes for the Park Lane nightmare. After the hell of Hyde Park Corner, fenced-in drivers can only walk a few inches in an endless, smoke-filled traffic jam. However, the less spotted cyclist can ride up a brand new insanely wide bike path. But wait a minute. What is the other outside the (car) window? It's the old bike path in the park that runs exactly parallel to the new one. Cyclists make their choice. The drivers wait for your turn.
And all while drivers pay taxes, pay insurance, and wear license plates, which means we can expect fines if we break the rules. Cyclist? None of the above. Except for the violation of the rules that we see every day.
Have the people who run London declared war on motorists? It's a yes of mine, especially after a weekend when I found huge flower pots being brought in to block roads and block my way home. Local friends say their once quiet street is now being ridden by rats because cars have to look elsewhere. I would laugh if it wasn't so tragic. When I was on the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the 1970s, I finally dreamed of being a big movie star and living in Los Angeles. All these years later, the LA to London deadlock followed me … with a vengeance.
Would you like to see the human cost? Look at the weary faces of the endless line of white van drivers on the Embankment every day. They are the doers and doers we need to keep the economy going. You're behind the wheel and earn nothing on an extremely polluting stop-start journey through the city that is twice as long today as it was last year.
And our other heroes – the police, fire brigade and ambulance drivers? When we need them, they are stuck in traffic. Terrifying but true.
And only after the next catastrophe do we realize how important this is.
People my age got along with an A-Z in London. Now we can't get from A to B. And while the Mayor may want to drive cars out of London, he needs to know that he drives people out too. I can't count the number of friends who have had enough. They sell themselves and travel into the country. For the first time, I am thinking of joining them.
Extending the congestion fee – so people even have to pay to go to church on Sundays – can bring in a bit of money today. But what about tomorrow? I dread to wonder what foreign tourists (remember them?) Will think when they take a black taxi from Harrods to the British Museum. The trip would be half of her vacation. It would cost half their airfare. You won't rush back. It will harm all of my beloved theaters, restaurants, and the entire West End.
Sadly, it just stifles the life of the city I love. It is the city that I want to help in the current crisis. I can spend some money. I have time and an emission-free electric car. My life should be a cabaret, old buddy. Instead, it's a pantomime. Come on, Mr. Mayor. Free my city. Open up our streets. Let's get out of this nightmare and keep London alive.
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