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Hackney, London: the worst place for driving?

Kingsland HighstreeAfter reading in the Evening Standard that more people cycle than drive to work in Hackney we went for a drive there to see why people hardly use cars in that inner London Borough.

We knew we were off to a bad start when the only map we could find marked all the bike shops in that Borough. It got much worse very quickly.

We started our drive at 10am from the North Western point of Hackney near Finsbury Park. Planning to head South we turned off the A503 to get to Stoke Newington. We were thwarted by a road block (which annoyingly allowed bicyclists through).

We made a u-turn back to the A503 and traveled the long way round. We drove along the A105 (Green Lanes) and attempted to head back into Hackney.

We saw this sign:

Not only was there no through route for drivers just access for the local residents of those streets and bicyclists, the speed limit was only 20mph. We began to notice that there was hardly anyone driving at all. Lots of space for cycling and walking.

We decided to head to the A10, the Kingsland High road. Surely there we will get back to the normal driving nirvana that is usual in British towns. We turned onto Stoke Newington Church Street (B104) to more disappointment, there were people on foot on bikes and on the bus but hardly anyone driving a car!

Driving along the B104 was fine though pretty slow. Not only was there a 20mph speed limit and many places for people to cross, there were many people crossing randomly on their phones and people cycling in the middle of the lane. What happened to the guard railings to keep people out of the way? Why aren’t there separate bike lanes to keep the cyclists out our path (We didn’t see even one separate bike lane  during the whole trip, just whole roads turned into cycle roads)

Turning left off the B104 we drove down a narrow road with road humps moving at about 8mph and to our extreme annoyance we came across another of those road blocks, a short cut for bicyclers.

And to add insult to injury there was a group of school pupils and some teachers riding through the road block laughing (at us it seemed). They weren’t even wearing helmets! We headed to the A10 planning to drive through little road we know of old, John Campbell Road.

Past the Rio Cinema leading to the A10. We couldn’t drive through. It was a space for people of all ages standing chatting, people parking bikes, even people cycling through encouraged by a dropped kerb, but no space for cars.

After another U-turn we reached the A10. It was a nightmare. Almost no one driving, the pedestrian guard rails replaced by cycle racks. People walking riding shopping or just hanging-out chatting in the quiet street. We missed the reassuring buzz of car engines and the slight sulfurous scent of exhaust fumes. It was especially galling to encounter the Hackney equivalent of the lovable white van man. The cargo-bike man (and woman as we later discovered). The local baker delivers bread across Hackney on a cargo bike! (We saw him 3 times that morning and later a woman delivering her 3 children from school in a similar bike). Wishing to escape to normality we headed to Mare Street planning a cheeky short cut through Ashwin Street to the A104 at Dalston Junction. And guess what … another blocked road (for cars) with people sitting drinking coffee, sneering and laughing as we u-turned again. Totally humiliating especially as the cyclers swanned past.

At last Mare Street. It was a ‘mare’  To the North, the Narrow Way, once a mecca of engine noise, buses fumes, cars and their drivers with occasional pedestrian or bicyclists squeezing by had become a place for walking.

And what of Mare Street itself, the heart of Hackney, the Town Hall and municiple centre at midday bathed in Autumn sunlight. Would we find some respite, a little traffic, some va va vroom, a break from this people friendly slowed down Borough where there is more space for cycling and walking than for driving?

Mare Street had been narrowed, tamed, the pedestrian railings removed, the speed limit lowered, the pavement widened. Street life and cafe culture springing up where once we drivers had been king. It was all so depressing. There was something in the air in Hackney quite distasteful  to old petrol-heads like us.

In fact there was really something in the air, a strange smell we couldn’t place, not the usual farty fumey piney car smell we love, something altogether different. We paid the extortionate parking fee left the car and followed our noses heading to London Fields and came upon this smelly wild flower meadow (that would make fine car park):

So fellow drivers take our advice and steer clear of the London Borough of Hackney if you are looking for some  clear space for driving.

Nominations for the best town for driving award 2014

Our first nomination for this award goes to Stone in Staffordshire

What makes Stone such a great place great to drive?

  • Stone has lots of parking spaces

We visited Stone Staying at the excellent Stone House Hotel 

Note the limited parking space in this old picture. Now the excellent hotel has removed the lawn to make place for many more cars to park

There’s not even one cycle rack.

(This poor cyclists struggled to get his bike through the warren of passages in this quaint hotel to his room



You can park on the pedestrian precinct

You can park behind most shops and banks on the high street.

  • In Stone parking is free or cheap

£3 a day to park in town

Parking is free if you drive to health centre

  • Stone has clear separate space for driving

Barriers help prevent walkers from getting in the way and those pavements make it difficult to walk. Walkers are safely behind barriers decorated with flowers that can best be seen from a car. It maybe hard to cross the road on foot but no-one really needs to walk anywhere. Restaurants and pubs all have good sized car parks.

Most of the space in town is given to people who choose to drive. Locals would rather drive the short distance to work in town rather than walk or cycle since driving is so easy. The town centre is surrounded by a multi-lane gyratory which makes passing through Stone easy for people driving from Stafford to Stoke-On-Trent. Some people would rather drive through Stone than use the motorway (see map below).

There are some problems with this as noted on a local website A Little Bit of Stone. It seems that people who work within the ring road gyratory can’t get their cars out of the centre car parks after work because all the other drivers enjoying the space for driving.

  • Stone has great views for drivers passing through

The pretty town centre looks best through the windscreen of a car. The railing by the road are decorated with flowers as part of Stone on Bloom. So beautiful we’d rather spend the day riding round the ring road than walking round a National Trust garden

  • In Stone you can drive anywhere

Driving along the pedestrian precinct is fine. You can’t cycle there, (note the ‘cyclists dismount’ sign) and no one seems (needs) to walk there.

You can drive on the grass in the recreational spaces around the town

  • Stone people tolerate a little collateral damage


A little pollution, noise,occasional congestion, obesity, heart disease and the occasional injury or death are a small price to pay for the freedom to drive

Stone is only 3 miles across

View Larger Map

Which is why we nominate Stone, Staffordshire

for Best Town For Motoring Award 2014

Which town will you nominate?

Great plan from Boris

Not ‘Bonkers’

Roger Lawson of the Alliance of British Drivers is wrong when he objected to £913m being spent on a scheme that favours cyclists over other road users in London. (As reported by the BBC)

The Mayors vision For Cycling pdf available here

It is self evident from the picture on the front of his cycling plan that London Mayor Boris Johnson, and his sidekick cycling Czar Andrew Gilligan are doing a great service to London’s ‘beleaguered drivers’. By promising to build separated cycle lanes all over London. (And from that artists impression it looks like the cyclers won’t be able to leave their little lane)



Drive along the Victoria Embankment today, you’ll encounter cyclists all over the road

Not for long, once that segregated cycle East-West cycle lane gets built they’ll be out of our way. A small tweak in the law could then ban them from riding on our roads.

Another reason Mr. Lawson is wrong is that these lanes may well encourage some ‘drivers’, who would like to cycle but are scared to because of… er, drivers, to give cycling a go which will leave more room on the roads for the rest of us.

As to Boris’ plan to “de-Lycrafy cycling” making it look like a normal activity. That would do everyone a favour.



New Year Resolution

We resolve this year to make more trips by car, more often.


As well as driving a nice car to feel more attractive we wish to ensure we get our money’s worth by putting in the miles.

We therefore resolve to:

  • Give up walking to the shops for the milk and paper. We’ll drive.
  • Give the kids a lift to their school round the corner
  • Stop the family Sunday cycling in the park. We’ll go for a Sunday drive
  • Stop using the underground for nights on the town. We’ll drive
  • Leave the engine running while parked up as long as possible

We resolve to make this year ‘”The Year of the Car”

Christmas Driving

What would Jesus drive?

(Post your thoughts on our twitter feed)

There’s no better day to go for a spin than on Christmas day (apart from drive to work day of course). You will own the road, be able to drive faster than usual, can jump a few lights and no one will notice.

Put the roast in the oven, take the car out the garage, deck it out with sprigs of holly and drive to the sound of your favorite carols.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Drive to Work Day

Drive to Work Day -A great success!

Thanks to all the many thousands of people who turned out en mass to take part in London’s Drive to Work Day. See how we took over the centre of London creating gridlock. (We took an Addison Lee Cab. Great service. Thanks)

Work now begins to make Drive To Work Day 2013 an even greater success. Next years date to be announced early in the New Year.

Post your stories about your drive to work. Tweet using #LDtWD

The Final Insult

It’s the eve of Drive to Work Day.

While we have already outlined many reasons to drive to work tomorrow we were taken aback when we came across this final insult to car drivers:

It is not enough that we have to pay so much to park our precious cars. To see a fine parking space given over to at least 10 cycle parking spaces so graphically shown with that green car outline is a huge mockery of our simple pastime of driving our cars. As if we needed another reason to protest our plight by taking to 4 wheels tomorrow.

(See our links page for some helpful parking tips for central London tomorrow)

Check back tomorrow for a full report on the day. We are expecting between 100,000 to 200,000 participants who will all be leaving their bikes at home, their walking shoes in the cupboard and their Oyster card in the drawer and taking part in London’s first ever Drive to Work Day

Tweet your experience using #LDtWD @drivetoworkday

Free Driving

1 Day to Go


We reported AA President Edmund King’s ambiguous stance towards driving.  He spouts more anti driver drivel following showing of a BBC TV program showing what drivers have to deal with on our roads

Here are 10 more reasons to drive to work on 11th December:

Seeing Red

Traffic lights are good. Road signs are good. They help drivers by keeping us in order. We don’t need to concentrate too much on what is going on around, just on the little red light waiting for it to go green. They keep people not in cars under control, everyone knows who has right of way. No confusion. So what if we have to wait sometime when it’s clearly safe to go. Better a little unnecessary pollution than anarchy on the roads.

So imagine how dismayed we felt when we saw this:

The idea of encouraging drivers to behave in different ways, becoming caring and sharing the road, empathising with pedestrians is absurd. Getting anywhere would take ages if we had to let anyone who chooses to walk, cross the road whenever they wanted to. Roads are for drivers in cars not for people who probably can’t afford a car (so don’t pay the taxes that we all pay for our roads). The current hierarchy on the road is fine thank you Martin Cassini.

Lets hope your views don’t get taken seriously.

Imagine the chaos on Drive to Work Day if the traffic  lights were turned off. Say no to any change in the hierarchy on the road by driving to work on 11th December!

“I like traffic lights red, amber and green” Monty Python’s Flying Circus