Off to work by bike, kite, pony and trap

Crisis, What Crisis?
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The Independent Online

Call it the Blitz spirit, call it making the most of a situation that was rapidly becoming a pain in the driving seat, but, for some people, yesterday was a challenge rather than a problem. The test was to find ways to beat both the blues and the fuel crisis.

Call it the Blitz spirit, call it making the most of a situation that was rapidly becoming a pain in the driving seat, but, for some people, yesterday was a challenge rather than a problem. The test was to find ways to beat both the blues and the fuel crisis.

For one Norfolk company, history provided the answer - they made deliveries by horse and cart to save fuel. Bosses of Outland in Gorleston near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, normally use two vans, a Ford Escort and a Transit. They now deliver only for orders more than 10 miles away.

"We cannot buy diesel anywhere so we are trying to save our fuel as much as we can, but we will still run out in a couple of days," said a spokesman. "Luckily there is no shortage of hay for the horse, unless people start blockading fields."

In Devon, traditional home for smugglers and wreckers, a flotilla of boats, carrying drivers desperate for petrol, rounded on a fuel barge on the river Dart. The barge usually caters for private yachts and commercial trawlers, selling marine fuel and unleaded petrol in the middle of Dartmouth harbour.

But the skipper, Mark Lewis, said his vessel had been boarded by boatload after boatload of car owners in a desperate bid to get hold of petrol.

"Usually in September we cater for a couple of boats, but it has been madness here," Mr Lewis said. "People have been approaching the barge in row boats, dinghies, tenders andany vessel they can get their hands on.

"They've been coming aboard with 10-litre and 25-litre containers. One chap was so desperate to get home to Birmingham he took 106 litres."

But some petrol sellers were accused of profiteering, and police were kept busy with organised gangs of petrol thieves.In Wiltshire, one garage was accused of highway robbery for charging desperate motorists £2.50 for a litre of fuel. The garage is one of the few nationwide with any petrol left, leaving drivers with a stark choice - pay up or stay put.

At the Bridge garage in Marlborough, a litre of diesel cost £2.50 - £11.37 pounds a gallon, and a litre of petrol was £2, which is £9.10 per gallon. A tankfull cost more than £120.

Staff said customers were so desperate they were forking out without complaint. Clare Barnett, manager of the garage, said no deliveries were due until next week, so the move was vital to keep the garage open. "We had to do something to ration it," she said

Police are warning motorists to safeguard what fuel they have, after widespread reports of siphoning, cutting of fuel lines and of raids on farms by thieves looking for stores of diesel and heating oil.

But there were also a few lighter moments for fed-up travellers unlucky enough to find themselves without petrol. In Edinburgh, motorists were cheered by a blond streaker who paraded up and down in front of hundreds of slow-moving lorries on London Road as they made their way from the A1 on the east of the city.

In Bristol, Martin Baker used a £500 kite-flying buggy to get to work. "It can go very fast and it's better suited to beaches or fields than the open road," said Mr Baker, aged 38. "In built-up areas, there is always the worry the kite will get wrapped round a lamppost. It doesn't need petrol and it's great fun but it takes a fair bit of practice to get the hang of it."

Others took less stressful options. Dorothy Ellis, a midwife, started making her visits by trusty bicycle. "I am quite a stoic person and I am an environmentalist anyway so it hasn't worried me much," said Mrs Ellis, 50, from Catford, south London. She has to visit several pregnant women and new mothers before lunchtime every day and does evening calls. "It is actually quite a pleasure to be on the roads because they're so quiet."

Others refused to let the grass grow under their feet. Lindsay McLaughlan, 49, from Rochester, Kent siphoned the unleaded petrol from her lawnmower. She said: "I need petrol in my car and I can't get any. I remembered the lawnmower ran on unleaded so I emptied the can and put it into the car."

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