When it comes to law and order, you’d expect the right wing, and the new law-and-order mob who run the Labour Party, to be up in arms about this local crime wave. Such blatant law breaking on a mass scale would normally see condemnations pouring in from all sides, accompanied by demands that the police take action.
However, this crime is merely driving too fast.
Never mind the fact that in Britain, 400 people a year are killed by speeding drivers. That’s more than are murdered, more than the number of British troops killed in both Iraq wars and ex-Yugoslavia put together, and about 100 times more than the number killed in terrorist attcks each year.
Never mind the 80,000 a year seriusly injured on Britains roads. These casualties rarely make the news beyond the local paper.
This story only made the local news when Brighton’s Green politicians actually tried to do something about it.
The street, viaduct road, is mainly high cost private housing, often rented to students, plus some social housing. Some local residents took their concerns to the Local Action Team. A study showed that despite being part of the new 20mph zone most drivers – 5,600 a day – drove at over 30mph, and most of the rest exceeded 20mph. Sussex police had already declared that they would not enforce the council’s new 20mph limits – which begs the question “what’s the point in local elections” as well as making us wonder about the police’s attitude to public safety.
With the police refusing to act against these drivers, perhaps the local council could act. Of course, with austerity, it was done on the cheap with plants in giant pots placed in the road. This has had the effect of slowing cars down with a local web-newspaper reported “in the first week, average speeds have dropped from being in the early 40mphs to 23.5mph”.
So, did the local Greens get any praise for such a huge cut in crime?
Of course not. Afterall, its not real crime. Its an attack on the motorist. It’ll deter much needed tourists from driving into Brighton. The traffic calmimg scheme is dangerous as it forces cars to slow down. The local media was full of this, with hundereds of comments in the local paper. The Daily Mail soon got on board. And local politicians couldn’t resist joining in, one describing the scheme as “crazy and very dangerous”. Recent 20mph limits have been attacked by the main parties and a Labour and Conservative alliance on the council has already ensured that some streets that had voted for a 20mph limit in their street were to have their views overidden – the votes of car drivers outweighing those of pedestrins perhaps.
The Left Needs to Lead The War On The Motorist
While I’m not surprised by the main parties courting of the “angry motorist” vote, I think the left needs to take up these issues more. I will deal with the politics of our car-dominated society in a future post. In the meantime, I think we need to get behind all local campaigns and actions for restrictions on the right of motorists.
We also need to take up the fight for alternatives. While the Green councl is actually cutting support for bus services, we should be demanding more. As our local bus company announces a price freeze (very generous given the collapse in petrol prices??), we should be demanding lower fares. When local residents are given a say in restricting speed, why not give them the power to stop cars driving down their street altogether? As technology is used to bring in pay-to-enter zones, we should demand that the technology is used to ration access according to need, not wealth. And in the long run we need to be campaigning for car free cities.