November 25, 2006

An appeal is when you ask one court to show its contempt for another court.” (Finley Peter Dunne)

Islington Council has now rejected the representation I made against the PCN. Not surprising really because all I wrote was “I did not commit the traffic contravention alleged overleaf”. Judging by their reply, that must have caused some confusion. I have scanned the rejection letter and posted it as a PDF document.

It’s obvious that all but one paragraph is a standard rejection letter pre-loaded into the word processor. The fourth paragraph is the only one specific to my case. To my eyes as a fully paid up member of the Lynn Truss Society of Pedants for the Protection of the English Language I am appalled at the fundamental linguistic mistakes contained therein. Perhaps we should start to believe those scaremongers who say that kids are currently leaving school unable to read and write properly.

Let’s take it one sentence at a time and see if we can decode it:

“Photographs show your vehicle in the box junction at 19 seconds passed 12.13 and only leaving it at 33 seconds passed.” Hmm!

“19 seconds passed”, shouldn’t that be “19 seconds past”? And what does “12.13” mean? It is customary to denote time using a colon like “12:13”. It would have been better just to write “12:13:19”.

So now comes the fallacious logical deduction: “This clearly means you were stopped inside the box junction”. No it doesn’t! It means I was observed in the box at 12:13:19 and leaving the box at 12:13:33. For all any reader knows from the description thus far I could have been practising three point turns for the whole 14 second period.

“An automatic PCN would only have been issued by the CCTV cameras if you had been stopped.” Oh my gawd, send in the Grammar Police! So now we have automatic PCNs (are there manual PCNs as well?), and is the CCTV responsible for issuing them – really? Perhaps there are no humans involved at all? Maybe this letter was written by some crude AI computer program? It certainly looks like it.

I am speechless – so I will continue to let my fingers do the talking.

What are the odds that my appeal will be allowed (allowed = I win)? From what I can tell from the PATAS newsletters, challenges against Islington moving traffic PCNs only started between January and March 2006. During that period 13 cases were closed, 12 were allowed and 1 refused. Of the 12 that were allowed only 1 was contested by Islington! The remaining 11 were not contested – why?

In the next quarter April – June 2006 (the latest available figures) 39 cases were closed, 30 were allowed and 9 refused. This time 18 were ‘no contests’. According to PATAS there are no cases on file involving Islington Council and yellow box junctions. I can’t believe that I am the first. Perhaps a good proportion of the uncontested cases involve box junctions. I wonder if I can find out?

The big problem for a campaigner like me is that if I appeal with a counter-allegation, claiming that Islington is operating illegally, they will most likely not bother to contest it. That would then leave them free to continue operating illegally secure in the knowledge that 99.99% of the PCNs will get paid without a murmur of protest. The fact that they do not contest the appeal cannot be viewed as an admission of guilt.

Wish me luck!


Education, Education, Err…

November 24, 2006

“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” (Will Durant)

Imagine my surprise when I saw this poster on the back of a London bus recently:


Hats off to Transport for London, I thought, for indulging in a little education rather than enforcement, even if it is a fraction late; after all, they have been relieving us of our hard earned cash for a couple of years now for minor moving traffic offences. Hmm, bit of a misnomer that. How can it be a moving traffic offence when you are caught stationary in a yellow box?

Anyway the campaign “Know the Rules” started at the beginning of November and will run until early December. You can read the press release here. They have also produced an accompanying leaflet.

So I showed this poster to my son. He took one glance at it and said, “Well that’s stupid. All three vehicles are committing an offence!” Take a closer look:


The law states “…a vehicle which is stationary or stops within a box junction includes a vehicle which is stationary whilst part of it is within the box junction”. Legally all three vehicles in the picture are “within the box”. OK the black one is marginal, but it is deliberately depicted as overlapping the yellow line.

The law also says “no person shall cause a vehicle to enter the box junction so that the vehicle has to stop within the box junction due to the presence of stationary vehicles.” Well Mr Black has stopped in the box and is blocking Ms Blue, so they both qualify for PCNs. Mrs Silver is being blocked by Ms Blue.

“Ha!” you say, “but her exit is clear”. Sorry, read the law above again. It does not say anything about exits. Mrs Silver has stopped due to the presence of a stationary Ms Blue. “OK then, but Mrs Silver is turning right.” In this case Mrs Silver is in the box and in the clear. You can enter and stop in the box when turning right. The law allows for the fact that you can be held up because of oncoming traffic or other stationary vehicles.

So there you have it; three PCNs. That will be £300 please, or £150 if you pay within 14 days. Kerrching! Mrs Silver can appeal to PATAS – the chances are she won’t bother.

Now where did I put the phone number of that tabloid journalist so that we can all have a laugh?

Common Sense

November 18, 2006

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

If you dig around on Transport for London’s website you can find some interesting documents. As I am a bit of a techie I find much of the detail interesting, but on the whole many of these documents seem to offer a common sense approach to traffic management. We must assume that their primary audience consists of the traffic management and enforcement departments of the Local Councils who after all are the people tasked with ‘greasing the flow’ of vehicles through their patch.

We are supposed to believe that the purpose of traffic enforcement is to reduce congestion and hence increase traffic flow; OK at lot of it is biased towards getting the buses to run faster and on time – no bad thing. So, let us put aside for one moment the belief that the purpose of enforcement is to gain more revenue, and concentrate solely on the effectiveness of the various methods of enforcement.

TfL have subjected their policy of using CCTV enforcement to external review by a team from the Technical University of Berlin “…who have particular expertise in cameras from a variety of EU funded projects. They have assessed and quantified the impact of camera enforcement on compliance using established social modelling techniques.”

Now here’s the interesting bit:

“Their modelling study found that the visibility of the enforcement system plays a major part in its effectiveness. It is drivers’ awareness of their potential visibility to the enforcement system that is crucial for maintaining compliance, and this in turn is reinforced by the visibility of the system to drivers who may consider contravening the regulations.”

In other words if you really want to make drivers comply with the regulations you put up large clear signs and you make the cameras highly visible. But hang on, isn’t that what happens with speed cameras already? You put clear (as in unambiguous), visible signs showing a camera and the speed limit, you paint the camera yellow and ensure it is not hidden, and bingo, your offending rate goes down. It’s common sense really.

The TfL review goes on to question the effectiveness of PCNs:

“The researchers have demonstrated that the impact of reactive mechanisms, where drivers are sent penalty notices after infringing the rules, such as being caught in the act by a camera, are now lower overall than the impact of proactive mechanisms, which deter drivers from committing the offence in the first place. The impact of the issuing of PCNs on compliance occurs after a time delay of one month, which is assumed to relate to the delay between committing the offence and receiving the notice.”

Note that because of the delay you can potentially be caught (and fined) committing the same offence over and over again because you are unaware of the surveillance and enforcement until you start receiving PCNs.

So there you have it, overt, not covert surveillance is the key to reducing the number of traffic contraventions; be proactive and help drivers to avoid committing an offence, and not reactive by issuing PCNs at the drop of a hat. It all makes total sense.

The quotes are taken from the same report (Traffic Enforcement: Impact Analysis and Future Strategies) used for my post ‘Numb3rs’ below.

Decisions, decisions

November 17, 2006

“He who only knows his side of the case knows little of that” (John Stuart Mill)

The Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) pubishes a very small selection of case judgments on their website. There is any one published case pertaining to yellow box junctions, that of Place Invaders -v- TfL.

However, if you get in touch they are very helpful and I have obtained copies of the judgements for Fielden -v- TfL and Greene -v- Camden Council. Apparently there are over 400 cases relating to yellow box junctions! I shall make it my mission to get hold of them and publish as much as possible that is useful.

You will see a lot of references to figures 1043 and 1044 in documents relating to box junctions. Well here they are.

As an aside be warned the PATAS website is technically very poor and only works with MS Internet Explore. If, like me you use Firefox, their pages look a mess.

Pressing the Case

November 15, 2006

“Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.” (Lily Tomlin)


I know it’s not very British to complain, but it does sometimes produce results – see this article about “money-making” traffic cameras. My thanks to Charlotte, the Lois Lane of the Islington Gazette, for covering the story.


November 14, 2006

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. (Benjamin Disraeli)


I love a good riddle, don’t you?

Question: What is the difference between a yellow box junction with a CCTV camera and a toll booth?

Answer: The yellow box junction does not delay traffic quite as much as a toll both, and not everybody has to pay!

If you don’t believe me then look at page 18 of Traffic Enforcement: Impact Analysis and Future Strategies from our friends at TfL. They have confirmed what we all knew anyway that the enforcement of box junctions using CCTV is nothing more than a revenue producing scheme (scam). I quote:

“The … table below highlight[s] the results of our monitoring of the pilot and subsequent enforcement activities. Across TfL’s enforcement sites there was an overall reduction of 23% in the incident rate during the course of the pilot. This is coupled with an average 4% reduction in the traffic flow.”

  Pre-pilot End of Pilot
Average traffic flow, vph: 1,015 970
Observed incidents per hour: 10.43 7.96
Incident/flow ratio: 1.02% 0.82%

We are told that the purpose of the traffic enforcement is to reduce congestion. These figures demonstrate that putting cameras on a box junction only serves to reduce the traffic flow.

Referring to the junction of Upper Street and Islington Green (in Islington of course):

“During the first six months of enforcement an average rate of 15.8 incidents per hour of enforcement was observed.”

OK I’ll do the maths for you.

That’s 15.8 x 12 (hours) x 365 (days) = 69,204 incidents/per year

Assuming on average they collect £50 allowing for some sucessful appeals etc. that’s an income of:

69,204 x 50 = £3,460,200 per annum

Gravy train, or what?

The report also says:

“Follow-up surveys will be done in June 2006 to coincide with the second anniversary of the start of enforcement.”

I haven’t managed to find these, but when I do you will be the first to know.


Jeroen Weimar, TfL’s director of transport enforcement, said: “We are concerned by the results because the justification for the cameras was that they would improve traffic flow.”

My thanks to the helpful people at the Association of British Drivers for steering me towards this information.

Challenging Times

November 13, 2006

Today’s the day I send off my challenge to the Penalty Charge Notice. I went to see my solicitor on Friday and he was appalled by the content of the PCN. Interestingly, he said that the technique of offering people a discounted fine to plead guilty was being used increasingly in the courts. I guess that’s one way of clearing the backlog of cases.

We discussed various options, and having thought about it over the weekend I have decided that the next step will be a challenge. I will tick box B “The contravention did not take place. (please explain below)”. To avoid prejudicing the case I will refrain from detailing my explanation until I get a response. So, in a few days either the PCN will be cancelled, or if the challenge is rejected I shall be granted the right of appeal to the London Parking and Traffic Appeals Service.

One of my (many) gripes is about the misleading wording of this sentence on the PCN:

“Once representations have been considered we will inform you of the decision, and will, if necessary, inform you of how to appeal to the Independent Traffic Adjudicator. ”

Because capital letters have been used you might think that there is an office or agency called the Independent Traffic Adjudicator. Well you can Google it ‘till you’re blue in the face; nothing is out there with that name. What it should say is:

“…how to appeal to the London Parking and Traffic Appeals Service.” (acronym PATAS)

Or if they insist on obfuscation:

“…how to appeal to an independent traffic adjudicator. ”

If you live outside London then you appeal to the National Parking Adjudication Service.

I have come across one more publicised successful appeal where a yellow box at the junction of Southampton Row and Proctor Street was ruled to be “unenforceable”. We need a lot more cases like this and that of Dr. Fielden.