Why driving above the speed limit is a mug’s game 

Imagine you are choosing between two proposed road-improvement plans, but have the budget for only one. Both of the roads mooted for improvement are 20 miles long, and your sole aim is to reduce average journey time by as much as possible. Which would you choose? Someone travelling slowly to begin with has more time on the road to profit from any gain in speed 1) Improving Road A, which increases the average speed from 20 to 25mph (i.e. 25 per cent faster). or 2) Improving Road B, which increases the average speed from 40 to 65mph (62.5 per cent faster). The majority of people, including many experts, instinctively plump

Road rage: the great motorist rebellion has begun

Since Boris Johnson quit as an MP last month, Labour has been confident about winning the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election. Yet not so confident that Danny Beales, the party’s candidate, felt he could get through the campaign without lambasting Sadiq Khan’s plans to expand London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) to cover the capital. ‘It’s not the right time to extend Ulez to outer London,’ he told a hustings a fortnight ago. ‘It’s just not.’ It is hard for motorists not to wonder whether there is a campaign to ease them out of their vehicles From the end of next month, anyone driving a non-compliant vehicle – which in

The £160,000 Maserati that’s the last of its kind

There were a couple of moments where this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed might’ve been a little dicey. Day three of the four-day extravaganza, on Saturday, was cancelled due to 50mph winds. That may not sound all that alarming, but the ‘central feature’ at the Festival of Speed amounted to nearly 100 tonnes of steel sculpture soaring eight storeys over Goodwood House – seat of the Duke of Richmond since the 17th century – with typically several thousand petrolheads picnicking below. It also included six valuable Porsches hovering just below the clouds, and with the public told to stay away there was still every chance His Grace might suffer a

How to avoid paying parking tickets

My year of motoring tourism didn’t begin auspiciously. Early on the morning of New Year’s Eve, in downtown Dieppe, I looked out of the window of our rented apartment with its magnificent view of the Église Saint-Jacques, painted by the likes of Pissarro and Sickert, and noticed that our car had disappeared.  What followed over the next three hours was a journey of discovery – of the government offices and gendarmeries of the historic maritime town (on foot, in the rain), by which process I was eventually informed that my car was now residing in a secure pound on an industrial estate some five kilometres out of town.  I tried to

The pernicious creep of the 20mph zone

‘Twenty is plenty’ say the passive-aggressive road signs as you drive very slowly through 20mph zones all over Britain. The slogan is accompanied by a cartoon drawing of a snail. Then you get a frowny-frowny-frowny electronic sign and you slow from 25 to 20 to make it turn into a smiley face. That’s how we’ve been softened up: with a cocktail of the sanctimonious and the kindergarten. As I crawl along the empty dual carriageway of Park Lane late in the evening, where the speed limit has been reduced from its previous 40mph to the now blanket central-London limit of 20, I hiss: ‘No, twenty is not plenty. Twenty is

The ‘noise cameras’ silencing the supercar show-offs

As a motorcyclist, I’m used to hearing complaints about loud exhausts. Plenty of bikers revel in the roar of their motor – after all, a powerful engine is one of the main appeals of motorbiking. But for anyone living near a busy road, the sound of revving can be thoroughly stressful. Most people who spend time in towns or cities will have jumped at the distinctive noise of a tailpipe backfire, a couple of short explosive bursts that can sound like gunshots, or the drone of a clearly illegal exhaust note. The idea that someone has modified their car or motorbike to give the rest of us a fright is

Could you love an electric campervan?

The Volkswagen ID Buzz is a pretty car, though so innocent-seeming you would forgive it anything. It succeeds the equally pretty T2 campervan, the Betty Boop of 1950s vehicles. The T2 was so convincing – cars, like everything, vary in charisma – it is one of the most famous vehicles in the world, so much so that I can’t think of one without seeing Don Draper’s face. Iconic is a stupid word, but the T2 was iconic, and in testament you will pay £20,000 for the bones of one, though you shouldn’t. I should have waited for Exeter and topped up at Bristol, as the delivery driver counselled, but I

The case against Ulez – by a cyclist

Whether you’re more afraid of the forces of order or the forces of chaos is generally a matter of disposition. A natural anti-authoritarian who despises being told what to do – especially when told to do something stupid – I’m more horrified by excesses of order. Granted, my greater fear of the state may simply betray that I’ve largely lived in an orderly western world, and after a few dog-eat-dog nights of mayhem and carnage I might change my tune. Nevertheless, during the Covid lockdowns, for example, I was less distressed by the odd neighbour who dared to invite a friend to tea than by most Britons’ blind, bovine compliance

London’s car drivers are being bullied

Any historic London footage inevitably features cars busily rounding Hyde Park Corner and shooting off up Park Lane, against the background of sky-scraping hotels and thriving offices. Have you seen the same bit of London now? It’s a giant car park, brought to a standstill by an administration with seemingly little idea how to promote a thriving capital. The city’s best-known thoroughfare has been reduced from three lanes to just one open for traffic northbound, one for bicycles (used sparingly in rush hour) and one for buses, usually empty. That’s just one lane for normal traffic, used by Londoners simply trying to get from A to B via one of

Ghost story: the dark side of Rolls-Royce

Some years ago, I was despatched to Las Vegas to learn how to be a chauffeur. The Wynn hotel had purchased a fleet of Rolls-Royces, and their Aloysius Parkers were being taught how to drive the Rolls-Royce way – i.e. a cut above your Lincoln Town Car etiquette. ‘The umbrella can be used both defensively and offensively,’ I recall Rolls-Royce’s Andi McCann saying, as if he’d walked off the set of Kingsman. Andi is the personal driver to Rolls’s CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös and the company’s lead trainer. I learned many things on his white-glove course, starting with how umbrellas, housed inside each door, can be used to protect from paparazzi

A beautiful monster: the Aston Martin Vantage reviewed

The new Aston Martin Vantage is shorter and hotter than the DB11: a smaller, truer sportscar, though slightly less elegant. ‘Gentlemanly’ is what the copywriter calls the DB11, but this is a ‘hunter’ and ‘predatory’. Ferraris, meanwhile, are a little too hot for me – though I accept that they are sublime, if Ferraris are your thing – and the Toyota Supra, which I love – even shorter, even hotter, much cheaper – doesn’t make quite the same impression on the A30. People (I mean men over 40) love Aston Martins. They view them as an expression of British pride, and coo over them like babies, by roaring past, overtaking,

Stop demonising cyclists

If you were to ask me how many bicycles I’ve had in my life, my response would be about as precise as Boris Johnson’s to the question of how many children he’s fathered. In my case, so many bikes have been stolen over the years – including one attached to a signpost (which vanished along with the bike) and another that I left unlocked for 45 seconds outside Nicolas on Holland Park Avenue. That turned out to be the most expensive bottle of wine I’ve ever taken to a dinner party. (In fact, that was the same bike that had previously been harvested of 90 per cent of its components after

Is the Purosangue SUV a real Ferrari?

I recently spent a long weekend in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, driving a fast car, eating tortellini alla panna twice a day and rifling through Luciano Pavarotti’s DVD library. The tenor’s house, outside Modena, has been converted into a museum filled with his many shiny awards and Hermès scarves, framed photos with Bono and Mandela and, yes, his unrivalled collection of Police Academy movies. I also visited Modena’s sprawling San Cataldo cemetery to see the imposing family tomb of one Enzo Anselmo Giuseppe Maria Ferrari, 1898-1988. I listened carefully. It was peaceful. Apart from birdsong, not a whisper. There was no whirring, no drilling, no vibration or rumbling from

Style on a plate: Bentley’s Flying Spur Hybrid reviewed

Britain makes the world’s best luxury cars: we got there early, as we did with the Industrial Revolution, which is why our infrastructure is fraying, though our cars aren’t. You can argue about Rolls-Royce vs Bentley, and both be right, though the late Queen chose a Bentley for the state limousine and a Jaguar Land Rover for the state hearse in Royal Claret. (It was little discussed, for reasons of taste, but it was a very beautiful hearse. The claret was right.) Perhaps a Rolls-Royce is too elitist though; with minimal specification, it could be made to look like a crown. Here is the Bentley Flying Spur Mulliner: the Bentley

Why thieves are after your number plates

My day had started as it always does, with a near 40-mile round trip to school, then an hour’s walk in the pretty country park close to our home near Nottingham. As usual, I parked in the small car park and exchanged ‘good mornings’ and ‘beautiful weather, isn’t it?’ with the familiar faces I see most days – dog walkers, joggers and mums herding their kids to the village school. There was nothing out of the ordinary about my walk, which covers an undulating route on a track alongside the canal, through a small wood and past fields of sheep. Until I returned to my car, that is.  Straight away

The hidden benefits of smart motorways

In 2015, Holborn Underground station was suffering from serious overcrowding at peak hours, with a bottleneck forming in the space leading to the escalators. So Transport for London tried an experiment. Abandoning the usual ‘stand on the right, walk on the left’ convention, they placed signs on two of the three ascending escalators instructing people on both sides to stand. Outrage followed. But the experiment worked. Escalators with passengers standing transported an average of 151 people per minute, compared with 115 for the dual-use escalator. People cannot all walk up an escalator in strict lockstep for fear of ending up on the sex offenders register You can see why people

In praise of the speeding crackdown

We all needed a laugh, what with the pound tanking and inflation running away, my old pal Kwasi delivering a Budget, probably for a bet, like Milton Friedman’s last cheese-dream, and the threat of nuclear annihilation starting to seem like a welcome turn up for the books. Said laugh has just been obligingly provided by the Metropolitan Police. They have just, without broadcasting the fact, decided to enforce the speed limit with the tiniest bit more rigour – and as a result, they’ve nicked more than two and a half times as many people for speeding in the first six months of this year than they did in the last

Buying a brand-new car is the ultimate good deed

The Department for Transport recently ended a £1,500 subsidy towards the price of new, lower-priced electric cars one year earlier than planned. To their credit, there are better ways to promote electric-car use – for instance by encouraging the installation of public charging stations. As it is, the spread of rapid-charging stations in the UK is bizarrely uneven. Some parts of the country are well served, but there are unexpected black spots. Oddly, trendy places where people talk endlessly about sustainability – such as Oxford, Cambridge and Brighton – are hopeless for rapid charging points, while less fanciful places like Thurrock, Milton Keynes and Newport are awash with them. If

Why sat navs are a conversation killer

When my daughters learned to drive, I suggested they take their tests in automatics as driving manual cars would soon be redundant. I worry about this. Not because I think I was wrong, but because I fear that gear-changing is yet another of those once commonplace skills which may soon be lost to technology for ever, like double-declutching or the ability to memorise more than three phone numbers. As evidence of this depletion of tacit expertise, consider how the satnav has eroded map-reading skills in anyone under 40 – something which might explain why the Russian army sticks to main roads even when driving tanks. Since nobody uses printed maps

My solution to unfair traffic fines

My driveway now lies in the middle of an ‘Average Speed Check Zone’. It’s a wonderful arrangement – for me – since the slower traffic makes it easier to pull into the road. Yet I am still free to drive through the village like Fangio since average speed check cameras do not record your speed, only time taken between two points. Since I rarely drive past my house without stopping, it barely affects me at all. It’s symptomatic of a wider problem. To what extent can we truly rely on technology to replace human judgment in the administration and enforcement of rules? If a traffic camera catches one person a