A couple of months ago, London's Islington Council introduced a blanket 20mph speed limit throughout the borough. A bold and progressive move to help to reduce the number of accidents involving cyclists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, Chris Huhne and others, it's been particularly welcomed by humans vulnerable to the impact of cars, i.e. people who aren't inside a car. It's also been broadly accepted by a small group of drivers like me who have never been fond of inflicting injuries upon the innocent, and also understand that the average speed of traffic through London is around 20mph in any case, so there's really not much point in bitching about it.
But naturally there are motorists who resent the new limit, motorists who claim that this ridiculous fixation with speed is missing the real issue, and the real menace is poor reaction times on the part of terrified pedestrians, or maybe car bonnets being a bit too hard – you know, not spongy enough. I have no sympathy with this view. Not because I've bothered doing any research, but because I'm allergic to the whining of people who don't like being told what to do. By contrast, I love being told what to do. Unquestioningly compliant, I'll do precisely what I'm told, when I'm told to do it. I reckon I'd be the perfect person to involve in an intricate kidnap plot – though maybe don't make me the getaway driver.
Twenty-miles-per-hour obedience isn't easy, though. I don't know whether you've driven at 20mph on an empty thoroughfare, but it just feels wrong. In 1900, a 20mph journey would probably have had you clutching your seat and screaming, "The brakes, Horace, the brakes!" but in 2013 it feels like you're in the middle of a pointless slo-mo replay.
My reward for manning up and obeying the limit, however, is to be on the receiving end of wanker signs from drivers who don't buy into the whole "slow down" thing. They see me as a smug Islington do-gooder who deserves all the abuse he gets, but I don't even bloody live in Islington, and I don't want to cause road rage, I just want to do what's right. As this debate rages in my head I forget the whole mirror-signal-manoeuvre thing, drift into the bus lane and am brought to my senses by a powerful blast of the horn of the No 56.Reuse content