Saturday, November 23, 2013

An open letter to Bromley Parking / LBB

Before I get into the nitty gritty of the whole matter I just want to make something perfectly clear.
I have NO issue with correctly signed and enforced parking restrictions and the subsequent penalties incurred for ignoring or flaunting the parking regulations. During my 20+ years of driving, if I have made the decision to park in the face of the restrictions, I have always sucked it up and paid the fine.

However, I refuse to be tricked, cheated or lied to by an authority who behaves in the way Bromley Council have with their apparent CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone) in Bromley Town Centre.

Visiting last weekend for a quick nip to a local shop I found a yellow line on one of the back streets, checked around for any enforcement signs to see what the restricted hours were, found none within a 'reasonable' distance of the spot, so decided it was OK to park there. Before I go on, YES I know a yellow line means there are parking restrictions of certain hours, but with no enforcement signs, was left assuming weekend, like a lot of other places, were OK.

On returning to my car a little while later (10 mins or so) I was greeted by the sight of a parking enforcement officer taking a picture of my car, and starting to walk away (ticket already on the car). Quickly following her and getting her attention I politely enquired what offence the ticket had been issued for. Her first reaction was to seem a little uncertain as to why I was being so friendly about it. I said I had no issue with her doing her job, but just wanted to enquire where the enforcement signs were, and what the operational hours of the lines in fact were. She very politely replied and told me that 'this is a CPZ because its a very busy area' I asked where the signs were placed in the road I was parked in, she then explained that the signs were in fact as you enter the borough of Bromley (my entry point was approx 3/4 miles from where I parked).
I thanked her for her time and drove home.

On the way home I decided to take a look for the signs that I had missed on the way into Bromley, but was unable to find anything. So today, a week later, I decided to video my trip into Bromley, back to the space I was originally  parked in, and see if I would notice any of these CPZ notifications on the way in.

I should also add that I appealed against the ticket this week, and yesterday received a reply saying they would NOT be cancelling the ticket as they feel there is adequate signage warning of the CPZ, as I had explained my journey into Bromley, they were kind enough even to state the following....'The Controlled Parking Zone signage will be at all entrances to the zone, including London Road.

Taking the information supplied to me by Bromley Parking themselves, I checked carefully as Bromley Hill turned into London Road, and all the way along it until reaching Tweedy Road, which is the route to the town centre.. I can say with 100% confidence that there are NO signs relating to a CPZ along that stretch of London Road. There are advanced traffic warning signs, directions to the car parks, and other various town centre related information signs, but NOTHING about the CPZ.
So first things first Bromley, be sure of something before you try and use it to prove your point.

My recorded journey continued right along Tweedy Road, down into Kentish Way, still nothing other than directions to car parks, most of which are operated by Bromley Parking, so of course they are keen to highlight sources of revenue, and maybe cloak other avenues of revenue like not telling people about the CPZ and the subsequent ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY POUND fine.
Continuing along the journey, along the A21 Kentish Way until the junction with the B228 Masons Hill, so I turned into Masons Hill using the right hand of 2 lanes, and joining the road still in the outside of 2 lanes. Travelling down the hill, just starting to pass a bus stop which has a bus waiting at it, I get stopped in traffic with the bus to my left. The lights ahead at the junction of Westmoreland Road change and I prepare to move off. Suddenly as the bus to my left moves forward and I reach just before the junction of Cromwell Ave, and pass the bus stop, to my amazement there IS a CPZ sign after all. But just the one.

I'm sure you want to see this sign that I have tried to describe to you, so here it is. A few shots I managed to grab after parking up, not the same conditions I had been driving in today or indeed on the day in question, but it will allow me to highlight my issue with it I'm sure.

Using the second image as an example, in traffic, with a number of buses stopping and moving away from the bus stop, or even buses or large vehicles queuing in the left lane, which is a  pretty frequent occurrence due to the traffic lights at Westmoreland Road, it is ENTIRELY possible to completely obscure this one, single, individual CPZ notification. If this were one of a few, had been placed at the traffic lights turning into Masons Hill from Tweedy Road, or if there were more signs as you continue into High St from Masons Hill... Heck if there was even one at the entrance to Elmfield Road where I was parked, I would whole heartidly accept I was in the wrong and had failed to spot signs which were obvious to road users, as the general guidelines of CPZ recommends. But that's not the case.

Instead, Bromley have erected a single, vague, easy to miss, easy to be obscured, hard to tell where it relates to, sign which is about 18" high, on a lamppost by a bus stop, in an area of extremely busy traffic and pedestrian flow, where your attention and concentration would be better spent on the road.

So this is my point to you Bromley. I love visiting Bromley for many activities including shopping, dining, visiting friends, and have no issue paying to park the car parks you provide. It is refreshing to see a council provide quite so much parking for a town centre, although I appreciate some of it is privately managed. However, my point is, as much as I support the penalisation of stupid and selfish parking, while I think paying a fine received in good faith for one of the above acts is justified.... I feel on this occasion you are in the wrong. You have almost purposely been vague about the operational hours of single yellow lines, failed to put up what most people would consider adequate signage to inform users of your imposed CPZ. And then if that was not bad enough, you insult me by trying to tell me there are signs entering the borough which justify the fine you have issued... Where there are quite clearly NOT !
I told you in good faith what route I entered the borough and town centre by, and you have lied in your response, in writing.
I am also curious regarding the line of 'you were allowed to park to load or unload' Where is the sign that informs me THIS act is permitted? Once again, the sheer lack of signage in this location leads to even more confusion

OK, so I have gone on for long enough on this matter, so I shall sum up what the point of all this is.

My points are as follows.

1/ Your CPZ is NOT signed in a sensible and fair manner, in fact it is barely signed at all, which has no doubt led to many unfair and borderline unjustified parking fines being issued.
2/ Your letter rejecting my appeal for the fine to be cancelled is misleading, inaccurate, and offends me that you try and give me information to justify your actions. Only for me to find it not to be true.,
3/ A single sign may 'just about' tick the box for your legal obligations to advise motorists that they are entering a CPZ, but like any road sign, if it can easily be obscured, it can be deemed inadequate, any by some might even be seen as an attempt to flaunt the regulations in your favour.
4/ Finally, your appeal rejection letter notifies me that your decision is final and that I must now wait for the Notice to Owner before I can formally challenge this penalty notice, which as we all know is the line that all authorities love as it clearly really reads 'last chance for a discount, before it goes up to £130'

I shall return to Bromley tomorrow and get much clearer pictures to represent my point when I formally challenge this ticket. And for this I shall request the assistance of someone to take professional standard images, suitable for proper representation. If the findings are in my favour at the representation, I will then seek to recover costs of travelling to Bromley on two occasions, parking costs, and any charge made for the images and video taken.

A letter reflecting the comments in this blog will be sent to LBB by recorded delivery on Monday, and the signature stating the letter is received will be considered that my notice to yourselves, and intention to recover costs, has been received and understood.

I complain and moan about a lot of things in life that are irritating, annoying and even upsetting, but this is one of THE most anger provoking things I have written about in a long time.
Out of the countless signs pointing people to car parks and other things, you put up ONE to just scrape by the regulation.

Not impressed Bromley... NOT impressed.

Please see below the formal letter from Bromley stating their reasons for not cancelling the ticket,

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Well done ..... Almost !

After my last rant about and their failures to bother to contact me or respond to my emails... They did !!
Imagine my surprise when Andrew from Wonga called up and said he was aware of a serious issue and complaint I had made, and he would like to look into it to get it sorted and stop me having any more problems with my payment.
We spoke about the issue, how it had been escalated to him, and what the cause seemed to be. Andrew told me he would like to get some information then have time to look into it, and get back to me with the fix. I agreed.
As we spoke, it became apparent for a while that he thought it might be a problem with my bank account or card, and not an issue at their end. So after collecting some information from me he started to tie up the call. Before he could continue I asked him if he could take the payment there and then to stop me having to go through the hassle of sorting it out later. He agreed but with the added line that it might be a problem with the card, so a payment might not be successful.

Having spoken with my bank earlier in the day, and confirming that there was NO issue with my card, account etc, I was positive it was an issue with Wonga.
Sure enough, seconds after agreeing to 'try' and take the payment, a somewhat surprised Andrew came back on the line and confirmed the payment had gone through, no issues, and it must indeed be an issue with the system their end. No shit Sherlock !

With my mind at ease, and with the payment made, we ended the call there and agreed that he would call back later that evening after he had heard back from the IT dept.

7pm came around, and as promised the phone rang and it was Wonga again. From the offset it was made clear that there had been an issue with their system, and it was explained that my card, even though the ONLY card on file, was not set as the 'primary' card, therefore was not being used to collect payment. So in reality, rather than all the stupid emails I was getting, someone could have checked and spotted this months ago, or the system could have just spat out a 'no primary card' error. But instead its always better to blame and harass the customer, of course !

With that resolved, I was assured that it had been corrected now, and that the future payments would not have issue with them, as long as my funds were available and card didn't change. Once again rushing to end the call, Andrew again apologised and started to say his goodbye's. Stopping him in his tracks I asked if I could have the contents of our discussion in an email, as written confirmation of what had actually happened, and of the action they had taken to prevent it happening again.  This was agreed to.

20 mins later the email came through, and indeed stated all the required information for my own records.
Problem solved....................... but not the end of it.

On the day all the emails were sent to Wonga I had received the automated 'thank you' email, but none of the patronising 'better to call us' rubbish that they seem to send out when they just don't want to deal with the matter themselves. At least that's how it comes across. Every email I sent that day had all the information they usually ask for, name, email, DOB and address. Given that I had supplied all this, and received a call back, I assumed that was that.
So imagine my surprise, when 2 days later I get two more of the 'we don't know who you are, please call us' emails.

From this I can only assume that the left hand doesn't have a CLUE what the right hand is doing. Notes are not put on customers accounts, and information is not shared. All this comes together to make quite simply a piss poor customer experience.

So... Wonga, thanks for starting to sort my issue out, now maybe take a deeper look at how your contact system works, and stop sending stupid emails for no reason. Especially when you are asking for information which was contained in the email you are replying to ! DUH !

We shall tell next month if the issue is REALLY resolved or not. Watch this space on Dec 18th.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dear Cycle lobbyists....

I first want to continue to have a clear stance on cyclists. I fully respect and appreciate the bravery and commitment of those who do battle with all sorts of dangers and risks involved in riding a pushbike in London, and other busy cities for that matter. I agree that motor vehicles and cycles need some form of separation and safety buffer for the cyclist, and in some cases the motorist needs educating on aspects of hazard perception....BUT... and there is a pretty big BUT.... Attitudes of some cyclists need to change too.

The reason I am even writing this follow up entry is a simple video made my TfL.
This video was made, low budget, quick produce and post moment, and was done for the benefit of any cyclists out there who have never driven a large vehicle. A simple 1 min of education to raise awareness of the blindspots in a turning lorry. Have a watch, I think for most road users its probably a bit of an eye opener.

In response to this video, a number of cycle campaigners have decided to try and turn it on TfL and say 'And THIS is why lorries need to be kept away from bicycles...'

So a couple of points from me then.

IF you want all threats to be kept away from cyclists, who is going to be using the roads? Cyclists and motorcyclists maybe? Clearly the biggest contributors to financing the road networks there im sure!

IF you want a safety buffer between bikes and vehicles.... STOP RIDING UP THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD between cars and lorries travelling in opposite directions!

IF you want cars to use their mirrors to see you in, give cars and other vehicles a chance and stop switching sides. A vehicle turning left will check their left mirror before the turn. If you are riding to their right, then switch quickly because it suits you, they will NOT have seen you.

I realise one of the greatest appeals of cycle commuting is the freedom of the route you take, the speed you travel, and not getting caught up in traffic jams. I think its brilliant that so many are willing to battle the elements to have a cleaner and healthier approach to travel in London. Sadly however with the freedom of being something so small, comes a huge danger and vulnerability to the slightest impact with the road or its users.

So think about these things for a minute, please.

When turning at a junction. You may be ABLE to position yourself to the left or right of a car, but the driver of the cars also turning will generally ONLY be looking in the mirror to the side of the car relating to the direction they are turning. Example, a car turning right will only be looking down the right side of the vehicle. If you turn on their left, they wont have seen you, so as you enter the new road, for a moment they have NO idea there is a bike between them and the kerb, so DONT ride down the inside of them, hold back for a minute.

Slow moving traffic is one of the biggest causes of rear end shunts. That's right, the car behind another massive car for a moment has a lapse in concentration and hits a large coloured metal box in front of them, even with lights on. Concentration levels in heavy traffic FALL with motorists. Legally and sensibly right or wrong, its a simple FACT. If a driver can not see a car, they are also not going to see cyclists. Yes the motorist will be to blame, but at the same time you will probably be injured. SO what's more important, being right or being safe?

Humans don't cope well with being swarmed. Imagine a customer services rep at a station where all the trains have been delayed. Everyone wants answer, everyone is surrounding and talking. In reality its a situation the mind just cant cope with, so it shuts certain voices and faces out and focuses on others. When learning to drive, drivers are taught to watch out for cyclists, and on their lessons will come across a few here and there, and you can cope with that.
In real life rush hour situations, suddenly your car is surrounded by 10+ cyclists at a time, going at different speeds, stopping, wobbling, speeding past the left and the right. An accident waiting to happen in the disorganised unruly mess of the cycle swarm. No different to commuters in a tube station, all wanting to get to their destination, all the most important person there, and all with no interest in the people around them.

Speaking of the cycle swarm, that brings me back to the start. There is high demand for this 'more space for cyclists' at the moment, which in a perfect world would be great. If there was the room to realistically make segregated areas for cyclists even I would consider commuting by bike. But the simple fact is, there is NO more room. All these wonderful ideas of banning lorries, dedicating lanes to cyclists etc just are not going to happen.
Like it or not, cars, vans, buses and lorries all have a right and 90% a good reason to be on London's roads. Tackling the school run vehicles would see a large drop in peak time users, as the summer holidays demonstrate, but there is no quick fix there. Maybe the BILLION or so being spent on the roads with cyclists in mind should be targeted at school buses instead. Reduce the school run vehicles on the roads, free up spaces on public transport? Just a thought.

The biggest point is quite a simple one, but takes a while to make.
Most cyclists consider themselves in some way a free spirit, with freedom of the roads. Some also believe they are free of any rules and regulations. Sadly some are genuinely free.... of any common sense, and will put themselves in danger regardless of how many millions are spent, and how many miles or cycle lanes and paths are created, some will decide they want to ride differently to the rest.
You only have to look at the Cycle Superhighways that were created, huge wide lanes taking a chunk out of some of London's busiest roads, but STILL you see cyclists filtering through the other lanes of traffic, trying to beat the other cyclists in some imaginary race.
The same way barriers are put up to stop people crossing at dangerous points, so people just jump the  'inconvenient' barrier and get collected by a bus. Or DO NOT swim signs are put up around reservoirs, yet people still risk it, and drown.

It is human nature to explore, disobey and take chances in order to achieve things, so it is understandable that people want to be individual and break free of the mould. The problem sadly is, that as long as these people continue to swarm cars, ignore cycle lanes and flaunt genuine rules, your cause it lost. Change comes when it is clear and evidence can be found that the change and spending of money would have a positive impact on the situation. Unfortunately cycle lobbyists who feel that the lorry turning left is ALWAYS to blame, or one who misinterprets the rules of the road into their favour are the achillies heel in the plan.

Yesterday someone insisted that a vehicle stopped in the Advance Stop Box (ASB) or beyond the first Advanced Stop Line (ASL) was against the law, and 'illegal'. And somehow endangered the pedestrians.
Well, that is sadly just ignorant. Being stopped in the ASB or beyond the 1st ASL is not breaking the rules at all, and is far from 'illegal'. Illegal generally refers to criminal law, not the road traffic act.
Just for those unsure on the matter, allow be to quote from the Met Police.

Do not enter the ASL box when the light is red – this space is reserved for the safety of cyclists.
Crossing the first or second ASL line when the light is red makes you liable for a £100 fixed penalty, three points on your licence, and endangers vulnerable road users.
If the traffic light changes from green to amber and you cannot safely stop before the first stop line, you may cross the line but must stop before the second stop line (Highway Code rule 178).
Do not cross the second stop line while the traffic signal is red. Contravening a traffic signal is against the law, and could result in a £50 fine.

Myth Busting

Myth: There’s a car in the ASL box - the driver must have committed an offence.
Not true. The offence is committed when the vehicle enters the ASL box when the light is red. If the vehicle enters the box and the light changes to red, no offence is committed
Rule 178 of the Highway Code states:
If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area.
We don’t want motorists to wrongly believe that they shouldn’t stop in the ASL box under any circumstances – this might cause someone to panic, drive through a junction and cause an accident.
Myth: Motorbikes are allowed in the ASL.
Not true. The law applies to motorbikes and scooters, too.

And TfL's stance on the matter...

Drivers caught crossing the first or second advanced stop lines when the signal is red will be liable for a £60 fixed penalty charge and three points on their licence. The only exception to this rule is if the traffic signal changes from green to amber and drivers cannot safely stop before the first stop line.
In addition to stepping up enforcement on motorists, rogue cyclists are also being targeted. While most cyclists ride responsibly - some do not, and this can anger other road users. Cyclists will be targeted for jumping red lights and issued with a £30 fine if caught doing so.

So I hope that clears up any confusion for anyone.

There is a lot of ignorance out there, a heck of a lot of arrogance, and a whole lot of me me me going on. And THAT is the problem. Not lanes, not laws, not money... Just peoples attitudes and intelligence.
Any cyclist who decides to be a lone wolf and do their own thing, any one who thinks they can just squeeze down the side of the lorry before it turns, or that red lights are only for vehicles with engines... YOU are the problem, YOU are the idiot!
Education, moderation, and just a little bit of patience go a long way to saving lives. Regardless of who's fault an accident is, a fatality means a family without a loved one, and a chain of friends with a missing link. 

Stay safe out there, everyone !

PS Tuvaaq says 'Stay Safe, Be Seen'

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My thoughts on cycling in London etc

The recent weeks in London have been a very hard time for cyclists, and other road users for that matter. With a death toll that is rising at an alarming rate, cyclists are falling victim to larger vehicles on an almost daily basis. Six in a couple of weeks within London is certainly something to raise an eyebrow to, but lets not just run away here and start pointing and waving fingers like some are.

The immediate reaction from cycle campaign groups, as you would expect, was one of anger and protest, with demands for 'something' to be done about the situation. So lets start at the beginning and work towards what that 'something' should be.

In any collision there are usually 2 or more objects, in the case of the recent cycling accidents, both were vehicles of sorts being used on the public roads, and it seems in all cases, both were in use at the time of the collisions. By use I mean not parked or unattended. Lorries and buses are the two classes of vehicles which post the greatest risk to the cyclists, by their very nature, large, cumbersome and plenty of blind spots for something as small as a cyclist to disappear into.
One of the most common accidents with cycle vs large vehicle is a side swipe or being turned in on. Turning left of right with a cyclist down the side of the vehicle nearest to the turn is very common, and is caused by either the driver giving no signal or consideration to the cyclist (or not seeing them) OR the cyclist ignoring or not seeing the signal or road markings, and proceeding up the side of the vehicle as it starts its turn.

One example of the latter would be the accident yesterday in Camberwell. Lorry vs cycle, with the lorry seeming to make a left turn across the path of the cyclist. Many conclusions can be drawn from this, but I shall not speculate who is to blame, I shall merely hypothesise the various ways this could have happened.

The left turn the lorry was making is in a dedicated left turn lane leaving Camberwell Road, and where the lorry came to rest would suggest the lorry was indeed in, or at least partially in the left turn lane. Being a lorry it would be normal to assume he may have taken a slightly wider line into the turn, as it is quite a tight and awkward corner.
How the cycle came to be on the inside of the lorry is the next point. Was the cyclist intending to go straight on in the left turn lane. Was he intending to turn left and the lorry swung in and surprised him? All a mystery, and with the cyclist sadly deceased, we will never know his version of events.

Pushbikes, mopeds, motorcycles, are all vulnerable, and almost cannon fodder to the large vehicles on the roads. This is not to say that this is the actual attitude of the drivers of these vehicles, far from it in fact. I am sure most motorists involved in an accident with a smaller vehicle are affected very badly by their experience, and by any injuries caused to the other party. Lets not pretend that drivers of large vehicles in some way don't care about other peoples lives.
That would be as stupid as saying that cyclists who find their way up the inside of a large vehicle and end up in collision with said vehicle, are in some way suicidal and don't care about their own lives.

There is a simple fact at play here, that sometimes is forgotten, and that is the human body is a fragile object. When in collision with anything hard, or at speed, the exposed human body, especially the head is vulnerable to horrific injuries, even at a seemingly slow speed. Just as pedestrians are at risk of even the slightest collision with a vehicle, even a motorcycle, cyclists fall into the same category.
There is a lot of focus on cyclist fatalities right now, purely because of the crazy and sudden rise we have seen in the capital over the last few weeks, but lets not lose focus here, or suddenly feel that cyclists are the only ones.
Doing some research on the matter for example, lets take a look at the figures for 2011. So FOUR times the number of

Official statistics showed 77 pedestrians were killed last year, 19 more than in 2010, while 16 cyclists lost their lives — nine the victims of turning lorries.

So FOUR times the number of pedestrians died in 2011, than cyclists. Also note the number of cyclists, 19, statistically HIGHER than this year to date. My point in all this is people are killed day in day out on London's roads, its not nice, but its a fact. Of the number of journeys taken on foot or by some sort of vehicle on a daily basis, the chances of an accident are slim, of fatality minuet,. but ever present.

Have a look at the stats for accidents over the past few years as released by TfL, and you will see some quite shocking numbers. Just the sheer number of accidents recorded is a true eye opener. And lets not forget the less serious coming togethers that just get brushed off by both parties as a learning experience.
So here are the stats, trust me, you will be a little shocked im sure.


Contrary to belief, the numbers are FALLING, not rising on a year on year basis. But as cycle journeys increase in the capital, and the roads get more and more congested, the likelihood of the coming together of two travellers of any sort, seems to be increasing. With more impatience, more blinkered behaviour, and more arrogance of WHO's right it is to be where and when, we are surely heading towards a flashpoint.

One of the bad things coming from the recent spate of deaths is the number of stupid and uneducated statements coming from each lobbying group. Cyclists demanding 'more space' on the roads, like it can just magically be invented and put in place over night. Even if the money was there to invest the required BILLIONS on the roads to meet the current demands of the cycling rights lobby groups, the space simply just does not exist, and never will.
The attitude of 'just ban lorries', also again, a lovely idea, but at some point all those banned lorries need to make their journeys, which would cause mayhem on the roads if lorries were only permitted a 6 hour window daily to use London's streets. But for a second, lets humour the campaigners, and say right thats it, lorries are banned.... There is one small issue... the 7,500 buses which frequent the roads on a daily basis.. What shall we do about those? There are a lot of accidents involving these too, so simply taking lorries off the road is just being biased towards businesses trying to make a living with logistics in London, and somehow saying accidents with buses are acceptable.
Hmmm, thats not going to work either is it now!

There is a simple truth here, and its the reality of all realities... People need to pay more attention, be more considerate, drop the attitude and arrogance, and learn to share the limited space there is.
Drivers need to check, then check again, cyclists need to follow some simple rules, and pedestrians need to pay attention, and cross at a safe and suitable time and location.

Lets start with drivers. MSM PSL...
As a trainee driving instructor, these 6 letters have been drilled into my head, and are really quite simple. Most older drivers will be familiar with MSM... Mirror Signal Manoeuvre , the newer ones will also know PSL Position Speed LOOK !
The most common accidents which result in serious injury are motor vehicles turning left or right and coming into collision with a cycle riding down the turning side of the vehicle. So first up, drivers of vehicles of all sizes need to make sure they take that last look before committing to the turn.
Now THIS is where the issue comes in.... If there is a cyclist riding stupidly, putting themselves in danger, NO they should not be there, NO its not their right of way, NO its no clever to be there, but at the end of the day, they are, so deal with it!
Same with cyclists, if you find yourself being squeezed, a driver in cutting over into the cycle lane, don't try and be a hero and prove a point, you vs a car, you will most likely lose.

The biggest issues out there right now are all about YOU. Drivers hate to accept responsibility for an accident, its drilled into you from when you start driver, DON'T admit blame. But it seems society has taken things one or two steps further. While we no longer admit blame, we also shun responsibility and accountability for our actions too. As well as taking a holier than thou attitude to most situation. Highlighted by a recent spate of near misses posted on YouTube, it seems the sociably acceptable approach to using the roads is 'you might kill me, but I am in the right'. Shouting and screaming at motorists of all different types, confrontations and even physical assaults on people and their vehicles... just to make the point ' I WAS RIGHT'.

Its not about right or wrong, its not about right of way, its about living. As much as it frustrates me to say it, there are some idiots out there, legally allowed to be on the road, because their either scraped through a driving test, or ride a pushbike which requires little more than actually owning the bike. Maybe this is where things are going wrong. Not enough time spending warning learner motorists about hazard and how we perceive them. As well as having tens of thousands of pushbikes swarming all over London's road with seemingly no accountability or regulation.

With drivers there is only so much you can try and teach them, and most of the lessons concentrate on controlling the car, and not enough time is spent on learning all the peculiarities of the road. Its almost as if you need a degree in sociology to understand what other users of the road are going to do next.

For cyclists, back in the day you would do a cycling proficiency test at school, learning how to ride straight and sensible close to the kerb. Now days, you get your first bike, learn how to pedal without falling off, and you are away. No legal obligations or licencing / insurance requirements, just go on your way.
The one set of rules that DO exist for cyclists however, seem to be flaunted by many at any opportunity. Weaving, jumping lights, pulling straight across junctions etc
If you are unsure of these rules, please take a look here
There aren't many, but even with so few, it seems some cyclists are hell bent on putting their lives on the line on a daily basis, just to get there 2 mins sooner, or because they are a bike and should not have to wait.

Im not going to turn this is to a cyclist bashing blog entry, although having paid close attention to them over recent days I can see something really needs doing about some of their behaviour. But I will say this much to summarise.

The most vulnerable in any walk of life need to take the most care to survive. Self preservation goes a long way, from the animal kingdom up to us high and mighty humans. A female walking home in the dark from the station would be more aware of their surroundings than a group of males for example. Should a lone female have to fear and be more alert, no of course not. But human behaviour tells us that they are the at risk group, and therefore they respond to this by changing their habits.

The same needs to happen on the roads too. And while all road users have some degree of right to be there, there are rights of way on paper, but in reality, right or wrong, a dangerous situation needs consideration and sometimes to be avoided, rather than barrelling into it, then screaming at someone for being in the wrong..... while trying to free your leg from under the wheel.

While motorists need to check their mirrors, next time you are riding a bike, look at the behaviour of all the other cyclists, and decide for yourself if the motorist can really be expected to see every cycle at every angle.
An example from my journey to work this morning, sitting 5-6 cars back at a set of lights in the turn right lane, I watched a group of 5 cyclists all stop at the light, 2 to the left of the car, 3 to the right. As the lights changed the car and bikes moved away, and all 6 (1 car 5 bikes) turned right. As the driver started to turn he had bikes on both sides of him, all turning in the same direction. Overwhelmed by the view in his mirrors I assume, he stopped midway around the corner to let all the cyclist clear him.
The knock on effect of this is that the cars behind would see no obstruction, so would not expect the car to stop in the middle of a turn.

No accident occured, but this is just one example of where a motorist, while possibly checking every mirror available, and taking as much care as possible, is simply over run and overwhelmed by cyclists behaving badly. In my opinion anyway.

Long and the short of it... We all need to pay more attention, we all need to be considerate to other roads users, and most of all we all need to use a little common sense with a hint of patience.
Riders need to light up, slow down a bit, and ride in a slightly more understandable manner (i.e not swerving about or jumping lights)
Motorists need to give riders space, check their mirrors, and then check their blind spots.

I could go on, but its all common sense really, and if you take the time to look at any accident its clear to see how it may have been avoided.

Whatever the case, shouting outside TfL's offices will NOT save lives.
Blaming Boris will not bring the dead back.
Waving fingers and shouting loudly will change nothing.

Money is not the answer.... common sense it.

Drive / ride safely London.

Monday, November 18, 2013

There is hope for Wonga yet

But its not quite that clear cut...

It seems my email finally struck a nerve, and I received a call from the complaints department of Wonga this afternoon, stating they were aware there was an issue, and it was clear I was upset and frustrated with the whole matter.

We spent some time checking all the things were in place, I advised them that the bank had informed me there are NO issues with the card, payments to Wonga, and that NO attempts have been made to charge my card for any amount.
Using the details on their system, and adding my CCV code, a phone payment went straight through, demonstrating there and then that there is nothing wrong on my end of the deal.

So Andrew has referred the matter to the IT department for them to look into, and hopefully they can overcome what ever glitch it is THEY are having. In the meantime I wait and hope that they can sort this out once and for all.

I have no intention of being caught in the web of debt with them again, but just hope this matter can be sorted so they don't continue to rank so highly in my list of UK's most useless companies.

So, fingers crossed eh.

For now though I can relax a little, safe in the knowledge that I was NOT at fault at any stage of this nightmare process, and that Wonga have FINALLY after a couple of months bothered to get back to me and help solve the issue.
Just a shame it took a threat not to pay, and the involvement of the Financial Ombudsman to get to this stage.

Thank you however to Andrew for getting in touch and getting the ball rolling.

Dear Wonga.... YOU FAILED !

I would like to openly discuss my experiences with Wonga, and go into some more detail about how its all worked out.

Many months back, in desperate need of a quick injection of cash, I resorted to Wonga. A friend had kindly helped me out of the bog of financial despair with them once, but I fucked up, plain and simple. Even more stupidly I missed my payment / renewal date, and was faced with paying it all off in one hit, or entering a 'payment agreement'.
Settling for the payment agreement I spoke with the team about it, and was very pleased with the experience setting it up. 2 months down the line my debit card was renewed and I screwed up and forgot to tell Wonga, so the payment failed.
I contacted them, apologised and gave them the new card details. Crisis averted, or so I though. The following month I recevied an email saying the payment had failed. I called up again, the agent had forgotten to save the card details. No big deal.
The next month, payment failed email again, I call up, this time its a system outage and the payment HAD gone through, but one system didn't tell another, so the email was sent.
Next month, payment failed, month after, payment failed.... I tried in vain to contact them to sort this out, emails, phone calls etc all covered in previous blog entries, but nothing worked.
On calling last month the agent took a payment over the phone without my authorisation, I complained but Wonga failed to get back to me, so with this I approached the Financial Ombudsman who have taken the matter on.

This month  I decided to be proactive, and called Wonga a week before the payment was due. Went through it all with the agent, and confirmed they had all the right details to take the payment on the due date.... This morning I get an email... PAYMENT FAILED! So this time, paranoid that something was wrong at the banks end, I called the bank.

First up  THANK YOU NatWest for having such a coherent bunch on both Twitter and phone banking, they are amazing to deal with and answered all my questions faultlessly and promptly.

In this conversation with NatWest it was confirmed to me that not only had no payment failed, but no payment has even been presented to them for authorisation.
Seriously Wonga, you are hassling, harassing, and upsetting me with emails saying I have in some way failed to keep up my end of the bargain, and YOU have not even asked my bank for the money.

As per my emails, YOUR MOVE !! I have called you, emailed you, tried to work with you to give you my money, the money I agreed to pay you after my own slip up..... Now its up to you. I will make NO further efforts to make payment this month until YOU contact me. I realise that you will probably ignore my emails about the matter like you did last month, and that the next things I will get are emails or letters saying you have cancelled the agreement, are going to add interest, and all other sorts of financial threats. Thats fine. IF you can't be bothered to engage with a customer to resolve matters of you OWN failures I will quite happily wait for this to reach County Court level, then explain to them the poor levels of customer contact you have, and produce the emails, and call logs of when I have tried to make payment and resolve the matter.

As a matter of principal I am no longer willing to waste my time trying to sort the matter out, and if it does require any further input from me, other than answering a call or email from yourselves, I will start to add admin fees.

So Wonga..... YOUR MOVE! I look forwards to hearing from you.