Tag Archives: Mayor of London

The plague of gum on our streets and pavements

the chewing gum scourge is costing us all – as taxpayers – millions of pounds a year

My message to the gum-chewers of Britain is if you chew, then swallow, too. And if you can’t swallow it, then find a bin or face a fine

 

I was standing outside the new Tube station at Shepherd’s Bush last week, and marvelling at the regeneration that can be achieved by sensible investment in transport. The proprietor of a local coffee-cum-ice-cream bar was telling me how much better things were going, and how many new customers he was getting from the nearby Westfield shopping centre, when another man seized me by the elbow.

“Mr Boris,” he said, in tones of despair and an accent that suggested he was not native to London, “what are you going to do about all this?” As I followed the sweep of his arm, I saw the gleaming London Underground signs, and the capacious concourses, and the happy crowds of shoppers and commuters milling in ergonomically efficient patterns over the spanking piazzas; and then – beneath our very feet – I saw what he was driving at.

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Should children cycle to school?

Every so often I find a new hero. I read in the papers of some individual who is managing to swim against the glutinous tide of political correctness.

In this age of air-bagged, mollycoddled, infantilised over-regulation it can make my spirits soar to discover that out there in the maquis of modern Britain there is still some freedom fighter who is putting up resistance against the encroachments of the state; and when I read of their struggle I find myself wanting to stand on my chair and cheer, or perhaps to strike a City Hall medal in their honour.

Such were my feelings yesterday morning when I read of my new hero, or heroes, to be precise. We are talking of a married couple from Dulwich, south London, by the name of Oliver and Gillian Schonrock. I have not been able to contact this illustrious pair – since it didn’t seem fair to phone them up on a Sunday – but if the papers are right, they deserve the thanks of us all. They have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety. And for this effrontery they are, of course, being persecuted by the authorities.

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Just Like Riding A Bike

Will the new London bike share program be perfect? Probably not. But at least you all have the courage and wisdom to try.

gotham girlWhen we settled on bike share programs as the subject of this week’s Gotham Girl, I admit – I was worried. I wasn’t worried about the new Barclays Cycle Hire. I find that very exciting and clearly so does Boris. The closer we draw to the July 30th launch – yes, July 30th! Just a little over a month! –  the giddier he seems.

I wasn’t worried about finding facts and figures on bike share programs. These facts and figures are everywhere – in discussions on urban planning, mass transit, environmental issues, health, energy conservation, etc. Nor was I worried that I’d struggle to find an array of opinions. Plenty of people on both sides of the debate share their views with little prompting needed.

So what was my problem? I was worried that I was going to spend too much time whining about New York City’s lack of a bike share program. It’s ridiculous that we don’t have one, that we’re not even planning one. Of course, even if we were planning one – we’d need more cycling infrastructure before it had any chance of being implemented.

Boris knows this type of infrastructure is central to developing a successful bike culture. He said, “If we are to get more Londoners on to two wheels rather than four we need to provide the facilities to help them do so.” Such as? Well, secure bike storage and parking, for one. Places like the London Bridge Cycle Park for people who commute and use their own bikes regularly. There are other issues as well – junction design, route management, etc. – but none of them require reinventing the wheel. So why can’t NYC wrap its collective head around this.

Despite what the opposition here says, creating this infrastructure is not an engineering obstacle. Lots of cities have done it. London is doing it and London is larger, denser and (layout-wise) more complicated than NYC. Is it an economic stumbling block? Hardly. Planning and implementation costs are dwarfed by what the Metropolitan Transit Authority spends on their shoddy quick fixes for long-term problems. Add in what it costs them to keep patching those quick fixes and bike share ends up being a veritable bargain.

No, this is a political stumbling block. NYC lacks the political will and London doesn’t. It’s as simple as that. I don’t blame Mayor Bloomberg particularly. He’s shown more support for the expansion of bike culture than any mayor has for – well, since I can remember. I blame the city council and the state government and I blame them for several administrations back. They seem content with announcing grand plans and then implementing only very abbreviated versions of those plans. Just the other week the city announced a bike lane expansion so sweeping that it almost took my breath away. Guess how long it took for them to back pedal on it? Two days. It was nice while it lasted.

New York City isn’t wholly without cycling infrastructure, of course. We have some bike lanes – loosely defined as pictures of bikes painted on a particular section of road. Of course, only cyclists seem to know or care that these are bike lanes. Certainly few cars and buses behave as if they know what a bike lane is for.  They seem to believe it has something to do with parking.

Looking back at what I’ve just written, I was right to be worried. I’m almost half way in and I haven’t talked about any actual bike share programs yet. All I’ve done is complain. So let’s ignore New York’s biking blind spot for now and look at bike share in action.
Continue reading Just Like Riding A Bike

Harry Potter Theme Park

 

I deeply and bitterly resent that Orlando is about to become the official place of pilgrimage for every Harry Potter fan on earth

 

You know, sometimes I don’t understand what’s wrong with us. This is just about the most creative and imaginative country on earth – and yet sometimes we just don’t seem to have the gumption to exploit our intellectual property. We split the atom, and now we have to get French or Korean scientists to help us build nuclear power stations. We perfected the finest cars on earth – and now Rolls-Royce is in the hands of the Germans. Whatever we invent, from the jet engine to the internet, we find that someone else carts it off and makes a killing from it elsewhere. And now, in the crowning insult, I am being told by a 12-year-old that I have to start making preparations to take everyone to Orlando, Florida.

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Limo-Loving Politicians

We will push up the age of retirement, and I believe it should go to 70

I just don’t see why the taxpayer should be coughing up for state-sponsored cars, so that some people can feel superior about the way they get around

It must have been about six months ago that I was treated to a symbol of everything that was wrong with the wasteful and incompetent Labour government that has just been ejected from office. Indeed, it was a symbol of everything that has been wrong with British politics over the past decade. I came across this object in Derby Gate, Westminster, round about lunchtime – and I can still see it in my mind’s eye, stationed in the gloom not far from the Red Lion pub.

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Successors to Augustus

 · The Julio-Claudian Dynasty · 

Much already exists, in print and on the Internet, about ancient Rome ;  most of it deals with the conflicts fought and lands conquered by her leaders.  A rehearsal of that material here is unnecessary ;  a summary of the family tree of the dynasty founded by Augustus might, however, interest the reader and add to the colour of to-day’s* broadcast in the entertaining series A History of the World in 100 Objects on B.B.C. Radio-4, presented by Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum.

* Friday, 21st. May

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Caesar Augustus

The lines of descent themselves within this family tree are reasonably simple, despite quite a lot of marriage amongst cousins ;  what complicates it are the manifold adoptions, as one emperor after another attempts to secure his succession — either by a blood relative or by a perhaps unrelated individual considered suitable.

The dynasty — known as the Julio-Claudian — really begins in the time of C. Julius Caesar.  The ‘C.’ stands for his praenomen (plural praenomina) or forename, Gaius ;  for a detailed description of Roman naming conventions see this excellent Wikipedia article ;  and a list of the most common praenomina and their conventional abbreviations.  (Links to Wikipedia articles have been given throughout :  not only are they often well presented ;  they themselves give extensive references for those wanting to pursue the subject.)

Follow the story through the links on our simplified form of the Julio-Claudian family tree.

Augustus is coming

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Listen to Boris talk about the Roman emperor Augustus
this Friday, 21st. May, on Radio 4 at 9.45 a.m.,
repeated at 7.45 p.m. and on Saturday at 12.30 a.m.

 

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Although Rome’s empire grew throughout the late republic — from the middle of the third century to the death of Julius Caesar in 44 b.c. — the first emperor, appointed by the Senate, was Augustus.

On Friday, 21st. May, Director of the British Museum Neil MacGregor — in his interesting and entertaining series A History of the World in 100 Objects (B.B.C. Radio-4, 0945, 1945 and the following morning at 0030) — will introduce Augustus in the form of a larger-than-life bronze head with inlaid eyes of glass, calcite and metal rings, staring in to the distance.

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  Caesar Augustus

The head — originally part of a statue in Egypt, which Augustus had annexed following the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra VII — had been severed and taken home by an invading Kushite army from Meroë (in to-day’s Sudan), there to be buried beneath the threshold of a temple.  Any-one crossing the threshold would have deliberately trodden on the head of Augustus in the process, demonstrating contempt for him and the Roman Empire :  ironically the Kushites ensured the head’s survival in to our age.

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With contributions from Dr. Susan Walker, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the Ashmolean, and Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, Neil will tell how Augustus significantly enlarged the Empire, his image projecting everywhere the power of Rome.

Read more about Augustus at the B.B.C.’s History of the World site.

The wives of the emperors were no less colourful :  a recently published account of the life of Livia, third – and enduring – wife of Augustus, is reviewed in this week’s edition of The Spectator.

ΠΞ

Liberal Conservatism and The Plight of the Lonely

there are so many people who never have a sense of communal exhilaration

according to a recent survey a sense of social isolation is the number one problem of our lives

we need to start actively re-knitting the coalition of British society

Dear oh dear, it’s just as well I never said anything rude about the Lib Dems, eh? What? Did I say that? You mean I once accused them of being a bunch of euro-loving road-hump-fetishists who changed their opinions in mid-stream like so many hermaphroditic parrotfish? And are you telling me that senior Lib Dem sources are accusing me of being a Eurosceptic classics crank? Dear oh dear.

Well, I am sure we can put it all behind us, because there was something about the amazing events of last week that has filled the nation – me included – with a giddy helium-lunged feeling of hope. We looked at that scene in the Downing Street garden – the dappled sunlight, the blossom floating past – and we saw an extraordinary partnership being forged. They were David and Jonathan. They were Achilles and Patroclus. They were Gilbert and George. They were Wallace and Gromit. And you know what, I truly believe it can work, must work, will work.

Of course, there will be strains, and the media will try to pull it apart, but over the next few weeks and months the two parties will discover that there is real content to the idea of liberal conservatism, wherever you put the capital letters, and that there is much more that unites them than they ever dreamt possible.

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Boris’s Second Anniversary as Mayor on 1st May

London illustrates what a bold, Conservative administration can do

I’m a one-nation Tory

He believes in the capacity of human ingenuity

Dave, he says,  will be seen in a completely different light

Benedict Brogan interview with Boris

Boris Johnson was at work on Wednesday when Gordon Brown crashed into the northern rock that is Gillian Duffy. As a connoisseur of forced apologies – Michael Howard once sent him to Liverpool to grovel for criticising the city’s “mawkish sentimentality” – the Mayor of London is forgiving. “If we judged everybody by the stupid, unguarded things they blurt out to their nearest and dearest, then we wouldn’t ever get anywhere.”

Apart from the obvious lesson about never allowing anyone near you with a clip-on microphone, he is more interested in the subtext of the blunder than the mechanics. “The thing I thought was revealing, and went to the way he runs things, was the instant blaming of Sue Nye [Mr Brown’s long-serving sidekick whom he held responsible for introducing him to Mrs Duffy]. It’s always someone’s fault and the world is always organised by a hidden hand to conspire against him. It’s a slightly paranoid view of the universe. But it’s fundamentally insignificant. What matters is his stewardship of the country and the complete mess that he has made.”

Which is why Boris, as he is known from Bromley to Beijing, is more interested in the crisis engulfing Greece and the ramifications for Europe’s financial capital. We are in his office to mark his second anniversary as mayor, which falls tomorrow. It is no surprise that a classicist who is also a big fan of the City is keeping a worried eye on the drama unfolding in Athens. He fears we could be next if we end up with an indecisive result next week. “If we get things wrong next Thursday, this could be something that we have to face in this country. That’s why I worry about a hung parliament. If all we get is drift and indecision, then we will get the same response we have seen in Greece.”

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Nick Clegg’s Message

The British began to make the big subconscious assumption that there would be a change of government in 2010

I am certain that the Tories will win

What crouton of substance did Nick Clegg offer last Thursday?

It must have been a couple of years ago that I was having dinner with the great Max Hastings, former editor of this paper, and he was being so gloomy about Conservative prospects that I scented a financial opportunity. Tell you what, I said, let’s have a bet. A thousand pounds says the Tories will win the next election. How about that?

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