Feb 092022

The Highway Code changes that went into effect on the 29th January seems to have caused a bit of a palava amongst drivers. Except this is probably a noisy minority as most are either :-

The majority are either completely oblivious to the changes or assume that nothing significant is changing (and they’re not entirely wrong).

And the majority of the remainder are probably accepting of the changes.

When you come down to the changes, they’re mostly fairly minor. The biggest change is making explicit a hierarchy of priorities based on the vulnerability of road users – pedestrians are the most vulnerable so have the highest priority, etc. Funnily enough very little protest against that has been heard, although some of the other objections do indicate an unconscious bias in favour of driver priority; perhaps assisted by the widespread myth that motorists pay for roads. Interestingly whilst there a number of changes for cyclists, these have attracted very little attention – it seems that Highway Code changes are only controversial when they might inconvenience car drivers.

The most noise has been about the change requiring motorists to allow pedestrians to proceed when waiting to cross at a junction – for example when turning from a major road into a minor road, the motorist should wait to allow the pedestrian crossing that minor road. This is not as big a change as it seems as motorists were already required to wait when pedestrians were already crossing. What happens when a pedestrian doesn’t choose to cross? Presumably because they were wool-gathering, or their assistance dog is trained to wait until the road is clear. Will this result in permanently stuck motorists causing city-wide traffic chaos? Well, “giving priority” doesn’t mean “wait forever” – you would stop, wait for 10s or so, and then proceed slowly.

Those protesting make a big fuss about how stopping before turning may result in them being rear-ended by other motorists who aren’t expecting traffic to stop. There’s two problems with this – motorists already stop at turnings to allow pedestrians to cross, and motorists should already be prepared for vehicles in front of them to stop unexpectedly. Fact is, in every accident where a car is rear-ended, the motorist behind is the one at fault.

Lastly there is the new rules regarding cyclists – specifically the rule allowing cyclists to ride in the centre of the lane. Funnily enough this isn’t really new although it wasn’t explicitly stated before – there was never a rule that cyclists had to segregate themselves into the gutter risking life and limb risking the gutter pot-holes. But you would imagine from the reaction of some drivers that this new rule was allowing cyclists to use shotguns against car drivers they’ve been so up in arms about it. It is not as if they are supposed to do it all the time – just on slower roads and to increase safety.

But no, these drivers imagine roads are there for car drivers exclusively and anything that inconveniences them must be prohibited. There are special roads like that – motoreways.

It’s Round
Dec 272021

In honour of the traditional family argument about whether Christmas Day is a bank holiday or not, I shall be wittering on about it for a while. The UK government web site on Bank Holidays, lists it as a bank holiday. Incorrectly, although it’s understandable why it does.

The Act of Parliament currently in force establishing “bank holidays” is the Banking and Financial Dealings Act 1971, which lists the following as bank holidays :-

The following are to be bank holidays in England and Wales :-

Easter Monday

The last Monday in May.

The last Monday in August.

26th December, if it not be a Sunday.

27th December in a year in which 25th or 26th December is a Sunday.

Note how the 25th doesn’t appear! Within the text of the Act, it also states :-

No person shall be compellable to make any payment or to do any act on a bank holiday under this Act which he would not be compellable to make or do on Christmas Day or Good Friday

There are of course other missing bank holidays which are proclaimed on a yearly basis by the queen, but Christmas Day and Good Friday are special – they’re Common Law holidays that have been taken as public holidays since time immemorial (6 July 1189) as traditional customary holidays.

Those two days appear many times in legislation dealing with restrictions on what can be carried out on those days, but nowhere is it declared that they are public holidays – it is just assumed.

There used to be a good deal more customary holidays – in 1833 the Bank of England shut for 33 days a year but in 1834 shut for just 4. When bank holidays were first established in 1871, they were intended as public holidays but were expressed in financial terms – specifically so banks couldn’t be declared bankrupt for not being able to process a promissory note or a bill of exchange.

Which is why we call them “Bank” holidays. And why they aren’t strictly speaking “holidays” for workers – they are really just holidays for banks as there is no guarantee that you can take a bank holiday off work.

The Bare Family

Dec 182021

A while back something popped up on my Facebook stream claiming that Pushkin (Alexander Pushkin – the Russian poet) was black as a way of saying “look at all these incredible things blacks have done”. I don’t have a problem with that. I might just question the logic of classifying Pushkin as black.

Of course I also question the use of the colour of the dead stuff that keeps the squishy bits on the inside, to divide people into arbitrary categories. But we’ll gloss over that for now.

Pushkin was at least partially black because his great-grandfather (Abram Petrovich Gannibal) was black; that’s one sixteenth. So he was also 15/16ths white. Can someone be both black and white (presumably without stripes)? Of course the racists amongst us were the ones who set the standard for excluding people from the privilege of calling themselves “white”. And just to irritated the bigots, it pleases me to declare that Pushkin was white; and to avoid making those who look to trumpet the accomplishments of black people foolish., it also pleases me to declare that Pushkin was black.

Which is ridiculous of course, but that’s kind of what I feel about the whole obsession with skin colour anyway.

And finally, take a look at Abram’s bio – he’s probably more accomplished than his descendant Puskin.

King Alfred Looking Down At The Runners
Nov 272021

I can accept “Saving the Planet” as a political slogan for those who advocate taking action to combat climate change – political slogans don’t have to be entirely accurate although I might argue that “Saving People” is more accurate. Because no matter how serious climate change gets, the planet will carry on.

Don’t get me wrong, I think climate change is really serious – we will see millions of deaths at least; quite possibly billions of deaths. And climate refugees will make the Syrian refugee crisis seem like just a tiny taste of what the real thing will be like. And some historians put the collapse of the western Roman empire down to climate change refugees – I don’t think it’s that simple but it was certainly a contributing factor. That is the level of disruption from climate refugees that we can expect.

And if you’re one of those inhumane nasties that imagines military level forces using lethal force to stop refugees, you can forget it – not only are there enough of us bleeding heart liberals who will shout “fuck that shit”, but it is doubtful that any level of military force could stop millions of refugees.

Climate change won’t destroy the planet; it won’t even destroy the environment. It will change the environment catastrophically and humans are to blame. Whole species will become extinct, but probably not humans; we’re too adaptable and we’ve survived through extinction events before (although sometimes only just).

But before anyone gets too complacent, if we don’t do anything, humanity will survive by the skin of its teeth – if just 90% of us are killed, we’ll be lucky. If we act today to make drastic changes, we might keep things down to just a few million dead; if we had acted back in the 1980s, that would be considerably less.

Walking The Beach
Sep 202021

In the UK there is something known as “vehicle excise duty” which the owners of some motorised vehicles have to pay. Before 1937, this was paid into a road fund used exclusively to pay for the creation of the road network. But from that date, roads are funded out of general taxation and local council taxes.

Which means that everyone (or just about everyone) is paying for the roads and that is no bad thing – we all benefit to some extent (although the pollution is a bit of a drag).

Filthy Roaring Beasts Rushing Along The Scar

The interesting thing is that because local roads are locally funded (to an extent), there is a good chance that a pedestrian is paying more for the roads within a city than the car driver – the driver is more likely to be a visitor to the city and thus pays considerably less. So by the argument that whoever pays should have priority, it should be the pedestrian who does!