Laziness and Safety

I regularly drive through Woburn, and at least a couple of times a week I’m amazed at how lazy people are, even when it comes to their own safety.

In the case of Woburn, there are two zebra crossings within a very short stretch of road. There are good reasons for this – the road is usually busy, and fairly fast. But people still cross away from the crossings, where it’s apparently “more convenient” rather than walking a tiny way to the crossing where cars *have* to stop for pedestrians…

The first one looks like this…

image (C) Google Streetmap

This is where most people cross – and you can see the markings for the zebra crossing at the top of the photo (the zig-zags, for non-UK readers) Note also that this is just after a busy crossroads, so has any number of vehicles coming round corners and paying far more attention to other vehicles than to pedestrians. I measured it on Google Maps – it’s 30 metres from here to the crossing. Not even a minute’s walk.  (I’ll also note that all the people avoiding the crossing are able-bodied, so it’s not like they can’t walk that distance.)

The second one (slightly further up the road from here, after a tight choke-point and just round the corner so out of view from this one) looks like this

image (C) Google Streetmap

This one is a bit harder to see – it’s a bit further, at 45m from where people actually cross – but it’s still there, with markings visible across the road.  Here, people cross from the pub to the hotel and back – and again, with parked cars on the right, an extremely tight road with drivers focusing on squeezing through rather than on pedestrians, people trying to park (or turn into the various lanes and archways along this bit) rather than walking that 45m to be able to do so safely.

I know people in general are lazy bastards and so on, but really, it utterly amazes me just how many (and even more so at school times, as there’s a school just back from where this shot is taken) are prepared to ‘save’ time waiting for a space in traffic and then risk their all to cross the road, rather than walking that tiny distance to do so safely (and actually usually more quickly than waiting for that gap!)

I don’t know if they don’t see the crossing, that they’re blinkered to just going straight across the road instead, or if they’re all just fuckwit examples of Darwinism waiting to happen.  Either way, it is (to me) a gobsmacking way to live.

Paying for Parking

During the working week, I regularly park in an area controlled by parking meters – not one per slot, but in big blocks, so you pay for your ticket/parking at a machine, and return the ticket to the car.

It’s an area/business that in many ways doesn’t seem to have kept up with progress at all, but in others is quite a way ahead of most other places. It’s very odd – and it seems like a lot of people are caught in that middle space between the two extremes.

You see, the meters themselves take cash, and only cash. There’s no facility to take card payments, let alone contactless. I assume that some of this is down to maintenance costs – the more things it can do, the more things there are that can fuck up.

Then at the other end of the scale, we can use online/mobile payment setups like RingGo to pay for parking, which is super-easy to do, and works really nicely.  (There are other parking payment providers, most of which are worse than RingGo, but they’re still getting used by various councils etc. around the country)  There’s no need for cash, it’s all smooth and simple to do, with the parking wardens having smartphone equivalents where they can check each vehicle’s registration and see if it’s paid for parking online.

Both solutions seem to work, either with the super-basic “put coins in the machine” or the semi-techie (but still really pretty simple once it’s set up) paying via mobile/online.  There’s also the ability to pay by phone using RingGo, but that appears to be overly complex.

However, both options seem destined to confuse the majority of people.  I regularly see people dredging pockets for change – which is becoming less common, with the prevalence of debit cards and contactless payments, so they’re surprised and unprepared for needing coins to park – or completely stumped by smartphone apps, or having problems with the paying by phone.

In some ways that harks back to people not being prepared, but at the same time I do understand that these meters are a bit of a surprise. They’re so low-tech in many ways, and people just don’t seem to expect that.  But they’re also unprepared for using their smartphones – despite this whole pay online/app thing becoming more and more common for parking – and don’t have the relevant app, or have it set up. And even with 4G coverage etc., it seems that a lot of them are utterly unable (or just unwilling) to sort out installing the app and just doing things the easy way.

I don’t know what the answer is. I think we’re in this weird hinterland at the moment, where we’ve still got simultaneous low-tech and hi-tech solutions, and people are just caught in the middle, too advanced to be happy with the low-tech, but a large number also still unhappy or uncomfortable with the hi-tech alternative, so they’re stuck in some kind of mid-tech wilderness.

It’s very odd, but interesting to watch and see how things go.

Another London Run

Yesterday was yet another day spent in London. Thankfully, it was also a different area (again) which helps to keep things fresh.

This time, it was Hammersmith, primarily to see an American comedian called Gabriel Iglesias at the Hammersmith Eventim Apollo with a friend (who was the one who knew of Iglesias first) who was doing a one-off, rare (and sold out) London gig

It’s a long time since I’ve been to the Apollo – December 2008, from the look of it – and Hammersmith has changed a bit since last time. The places I’d used to use for parking had – unsurprisingly – changed, and disappeared, so it was time for a bit of a new explore.

Because it was an evening thing, we aimed to have food before. So mid-afternoon we went into London via a circuitous-ish route that allowed us to avoid the vagaries of the peak-time weekend M25, and simply blat straight into Hammersmith. Into the parking area I’d chosen, and job-done.

Had a decent meal, a couple of drinks, and then to the Apollo for what turned out to be a brilliant show – thoroughly enjoyed. (Although lots of people doing American-ised whoops at lots of things, which isn’t really my thing at all) Paid a small fortune for parking – which is taking the piss, as that parking wasn’t being used for anything else – and a pretty simple escape. Certainly nothing like as bad as getting out of Wembley…

And then a straight motorway blat home, dropping off friends at houses along the way (we’d met another couple of people at the gig) so I got home at about 1am, and didn’t get to sleep ’til gone 2.

It’s fair to say I am not fully awake today…

Changing Terms

Last week, Milton Keynes suddenly changed their parking rates. Not by a lot, all things considered – it costs me about 20p a day more now – but it didn’t seem to have been very well publicised.

(Disclaimer : There may have been notices in local papers or whatever, but I don’t get those, so didn’t see anything. But there was nothing I saw on parking meters etc., so regardless of how much it was discussed/publicised beforehand, I hadn’t seen anything. And I’m sure I can’t be the only one)

One of the other changes, though, was that now you have to pay on Bank Holidays as well. That’s not been the case up ’til this week – it’s always been free – and it’s all just a bit sneaky.

Because it’s only happened for the second bank holiday weekend in May. So anyone who’s known it was free from the first weekend would be quite within their rights to assume it would be the same this weekend.

There’s more information about that change – they’ve put stickers on the parking meters etc. – but if someone had seen three weeks ago that they didn’t need to pay, would they even go near the parking meter this time?

I don’t know – but there’s definitely a lot of parking tickets been issued today on the bit outside my office building. Which indicates that my theory may be correct on this one…

Parking Mad

At the moment, the BBC has a documentary series on about Traffic Wardens (Parking Agents, Collection Agents, whatever else you want to call them) called “Parking Mad” and it’s been pretty interesting.

What I find most interesting is the people who don’t pay their parking fines, then get all snotty and sweary about it when the costs for it go up and up.

No matter how paranoid you are, I think the great majority of parking wardens just give tickets to people who’ve overstayed their tickets, not bothered, or are parking like cunts in the first place. I’ve spoken to a fair few over the years (I’m a twat for talking to just about anyone) and haven’t ever really come across a bad one. I’m sure they exist, don’t get me wrong – I just don’t believe every one is a bastard, or hates every other driver.

So if you’ve got a ticket- and again I emphasise that this is In My Experience Only – the odds are that you’ve fucked up and done something wrong. The ticket is going to cost you £30 to pay in the next 28 days, or £60 after that (and with extra costs the more they have to do to recover it) – so just sodding pay it. It’s a fee for fucking up.

I think I’ve now had four parking tickets. Two in Cambridge (where I’d be the first to admit that I pushed my luck anyway, and/or forgot to renew the ticket at the end of its duration) and two in London when I was commuting, and had a brain-fart about paying the ticket. The London ones were a pain, because you couldn’t buy the ticket before 9am- not from the machine, not online. I *know* it was a plan to get more people to forget to pay it, and thus do the tickets. But in six months, I forgot a grand total of twice.

I just don’t get the point of not paying a ticket – you know you’re going to lose anyway, so you might as well get it paid while it’s cheap.  Even if I were going to protest it, I’d pay while lodging the appeal. (Unless it’s better to not do so – I don’t know, never had to do it)

The programme seems to specialise in these ball-bags who park like twats, make a mistake, and then blame everyone but themselves. Of course, they don’t pay, and then bitch even more when the bailiffs come round (or stop them in the road) and charge £500 for what could’ve been dealt with for £30.

I’ve said many times that there’s whole heaps of stuff about people that I simply don’t get. Parking tickets are just one more facet of that lack of knowledge/understanding.

Pay and Display

One aspect of living near Milton Keynes is that – in comparison to many other places – Milton Keynes is pretty damn great for parking. There’s lots of spaces, although the massive majority of them are Pay and Display. (for overseas readers, this involves buying a ticket for a period of time, and then showing it in the windscreen of one’s car) The rates are pretty decent – again, in comparison to many other places – and it’s easy.

Apparently there are 20,000 spaces – including 12,000 that charge 40p per hour, and another 4,350 ‘premium rate’ ones (which are right next to the shopping centre on all sides) at £1.40 per hour.

As well as the normal machines, there’s also now the ability to pay via mobilephone/smartphone using services like RingGo. (or alternatively pay by phonecall with a credit/debit card) It’s easy to do, and – I assume – most people would expect to pay to park, particularly if they live anywhere near-ish.

So why is it that whenever I go to Milton Keynes and park, there are always people who seem to be categorically incapable of using the parking ticket machines, amazed that such machines exist, disgusted that Milton Keynes charges for parking, haven’t got change, or can’t manage to pay by phone? None of it’s really a challenge, but it seems to be for many, many people.

Reaping What’s Been Sown

Tonight, I’m enjoying a dose of schadenfreude (“enjoying the misfortune of others”, if you didn’t know)

Yesterday morning, an idiot parked up in a big-ass Mercedes in the pub car park opposite where I live. And left their parking light on. I don’t know where they’re staying – the pub doesn’t have rooms, so really they’re just taking the piss anyway. So the parking light has stayed on while they’ve been staying wherever.

Now they’ve come back to the car – parked up for 36 hours in a commercial(ish) car park, parking light on – to discover that a) they have a parking ticket, and b) their battery is flat, the car won’t start, and they’ve had to call the AA. (I don’t know for sure, but I assume that the AA will charge as well, as it’s down to driver idiocy.) Of course, because their car is safe, off the road, and not in any feasible danger, it’s right at the bottom of the priority list.

All told, I’m finding it very hard to be sympathetic to their plight, and may in fact be chuckling quite a lot.

And yes – I know I’m going to reap something on this myself, so by the end of the week expect me to be saying something about a broken car.