Life in the fast lane

A bus lane on Camberwell New Road took £2 million in fines last year. Almost 20,000 drivers were caught using the lane illegally; typically, ‘concerned motorists’ are up in arms about it, although I’m not quite sure how much more easy it could be: don’t break the law, don’t get a fine. It does seem as if some cases could be genuine cock-ups, but 20,000 of them?

One thing’s for certain: that bus lane is a godsend to people who take the bus; it crawls all the way up to Kennington when there’s no lane, then flies to Oval and Vauxhall when the lane starts.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

54 thoughts on “Life in the fast lane”

  1. Good. “concerned motorists” is that the PC term for impatient, law breaking dimwits these days?

  2. I don’t drive and don’t defend the law breakers — in fact, I applaud the effort.

    But things will only get worse if the only solution to all our transport woes is to put on more and more and more buses. We need some alternatives.

  3. I got a ticket from this camera when I turned left into the industrial estate to drop off a package to The Young Vic management who are temporarily based there.

    I wasn’t being impatient or breaking the law. I just indicated and turned left.

    That’s enough though for tfl. I shouldn’t have been in the bus lane.

    Obviously I shouldn’t have a car either.

    Obviously I shouldn’t live in London.

  4. Needs a bit of balance — there’s nothing wrong with fining people who drive in bus lanes when they’re deliberately flouting the law in order to save themselves a couple of minutes on the way to work. These people are stupid and deserve all they get.

    On the other hand, the grasping borough councils and tfl have, by incentivising officers and using automated systems, managed to make sure that even totally reasonable drivers (as a cyclist I struggle to say these words) pay through the nose just for using the roads.

    Having said all that, and whilst agreeing with you Tommy re needing some alternatives to packing the roads with buses, I do wonder in a morning where all these people in their cars are going, and whether they really do need to be in a car. In my experience most people in London live within a few miles of work and this city has the best public transport in the country, so there’s very little excuse for anyone to get in a car in the first place.

    All old arguments I know.

  5. I live on Camberwell New Road and on occasion we’ve pulled up outside the house (in the bus lane) to unload some things too big to carry far and to date we’ve never had a ticket which has surprised me. Although I guess we never do this in rush hour, but Sunday afternoons so perhaps they do have some sense of what’s reasonable.

  6. As a driver, cyclist and bendy bus user / sufferer I like to think I have a fairly balanced view.

    1. Bus lanes are great, even when I’m sitting in traffic next to an empty bus lane I can see their value. Why they stop at 7pm, though, is beyond me — have the powers that be ever tried to get home at that time of day?

    2. The automated fine system is scandalous, it makes no distinction between an honest mistake and deliberate flouting of the law. Plus if you think you have a valid mitigating factor, you have to risk paying £150 instead of £50 if your appeal fails. So inevitably you just pay up.

    3. Whose bird-brained idea was it to put cycle lanes on pavements? As a pedestrian I have been hit by a cyclist, and as a cyclist I have almost hit someone.


  7. I also got a fine on this road, pulling over to let a police car get past. I wasn’t being impatient. Unfortunatley, there is absolutely no discretion in these matters and it’s easier just to pay the fine, than to try appealing. There are some really bad, dangerous drivers in London, whom cameras don’t necesarilly catch, yet they seem to be almost the only enforcement that goes on. Would be good to have some actual thinking, reasoning people enforcing the road laws occasionally, instead of just a machine. I am sure they are effective at keeping the bus lanes mostly free of selfish drivers, just a shame that the system is so inflexible — it undermines support for what is otherwise in the interests of everyone.

    Personally, I think cycling has got to be encouraged more than it is at present. Painting a picture of a bicycle on a busy road does not suddenly turn it into a safe cycling environment.

  8. I am experienced cyclist so if I meet a hazard of any sort these days, I get off, find a pub and have a pint and a nice roll-up cigarette.

  9. We need the Cross River Tram and The East London Line extension to relieve the congestion — simple as that — I know the property developer death-eaters will move in when that happens which is depressing — but there would be less pollution and maybe an opportunity to landscape and possibly extend Camberwell Green so that functions as a proper town park rather than a smog-filled rat-run that we try and pass through as quickly as possible — I’m pretty sick of the whole congested Walworth Road/Camberwell New Road slow trudge home…

  10. I’ll go one better and sound a broken record — the cross-river tram and the re-opening of a train station are the two factors that are both doable, and the solution to every other issue discussed on these (and similar) boards.

    But if they are not pushed, they won’t happen — or at least soon. We should be seeing actual construction given the original deadlines — now they’ve moved many times to 2016 (at the latest). I fear that will slip even further without some muscle. Why something billed as much easier to build than tunneling for tubes will take another 10 years is beyond me.

  11. TommyD — that’s what I’m getting at — both schemes are relatively affordable and uncomplicated — the tram would pass through the backstreets (which is where most people live) and the tube would connect with the fantastic Jubilee Line extension at Canada Water thus saving having to go through London Bridge and changing buses or waiting for the Victoria loop train

  12. Agreed — but I was saying it isn’t only the answer to the transport issue — but to EVERY issue we’re worried about in Camberwell…crime, lack of sustainable/desirable businesses, nice/cleaner streets, etc.…

    Is it gentrification? Probably. But I’ll say it again, I used to argue regeneration without gentrification. But now I realise you can’t have one without the other.

  13. If we could send a man to the moon in 1969 we must be able, in 2006, to find a way of fining someone who travels along a road in a bus lane and not fining someone who cuts across the lane to drop something off. Anyone who does the former deserves a fine (driving in a bus lane not going to the moon, I mean).

    Perhaps even more importantly, the authorities should be looking at people who clog box junctions by not waiting until there is space on the other side of the junction before plonking themselves in the middle of the junction. It is they who cause congestion in rush hour by blocking traffic which could otherwise move without impediment.

    Maybe car ASBOs are the way forward — banning certain vehicles from using a certain stretch of road at certain times for persistent and anti-social abuse of the public highways …

  14. A progressive society has excellent public transport — Trams,Tube and Buses (which run on Hydrogen Fuel) are the way forward and it will happen especially as London’s population will rise by another million in the next 20 years — It has to happen, then we can re-landscape our town centres and re-claim as public spaces and reverse the car before human being policy

  15. It’s a Green plank I can support, though still having difficulty with a few others. Count me in.

  16. SE5 Forum question: I attended last night. Did anyone else? Your thoughts? I left feeling a bit unsure but would love to hear thoughts from others who attended and start a conversation.

  17. Couldn’t make it I’m afraid but would love to hear the lowdown and firmly intend to be at the next one.

  18. I couldn’t make it but was a bit disappointed to see the mailing list for the SE5 forum being used to advertise a pub.

  19. I was impressed the the large turnout — and learned a lot about the ‘Southward v Lambeth’ obstacle.

    I know little of the former Camberwell Council (name?) the forum replaces. There were a few overt comments and underlying tensions suggesting it didn’t end well and some ghosts still live that could threaten the group. I hope not. Maybe I’m way off there.

    The group seemed to share a frustration with pretty similar ‘hygiene’ factors to be addressed. I do believe there are some sharp differences in how that should happen, which could challenge getting anything done.

    A good start. The next meeting is down for 4 July. A draft constitution was handed out for comment. It is a boring bit — but suspect getting it right is fundamental to any future success.

    I’m anxious to hear other views…

  20. Interesting.

    Tommy — do you know if they will be posting the draft constitution prior to the next meeting?

    Also — I wonder if anyone considered that th 4th at 8pm is a possible semi-final for England (if we get that far)? I realise not everyone is into football but nevertheless!

  21. Tommy — i’m Hannah — one of the steering group from the SE5 forum (the mouthy one with the dark hair who ran the workshop!!) I’m glad you came along and are interested. As you rightly say the constitution is dull but it’s very necessary to get right if we are to be an effective group and make some changes, so your feedback and comments are very much welcome. As we said last night we genuinely want this to work and make Camberwell a better place — not just to be another talking shop/useless committee. But it depends on everyone getting involved so it can work for all epople in Camberwell — we want it to be owned by everyone.

    Richie — If you want to see the draft constitution we can arrange to email it to you and i take your point about football on the 4th July — we may have to think about that one!!

  22. I agree Eusebiovic, a city can be judged by its public transport. I went on the 12 bendy-bus to town today and came back on the double-decker 68. Boy did I feel passive without my bike on the way in — the bendy-bus was hot and horrid. The top deck of the 68 was airy and dreamy as we sailed back down the Walworth Road. Bendy-buses may represent excellent shareholder value, but the sooner they go the better.

  23. Dagmar — I get the impression that bendy buses work better in cities which have wide boulevards and avenues but within the medieval streetplan of London’s sharp twists and turns they tend to overheat somewhat and are extremely uncomfortable — lawsuit culture killed the Routemaster, — but like you say, as long as the shareholders are happy,that’s all that matters…

  24. The bendy buses on mainland Europe have comfort cooling. Presumably removed from the London ones because “… it’s not really that hot here, is it?”

  25. also the revelation that until recently most of the bus timetables were still based on 1950’s schedules…

  26. Re: SE5 Forum

    I too was lurking at the SE5 Forum meeting. Thanks, first and foremost, to those who put in all the effort — much appreciated.

    I’m like TommyD in that I left with mixed feelings. It was great to see a wide range of people who clearly care. However, come home-time it must be said that my heart had sank a little. For me, this is down to:

    1) The same day I’d read about a couple who had been campaigning for better transport links to Camberwell since the late 60s (including organising a 4000 name petition) clearly without success. Oh God.

    2) A couple of specific things raised at the meeting, firstly regarding the leisure centre. The lady who has spearheaded the campaign painted quite a gloomy picture of the prospects for something being done in the near future. I may have heard wrongly but wasn’t there mention of it possibly still being “years off”? All the while, newly-elected Councillor Ian Wingfield, who was there, remained silent. Given that its renovation was one of his election pledges (and the subject of numerous flyers) this was worrying.

    3) Someone spoke of the importance of including non-English speakers in consultation. I feel a little uncomfortable in being against this, but this is the very kind of thing that would bog the Forum down in admin and bureaucracy, suffocate and ultimately kill it. I’ve lived abroad and if I wanted to contribute, ask for things or deal with authority I found a way of doing this in the native language. To me this is being inclusive, not the opposite (as implied). Or we can all learn Esperanto!

    As far as I’m concerned, the regeneration of Camberwell will happen when the Green and Church Street are sorted out. Simple (he says!) This is the focal point for our community, and it’s from here that positive change will radiate outwards to all parts. Church Street is a gem waiting to gleam. The renovation of the leisure centre, cleaning up of the Green and transport improvements will do this. Interestingly, the development of the Mary Datchelor site might start things off. We should note that if it does we’ll have private investment to thank, ironically.

    A more relaxed SE5 Forum gathering as soon as poss would be good. Whilst I understand the first meeting needed to be quite formal, this had an inevitable subduing effect. If it were to be held in a pub (fine by me!) could I suggest somewhere other than the S&D. Great place though this is, given Mark’s involvement I feel it would only lead to petty accusations of vested interest (of course a shame but inevitable, I fear).

    Either way, let’s stick at it. The ball is now rolling. Got a feeling though that it’s going to be tougher than I’d hoped and will involve a great deal of head banging. I’ll happily do my share!

    P.S. I’m with Richie in hoping we can avoid key sports fixtures when planning future get-togethers.)

    P.P.S. Can we start a new thread when chats “veer off” like this one? I nearly missed it. Hope you all don’t wish I had!

  27. That’s what I was trying to say: Camberwell > market forces > China > America > tonyblair > social mobility > transport > bendy buses > bend it like Beckham > own goal > is it right to support Millwall? > how about the Dark Horse as a venue? > Camberwell > market forces [etc].

  28. How about a Forum day trip to a Millwall home game next season? Tickets will be cheap.
    I really went off on one there. Back to work copeywolf…

  29. Copeywolf — please do return. Reading what you had to say gives me hope. I left feeling a bit like the “heartless Tory” someone said I sounded like. I’m really not, and the somewhat comical comment made me feel my heart had hardened.

    I hope not. But I felt the same about the ‘inclusive voices’ comment. And so many people want a magical ‘they’ do pour in money to make everything wonderful — not realising without fundamental chances it will only be destroyed again.

    As for the Leisure Centre, I too was stunned. They want to give it to Fusion and it could take years. They have failed miserably elsewhere…and years?? Was I the only one thinking: LA Fitness?

  30. Forget LA Fitness, looks like SE Fatness could do a better job.
    Someone did ask “why Fusion?” at the meeting. If the outlook is as gloomy as it seems this is a question we should ask.

  31. …or a community co-operative running it — or is suggesting something like that still a dirty thought/word?

  32. I’m not opposed to such eusebiovic — if it works. But isn’t Fusion something like that? Here’s its own decription:

    Fusion is a registered charity. It is a community-oriented organisation and any financial surpluses that are made from activities are re-invested to improve and extend it’s services and facilities. Fusion has a board all of who are unpaid.

    Sounds great on paper — but the reality is poorly run centres and a re-investment plan that means Camberwell won’t see any changes for about six years (according to folks at the meeting).

  33. I attended the SE5 Forum too. It was at its best when people gave tangible suggestions; a discount scheme for hospital workers to attract them to spend money in town centre; a local newspaper; the discussion board at SE5 Forum; a cooperative taking over the leisure centre.

    When it was at its worst though was when people with their own particular bag of chips on their shoulders monopolised the floor going on and on about their own personal bugbears. It’s a community forum, not therapy!

  34. How about we agree to let St George Develop Mary Datchelor in exchange for them lovely restoring the Leisure Centre? We’ll throw in free memberships for their residents and it’s a win-win.

  35. Sounds like the type of compromise that is usually reached with property developers…but it’s a historic site so they shouldn’t just be allowed to do what they want — Southwark Council has been responsible for a barbaric quantity of heritage destruction over the years ie: (Surrey Docks,Old Kent Road,Elephant and Castle,Peckham,Walworth,“Historic Bankside”) — funny how they only remember heritage now…I know this area was heavily bombed but I remember so much senseless destruction at the hands of the council in the 70’s & 80’s and even 90’s

  36. I say set up a community development trust, do a ten year business plan, raise 8 million, compulsorily purchase the liesure centre, knock it down, keep the front and the structure of the pool with its marvellous roof and galelry, put artists studios upstairs, state of the art gym facitilies and stuff that Camberwell Gtmnastics club need, squeeze other facilities in for yoga, and squash and sauna, a cafe and juice bar (build over the car park) oh and probably a few things I’ve forgotten on the spur of the moment.

    Um and there you are easipeasi

  37. a co-operative would mean volunteers giving up some of their spare time to help keep running costs down — reliability and strong self-discipline is the key otherwise it all falls to pieces…

  38. Camberwell Police Station is manned by volunteers, so people will give up their time for the community if you can convince them it’s worthwhile.

  39. Re SE5Forum:

    I set it up with Barbara Pattinson — coincidentally Barbara’s one of the Police Station volunteers — We’ve been in Camberwell for a long time and seen and felt the very real inertia.

    Camberwell’s held back by all sorts of circumstances that contrive to thwart the energy of individuals and single issue groups who work for positive change locally and when successes are made the people behind the success are so exhausted by the monumental effort it’s taken to get there, they have no steam left to do press releases and so on so other people get to know that something good happened.

    This really can change through a Community Forum — where the membership says as one ‘we’re not putting up with this any more’.

    It’s really about ideas, which local authorities are not good at generating. There’s loads of bright creative, highly skilled and experienced people in Camberwell as well as ‘ordinary’ folk who pretty much all want the same things as each other. Prove that these people are all working together — the work load spread out; raising money for a facilitator and fund raiser is not a fantasy — the Forum can be unimpeachable and highly effective.

    But it will take a bit of faith, staying power and work from more people than are on the Steering Group now.

    We’ve already had a few successes — I raised 5K through UnLtd to set up the SE5Forum, this on a reasoned argument for why Camberwell is a fragmented Community, how it can change with a Forum, and did a tight little business plan to back the thesis…

    They believed me. I got the grant. It’s beginning to work.

    We’ve raised more money for an event during Camebrwell Arts Festival (24 June — 4 July)

    We’ve got support from Neighbourhhod Renewal, Cambridge House and C.I.D.U. (Community Involvement and Developemnt Unit) — even Kings and the Maudsley have been very supportive — because they are victim to the same realities we all experience in Camberwell.

    Peter and Ana Gasston are behind it as well… the more successes we ahve the more effective we’ll become, the more people will want to join in and help — the less work there will be for individuals and the more effective it will become. I’m not just being an idealist.

    Community Wardens and Police are behind us and if we just become a little more representative we can nail the Fusion issue and all the rest. There is much to do.


    The info from the Thursday meeting will be out soon, the draft constitution on the website and the membership’s growing all the time. WE’ll be propely constituted by early July (4 July in your diaries at Cambridge House for the next official meeting).

    As for an informal meeting — the Dark Horse is one possibility

    Or Upstairs at Funky Munky or at the Castle.


  40. I happened to hear Vanessa Feltz on BBC London the other day and there was a great North v South London debate — As usual a variety North London snobs phoned up to tar us all with the same brush and boast about how much nicer it was where the more “civilised” people live — Until Rob Liddle (Guardian Journalist and Lefty) phoned up and made a passionate defence of South London and said the South East has a bad reputation but it pretty nice up to and including most of Camberwell and that it was the architects and council planners who contributed to the problems in the areas nearer the river — Many phoned to say that it’s no excuse (including Vanessa) and he replied — “Okay turn the tube map upside down and imagine North London had the stations South has access to and Vice Versa — and then you begin to see why South is always seen as the poor relation when in fact large parts of South London are every bit as good, if not better than a lot of North London” — Vanessa reluctantly agreed, no more snobs phoned in — Liddle nailed the argument, good man!!!

  41. Cause and effect worry each other. The poorer the borough, the less money they have for “vision”. We registered our new nipper’s birth yesterday in Camberwell but she was born in Lambeff at King’s, poor mite. She is two and a half months old. Lambeth have a backlog of such admin, so for a newborn baby she is now an old lady. I note the new chief admin CEO type-bod at Millwall was sent in to “sort out” Lambeth. In poorer boroughs, you can get the worst of both worlds, management-consulted (shrunk-down) set-ups staffed by British-Rail syndromed, beleaguered officials. Still, Eusebiovic, do we really want those North London enlightened ones coming here on gleaming public transport to darken our individualistic doorstep? Perhaps they should pay a “nob & snob” congestion charge when they do, which could fund our Camberwellian revels, artistic shenanigans and the very do-it-ourselves, made-from-string-and-brown-paper, what-on-earth-to-expect-nextness that their tonyblair-robot, theme park lives lack. (tonyblair reminds me of Torchy the Battery Boy.) Can’t we get this thread up to 50 messages?

  42. Dagmar — Of course but you’ll never get a North London snob to realise that…they take far too much for granted because as you say they lead insulated lives

  43. Mind you, Camberwell is unusually mixed for south London, which is what makes it good. East Dulwich, for instance, has become a kind of Channel 4 ghetto full of young dads braying into mobile phones accompanied by their 2.4 kids.

  44. First Dagmar — beautifully written post. Hopefully your day job utlises your gift.

    Second, North Camberwell (east and west) and South Camberwell are two different worlds really. South trying to grapple with preserving the wonderful mix without the downsides of gentrification. Up north we’re just trying to see a small glimmer of improvements.

    Overall, it brings me back to the same broken record: can you have regeneration without gentrification? I don’t think so. But I realise others remain hopeful. I think it is the fundamental issue that bogs down any group working for change: the breaking point if you will that has let many to feel the way one person responding to my survey saying: ‘Camberwell lures you in with great promise of a bright future — then spits you out when you realise others have tried for decades only to give up before their broken spirit destroys what’s left of them’.

    A bit harsh maybe, but there it is.


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