* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

Jakesy's School of Urban Driving

16 October 2003
James takes a lesson in automotive etiquette.

OY YOU WANG-ER! We'll come back to him in a minute. Now, first things first, the beginning: You've just passed your test, learnt the rules of the road, proper due care and caution, mirror - signal - manoeuvre, and now, legally and with the full backing of the law, you can pilot a ton and a half of nearly solid metal through these crowded labyrinthine streets packed with maniacs, dopey pedestrians, psycho psychlists and glued-up schoolboys on scooters! Learning on pleasant country roads where the most dangerous thing you'll encounter is some roadkill is all very nice, but why do you think the tube is so bloody busy? Precisely, because people are too scared to drive in London. And so they should be. Leave your Range Rover in the double garage in Surbiton, please. And stay on the trains where you belong.

Now this where I come in. I run a service whereby I try to impart my knowledge and many years of experience of driving in this dirty town to people who need a bit of help finding their urban driving feet. When I first meet them, they are meek, too meek, and are getting intimidated by the slightest raising of the revs or hand gesture. But by the time they leave they have ain an understanding of how the roads of this city work, know what to keep their eye out for, and can get around without any feeling of apprehension.

So, what do I do? Well, it's like a normal driving lesson really. They drive, in my dual control Mondeo, and I assist. I normally start with some simple rules. Like always stop at zebra crossings. Only arseholes and blind people go through zebra crossings when there are people waiting. Because to be a good driver in London is not about being aggressive, it's about knowing the rules, the first one of which is to be confident that you are a good driver. And if you're a good driver, you stop at zebra crossings.

But the thing I must drill into my students is that you must drive predictably. You are driving in London, and all other road users will therefore assume certain things about you. And conversely, to drive unpredictably is to drive dangerously. A classic example is this. You are driving at normal speed (38mph) down a straight stretch of road, and you see a car on the right wanting to pull out in front of you. This being the big city, they are undoubtedly creeping forward. There are no other carts around, so what do you do? You accelerate. There is no traffic behind you, so you are not going to trap the other car behind a long stream. And most importantly, they are expecting you to. If you slow down because you think they might pull out in front of you, then they will. And if they hesitate because they wonder why the hell you're slowing down, then you will probably have decided to speed up again.

Think of it like one of those pavement two-steps where you and the other person keep second guessing each other and eventually you crash. Well, you don't want to crash, do you.

So, the art to urban driving, is being predictable, and being able to tell what other roads users are most likely to do. And the best way to help this is, when someone else on the road does something unpredictable, then you may parp, shout your gesticulate at them. Much of my teaching goes into the art of balanced road shouting, so that the target of your remonstration does not over react.

But the aim of your shouting is a purely social one. The incident may be over, and the perpetrator never broke any legal laws, but by shouting, or bird-flipping, you may reduce the likelihood that that person would do it again. That driver may be someone who hasn't been lucky enough to have had expert guidance like you, so take pity.

Let's leave this at lesson one. Next time, we'll go through the proper hierarchy, from Smart cars, through psychlists, buses, Beemers with blacked out windows, to white vans and cabs. And correct speed camera and speed bump procedures. Thanks, now that'll be a pony.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
16 October 2003. James writes: Jakesy's School of Urban Driving
24 September 2003. James writes: Chapter One
4 September 2003. James writes: The Silicon Soul
14 August 2003. James writes: A Room With 100 Seats
24 July 2003. James writes: English For Beginners
3 July 2003. James writes: Coldplay are crap. Discuss.
9 June 2003. James writes: It Takes All Sorts
22 May 2003. James writes: Lesson 2: Buying his Gran for a tenner
1 May 2003. James writes: Rosencrantz and Leytonstone
10 April 2003. James writes: Character Building
20 March 2003. James writes: So This Is It. What Are We Going To Do About It?
27 February 2003. James writes: Street Level Zero
6 February 2003. James writes: Reference: James Noteworthy
16 January 2003. James writes: Kissing George Clooney for just £99!
26 December 2002. James writes: Hongkong In Four Tableaux
5 December 2002. James writes: We Are Your Idea
14 November 2002. James writes: The Knight Of Spring Fervent
24 October 2002. James writes: Go On, Be Honest
7 October 2002. James writes: Cold Comfort
12 September 2002. James writes: Peas In A Pod
22 August 2002. James writes: Seed Investment
1 August 2002. James writes: We Are QPR
11 July 2002. James writes: The Road to Ossuna
20 June 2002. James writes: Pret A Teleporter
27 May 2002. James writes: A Play On Words
2 May 2002. James writes: Labour Saving Device
8 April 2002. James writes: Beggaring Belief
14 March 2002. James writes: Small Things
18 February 2002. James writes: Drop Dead Letters
24 January 2002. James writes: High-Rise Rhapsody
27 December 2001. James writes: My drift's too hip to resist.
6 December 2001. James writes: My Lord Has No Nose
12 November 2001. James writes: A Job For Life
18 October 2001. James writes: Which is the cleverest animal?
24 September 2001. James writes: Interview With An Automatum
30 August 2001. James writes: Each To Their Own
6 August 2001. James writes: An Escape, In Sonata Form
12 July 2001. James writes: Truckloads Of Goodies
18 June 2001. James writes: There's No Such Thing As A Coincidence
24 May 2001. James writes: It's All True - The Paper Says So
30 April 2001. James writes: A Letter From Prisyn
16 April 2001. James writes: I Quit
15 March 2001. James writes: An Essay In Procrastination
15 February 2001. James writes: Confessions Of An English Sand-Eater
22 January 2001. James writes: The Future And The Pasta
28 December 2000. James writes: Never drink with men in red
4 December 2000. James writes: The Underground
9 November 2000. James writes: Right answer. Wrong answer
16 October 2000. James writes: The March of Proudfoot: Part I
21 September 2000. James writes: You haven't got a chance
28 August 2000. James writes: Bad, man. Wicked
24 July 2000. James writes: I play games with street lamps

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