Driving UK society to a new ‘wild west’?

If we can get away with it, it’s OK. Our leaders don’t follow the rules, so neither will we. It’s every man and woman for themselves. We are all Thatcher’s children. Grab what you can before anyone else does.

I put it that such is starting to characterise what is happening to our UK society which was once thought to be very stable and law-abiding.

A process that has probably been well in train and developing for many years seems to have accelerated since lockdown, indeed you could say it’s been driven with the foot very much down to the boards. The end result is one of us becoming a more self-centred and isolationist society. Wasn’t it Thatcher who said there’s no such thing as society? Well in 2021 that’s even more true than when she said it 40 years ago. We seem to have a significant section of present-day society that does not see itself as being a part of anything much at all and certainly not part of a neighbourhood or community, and very much not part of a wider world!

You see this most obviously on our ‘wild west’ roads where pretty much anything goes these days. I never fail to be troubled, and this is pretty much every time I leave our house by cycle or car, at lunatic driving. Not just breaking the speed limit but doubling it and red-light running is something I now expect to see at every traffic-lighted junction and Pelican Crossing as opposed to a once in a blue moon thing it was say 20 years ago. Litter comes tumbling out of cars at junctions, even dirty nappies. Anyone who drives at or just below the speed limit is hounded by abusive drivers who feel entitled to do whatever speed they wish and who know the chances of being caught doing it by the powers that be are all but non-existent.

And then I look at our wretched government which seems to lead this wild west society by doing just as it pleases and beggar the consequences. Yes, of course, I’m no Tory so I do have an axe to grind against them but surely the modern Tory Party is a world away from what it once was? A party which has always had its spivs and wide boys but which kept them firmly in the background now seems to celebrate dodgy doings and those who do them!

My Dad’s family were working-class Tories living in a council house but with a few unfortunate exceptions, in terms of beliefs, they were decent and law-abiding. The exceptions being, anti-semitism and anti-Catholicism. Dad died in 2009 but even back then he was clearly troubled by the declining standards within the Tory Party; his views on Johnson are unprintable. He once told me that his concerns mirrored what he saw as the decline in his much loved Daily Telegraph newspaper. He could not be doing with dishonesty and could not understand the drift of the Tory Party he had been a member (off and on) and supporter of his whole adult life.

Yet will this drift towards a wild west-type society be tackled or have we gone too far for any politicians to have the guts to stand against selfishness, I know best and sod everyone else I’m doing what I want attitudes? I have my doubts as bit by bit Johnson has been taking us towards a Trumpian-type society and it is very difficult having in effect endorsed a ‘do as you please there’ll be no consequences’ approach to then haul that back. That horse has bolted and the opposition looks too weak and ineffective to address matters; best to not see what’s going on.

As a Social Liberal, my guiding principle is along the lines of we should be free to do as we wish so long as we are not harming others and the environment in exercising our freedoms. If we learn that what we doing is hurting others/the environment then we should try to restrain our freedoms accordingly, but I appreciate that many Conservatives and indeed Labour supporters would not support such a view of our world.

On the whole, I’m pessimistic about our direction of travel not least because it will inevitably lead to the poor becoming poorer and the powerful grabbing an even bigger share of our ever more unequal society.

Lydiate – The racetrack called Southport Road

Cllr. Edie Pope outside her Southport Road farm shop. The notorious accident black spot is in the background.

This week’s Champion newspaper is highlighting the dangerous nature of Lydiate’s Southport Road and they are to be congratulated on an excellent article by reporter Danielle Thompson.

The vast majority of Southport Road has a 30mph limit – that’s not a target but a maximum! Frankly, the reality is that the road is little more than a racetrack from the Maghull boundary with few vehicles keeping to the maximum speed. The part of it which is 40mph runs from Lydiate Abbey to the Merseyside boundary just past St Thomas’ Church where the road becomes Mairscough Lane. It is this latter section where Cllr. Edie Pope has her farm and shop and where she fought to get the speed limit reduced to 40mph a few years back due to the number and regularity of serious accidents. Despite Edie’s efforts, this 40 mph section is also a racetrack and not so long ago Lydiate Parish Council called upon Merseyside Police to take enforcement action to try to curb excessive speeding.

Here’s Danielle’s excellent article:-

Nice to see a really good piece of local journalism – the late Jim Sharpe would have been proud of Danielle.

Speeding – Is it an addiction akin to alcoholism/drugs?

There can be little doubt that driving standards have plunged during lockdown and that this has mainly manifested itself via excessive speeding. That’s certainly been my experience travelling around Sefton and West Lancashire by car, cycle and indeed walking.

We had quite a number of weeks when there was little or no traffic on our roads and this seemingly became an invitation to those who enjoy/can’t resist speeding to put their clogs to the floor in both urban and rural areas regardless of pretty much anything. ‘We can so we will’ and they certainly have been doing! Maybe they thought the police would be enforcing social distancing and would not be bothered about speeding?

But now speeding become the norm will the petrol heads slow down as our roads are pretty much back to what they used to be? Frankly I’m not sure. Yes they’ll be slowed by the weight of traffic but will the urge to speed mean they’ll take greater risks to get past anything which slows them down? Or put another way once you’ve had a taste of speeding and done it regularly can you stop the addiction?

I’d like to see the stats for speeding enforcement on Merseyside and in Lancashire during lockdown as logically more speeding tickets should have been handed out assuming of course that police resources have not been reallocated elsewhere.

But what are our two local police forces going to do to try to normalise traffic speeds? Letting them rise was an inadvertent consequence of less traffic on our roads, bring them back down may well be a much harder task.

And yes I know some of you reading this will say the police have better things to do than fine motorists but you may have a different thought if a relative or friend is killed walking a country lane, cycling a local road or even being in a vehicle hit by another driven far too fast.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the most important and vulnerable thing on our highways is the pedestrian followed by cyclists. Only after that come powered vehicles.

My point in raising this issue once again is that if someone is caught say 2nd or 3rd time speeding within a specified period then is there not a reason to look upon that driver as someone with an addiction problem who needs help? They may also need to be stopped driving until their addiction has been tackled.

‘And he drove the fastest milkcart in the west’ – and serious speeding matters too

Edie Pope’s scarecrow traffic cop on Southport Road Lydiate, which is meant to make drivers think about their speed.

Yes a line from that well known Benny Hill song. But the other day whilst on one of my solo fitness cycle rides I came across a rival to Ernie (for that was the name of the fastest milkman in the west) on Northway/A59 in Aughton.

I was just about to exit Winifred Lane when down the hill from the Ormskirk direction came a milk float doing a fair old lick. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one doing more than 15 mph and that with a following wind too. But the ‘souped up’ one I saw made me smile and that daft old song came back to mind.

Then a few days later another surprising experience with another vehicle we usually see going very slowly – a bin wagon. But this one was out at 8.30pm (never seen one out that late before) and it hurtled along Southport Road, Lydiate in a northerly direction at what must have been well above the 30mph speed limit. Indeed, it went so fast I could not read the signs upon it!

But it was not your usual Sefton Council bin wagon; much smaller and probably with a ‘Jaguar engine’ added to give Police cars a run for their money:-) Again the experience made me smile but this time grimace as well.

These two somewhat bizarre events happened with our roads being generally very quiet as a consequence of our health crisis. But sadly there is a real issue underneath as speeding in this crisis is happening everywhere and most of the time. Clear roads have given petrol heads or at least the most irresponsible of them what they think is a green light to drive at whatever speed suits them and beggar the consequences/speed limits.

Being a cyclist I notice speeding and frankly the antics are off the scale during this crisis whether it be in a ‘bin lorry’ or a car. It’s ironic that at the request of a fellow Lydiate Parish Councillor, Neil Spencer, Merseyside Police had a speed trap on Southport Road in Lydiate just before our health crisis hit. Now we have far less vehicles on this busy road but many of them have drivers with their clog firmly down to the boards. If this continues there’s bound to be a terrible accident……..

Stop Press – An as if to emphasise the point I’ve been trying to make about speeding a lady driver nearly did for me on the Ashworth Motorway junction this morning. Due to the road works around the junction the contractors temporarily sealed off the access to the cycle track around it about a week ago. This in turn forces cyclists onto the island itself and what I’ve always got my eye out for happened this morning i.e. a car from the Melling direction came hurtling around the island and found me crossing the entrance to the eastbound carriageway of the M58. But not content with having to slow down to avoid me she then blew her horn as if I had no right to be there! I was cycling around a roundabout for goodness sake, that meant I had right of way. OL she was just a bad tempered driver but if she had not been driving so fast……. Oh and by the way where are the signs warning drivers that cyclists will be in the road? If there are any I didn’t see them.

Lydiate (and everywhere else) – The quest for speed and how it impacts on our lives

Southport Road, Lydiate

This is a matter I have oft thought about and not necessarily in the way you might think.

Yes, we all see the mad drivers blasting through our communities at a rate of knots neither aware or caring about the potential consequences of their actions. Indeed, in my own community of Lydiate there are growing concerns from Joe and Jane Public about irresponsible speeding along Southport Road and Moss Lane and I’m quite sure others can add to these two roads.

To his credit local Labour Parish Councillor Neil Spencer is trying to get the powers that be (Sefton Council and Merseyside Police) to address this problem and I’m with him all the way. I’ve previously tried to get Moss Lane’s speeding addressed and the rural part of it was reduced to 40mph a few years back. And my Parish Council colleague Edie Pope campaigned for the speed restriction to be reduced to 40mph along the section of Southport Road where it becomes Mairscough Lane because it’s a notorious accident black spot near the junction with Church Lane. But, and its a big but, bringing in lower speed restrictions does not stop the mad drivers who want to blast along at 50, 60 or even 70mph as they don’t really care. So good luck to Neil, let’s have another go at trying to make Lydiate’s roads safer.

Edie Pope outside her Southport Road farm shop. The notorious accident black spot is in the background.

But to me this speeding problem is probably far more deeply seated in our way of life than we may realise. Everything has to be quick, immediate and now. Our working lives are all about doing things faster to save costs and boost productivity. We leave too shorter time to get from one place to another, probably because we are either too optimistic about how long a journey will take or because everything we do is at 90mph so to speak. In turn all this causes much stress an anxiety so should we really be surprised if it produces more and more racing car drivers on our streets? Just a thought……..

Edie Pope’s scarecrow traffic cop from 2019, which was meant to make drivers think about their speed.