UK Driver Attitude Problem?

Coming back to the UK after a spell in Houston, Texas, I am once again struck by the different attitudes of drivers in the UK and US, when it comes to pedestrians.

The contrast could not be more vivid. In US residential areas you only have to think about crossing the road and drivers will slow down and wait to see if you cross. In the UK such courtesy is rare. More often, drivers insist on their right of way and force the pedestrian to wait, even when it is raining.

And it seems to be getting worse, particularly at the supposed safe haven of the zebra crossing. Many drivers accelerate as they approach the crossing, daring the pedestrian to step onto it, and only stop if they do so. Timid pedestrians are just left waiting as the car gleefully flashes by.

Similarly, at the entry to a garage forecourt where cars have to cross the public pavement, driver courtesy is sometimes strangely lacking as they thrust forward in that relatively invulnerable tin box. I was once loudly tooted at for walking too slowly across such a pavement in the rain.

At the end of the day, two-way courtesy is what makes society work, particularly on a small island such as Britain. We’ve all been there – in a hurry, late for an appointment, busy day… – the temptation is there, but the present is what matters, and that pedestrian is a person of real flesh and blood, someone’s child, mother, grandma… Inconsiderate drivers need to wake up.

Who’d have thought Americans would be giving lessons to Brits on good manners?


There was I, minding my own business in one of Knutsford’s main shopping streets. Then a great roar shattered my peace. I almost literally jumped out of my skin, heart racing, adrenaline pumping… What on earth?

Then I realised that I had failed to notice the shiny red Ferrari Testerossa on the street just by me, so had no warning when a great roar came from the engine, almost as loud as a bomb blast. Of course, the driver was an arrogant looking young male. Who else?

What is it with these immature adults who can only express themselves through annoying others?

The Ferrari incident occurred some time ago. As it happens, we recently visited the local MacLaren showroom, in the interests of educating a visiting French boy, where similar cars were on display. It seems the manufacturers deliberately make the engines really noisy, as that is what the customers want. To me, it seems that the manufacturers are being entirely irresponsible, but then, at that end of the market, money talks.

In theory, there are legal limits on permissible levels of noise. According to UK government website dft“The external noise emitted by passenger cars has been controlled since 1929 when the Motor Cars (Excessive Noise) regulations were introduced. New cars are now required to meet Europe-wide noise limits. These have been progressively reduced from 82 decibels (dB (A)) in 1978 to the current limit of 74 dB (A) established in 1996.” (74dB is something like the level of music played in a typical living room, upper 70s are annoyingly loud to some people.)

The Ferrari of my example well exceeded these permissible levels. But are they actually policed? It seems not. A current private members bill aims to be “A Bill to make provision for the enforcement of noise limits for vehicles via automatic monitoring equipment; and for connected purposes.” Let’s hope the bill gets somewhere.

But just pause for thought. Would the vehicles actually sell for £200-300,000 and upward if they were whisper quiet, and could not be used to demonstrate to the rest of the population just how rich, insensitive and annoying their owners are?!

Featured image is of a particularly ‘desirable’ limited edition MacLaren tagged at £1.5million.




Front Gardens

Whatever happened to front gardens in suburbia?

Front_garden_(9009725270)When I was a child, in the fifties, every front garden had its hedge and its flowers/bushes/trees and was well kept. You usually didn’t see vegetables – they were round the back.

The backdrop of pretty front gardens made the street an attractive place to be. You can still find them now in places  – particularly in terraces where there is no room for parking, and in well-to-do areas with big gardens.

But in many places, particularly in the cities, there has been massive change since then. First it was a space for the car and a run-in. Then a space for two cars. Then the ultimate – the whole area paved over. There was no longer time for gardening – and indeed, with the mad expansion of buy-to-let and rental, no motivation for the residents to keep the place nice for the future. Of course, also people get older so simply cannot do the gardening. Even houses without any run-in for a car have paved over their garden to remove any living thing that might need attention. The massive proliferation of wheelie bins has added yet more pressure for space.

Does it matter? Walk along such a street. Passing a tree, attractive bushes, flowers, insects, birds, even a neat lawn, the spirit rises. Passing a concrete or gravel mess, the spirit sinks, mind says ‘ugh’ and quickly passes on. At a practical level, when it rains the water rushes to the drains, rather being held by leaves and soil and gently released.

nantwich_front_gardensUgly functionality has gradually crept up on us, replacing the beauty that was there before in the manmade environment. Some people attempt to leaven the effect with geometric or artistic patterns of slabs – better, but the soul still cries out for vegetation. Some even use artificial grass to pretend there is vegetation – a travesty.

The outer reflects the inner. So the average person in these dwellings would seem to have lost some contact with, and feel for, the natural world – too embedded in busyness and the glamours of media and technology. The direction of travel will only change when our inner orientation changes.

Interestingly, technology may provide a way out. The ultimate driverless car, callable at the press of a button, could remove the need for all that parking in the front garden. What will we do with the space then? Reinvent the front garden?

First image by peganum from Henfield, England (front garden) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons.
Second is my own.