GOOD luck getting to the polling station for today’s local elections.
I can’t remember a time when getting about Britain was a more hostile business.
An unofficial war on motorists has turned driving into an obstacle course of low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs), bus lane cameras, parking fines, low emission zones and other bizarre restrictions which seem to pop up at whim.
In Leeds, 11,000 motorists were fined £30 each in just six weeks after failing to understand the meaning of the words “bus gate” which had been painted on the road. It apparently meant that only buses could now use that short stretch of road.
In that case, the fines were cancelled, but others have been less lucky.
In Hammersmith, West London, cameras to police a box junction raked in £3.2million in fines in just three years.
Motorists, of course, shouldn’t block junctions, but as the RAC warned yesterday, many box junctions are simply badly designed.
In the case of one in Hammersmith, it is followed a few yards later with traffic lights.
If the lights change while you are passing through, you don’t have a hope of avoiding a whacking £130 fine.
Until recently, only councils in London were allowed to levy fines for minor traffic violations.
But in spite of the scandalous way they have been used there, the Government has foolishly extended the powers to provincial councils too.
Many of the councillors standing for re-election today were last elected in 2019.
Did the leaflets featuring their grinning mugs tell you that your neighbourhood would be turned into an LTN and plastered with CCTV cameras to catch you out for taking a short cut?
Did they heck. Many of these traffic schemes popped up from nowhere during the pandemic, supposedly in order to help people get about by cycle and foot when they might have been wary of travelling by public transport.
But, surprise, surprise, the schemes have magically become permanent.
It is perhaps no wonder they have started to be damaged, with fed-up motorists cutting down traffic-calming bollards — sometimes setting them on fire.
There seems to be no stopping councils’ enthusiasm for so-called “15-minute cities” — where all necessities, such as shops, schools, parks etc, should be reachable by a 15-minute walk or bike ride from any point in the city.
These have been proposed in Oxford, Canterbury in Kent and several other cities.
Fine, let’s have a planning policy which tries to make sure that all the basic essentials of life are all within walking distance.
But why does the lofty ideal of 15-minute cities always seem to end with yet more CCTV cameras and tighter restrictions for cars that generate more eye-watering fines?
Unable to jack up council taxes without holding referendums (which of course they would lose) councils have set upon the idea of fleecing motorists instead.
And of course there is Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone which from August will be extended to cover the whole of London.
Everyone wants clean air — and pollution has already fallen dramatically in the past 70 years — but why a tax which falls specifically on poorer motorists who can’t afford to replace 15-year-old cars?
Brand new limos and supercars are entirely exempt.
It isn’t just a war on motorists, though.
Punitive-minded councils and public transport operators don’t seem to want us to get about by any method.
Never have the roads been so riddled with potholes — bad and expensive enough for motorists but even more lethal for cyclists.
In Cambridge, councillors spent £2.3million adding cycle lanes to a single roundabout, which has increased accidents, while the rest of the city is pocked with deep holes.
Besides trying to drive motorists off the roads, Sadiq Khan has announced that we will no longer be able to buy Travelcards which, since the 1980s, have allowed train passengers from outside London to buy a single ticket covering travel in the capital as well as bus and Tube journeys around it.
In many cases it will mean a day out in London costing an extra tenner.
Train operators have come up with their own devious money-making schemes.
A poster suddenly appeared at my local station announcing that the fine for travelling without a ticket has been increased from £20 to £100, just at the time the sole ticket machine on the platform went out of action for several weeks.
It is the same with many car parks, which until recently you could pay for via a ticket machine at the roadside but which now can only be paid for by mobile phone.
Yet some motorists don’t have smartphones, and even if they do, reception is often too poor to make a connection.
We do bear some responsibility for imposing these daft schemes on ourselves.
For too many years we have been treating local elections as referendums on the Westminster Government, ignoring local issues as we cast our vote.
There is only one way we can stop this.
If we do succeed in getting to the polling station, we should vote out the councillors who brought in daft measures which made our journey such a misery.
If a badly designed road scheme meant a lost council seat, they would soon get the message.