True Gripes: Parking mad: Mugged by the clampers from Hell

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There are drivers in London who let clamping vans out of side roads. Do they think that one day, when they are caught parked on a yellow line in a deserted back street, the clampers will say 'Oh no, not A123 BCD, not that topping chap who let us out of a side street six months ago, we won't have him'? Don't delude yourselves, I want to say to these craven drivers: Push up tight as tight to the car in front, look up at that bastard clamper and gloat.

But it seems to me that most London drivers are not possessed, as I am, with a terrible anger against the clamper, the tow-away man, the traffic warden and all those other people who, in a rewritten Inferno, would be right down there in the bottom circle of hell. They accept them all with a shrug, a laugh and another resigned dig into the pocket. It is almost as if, as they pay out, they are assuaging a kind of guilt for having driven at all.

Yet drivers are the victims, not the predators. Clamping and towing are, of course, the worst crimes inflicted upon them: have you ever been alone in Soho at midnight and found that your car, which had one wheel touching a zig-zag line, has been removed and that to reach it you have to take a tremulous night bus home to your cheque book, a ruinous taxi to Hyde Park car pound and then walk through hundreds of yards of barely-lit underground tunnel?

There are other, pettier irritations. Why do parking meters only take 20p and pounds 1 coins? Why can we only stay on them for two hours? Why can we only park on single yellow lines after 6.30pm? Surely traffic would flow more, not less, freely if we could park in any place, and at any time, so long as we were not causing an obstruction? Why can't we? Because of money, that's why. Because the harder it is for the poor London driver to abide by the ridiculous rules, the more likely it is that he will commit some misdemeanour punishable by a fine, clamp, or tow. The driver is a bottomless source of revenue to the Metropolitan Police and the councils, just as he is to the Government. Well, all right - the money has got to come from somewhere to pay all those traffic wardens. But let's not pretend parking restrictions are there to keep cars out of London, to 'protect the environment'. I cannot stand the way taxes on driving are portrayed as something noble, making drivers pay for the privilege of polluting the world. If our rulers really wanted to keep cars out of London, they would ban them. But where's the profit in that?

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