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Field notes: London, England (2018) (devonzuegel.com)
205 points by Thevet 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 355 comments

"The one dark spot on my stay in that neighborhood was one night I walked to a pharmacy a few blocks away from the hotel, and two men on a motorcycle drove up on the sidewalk and tried to snatch my phone out of my hand."

Lovely to read this travelogue, but my heart sank when I read this, as it's an unfortunate reality of living in London at the moment. Thankfully the author was quick enough to evade them.

Be careful about using your phone on the street, day or dark, as it's extremely obvious from far away (eg for somebody sat on a moped pillion) when a potential victim is engrossed in their phone-work and not 100% attending to their surroundings.

Many friends and colleagues have suffered from this scurge, and the moped oiks really have no scruples (one friend was heavily pregnant when she was mugged).

Take care, but don't let that put you off enjoying a great city.

Yes this is getting bad. It happened to my father a few years ago as well when he was sitting on the side of the road answering a phone call with the window open in Chiswick. Fortunately he grabbed the guy and shut the window on his arm. He got free but not until he'd got a couple of broken fingers.

Police did nothing because the bike was stolen. And thus the cycle continues.

> Yes this is getting bad.

Actually, is getting better [1]. Somebody posted the link right above your comment.

> It happened to my father a few years ago [...]

And you assume that nothing changed since then.

[1]: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/nov/23/met-police-s...

How can they say there has been a reduction when the people on 101 tell you to sod off and speak to your insurance company?

This has happened to two people I know in 2018.

Mate, I think you might have some logic issues... I doubt the police told your friends to sod off. And what exactly did you expect them to do? Get 10 patrols, 1 heli in the air, organize a man hunt to find a bloody phone? Try reporting a crime that involves bodily harm or weapons, see how fast they react. It's a matter of priorities. There was an armed robbery at the off licence where I buy smokes from, the police was there in about 15 minutes after it happened, they chatted with everyone around (there is a pub right next door), they checked the cameras and it seems, as per the owner, they found the perpetrator. As a funny note, the dude managed to steal about 20 quid, all the store had in notes at the time. So chill, have a kitkat, stuff is getting better.

I’m not sure you understood. Regardless of whether they send out the helicopter, if they don’t take a report, the crime isn’t counted. You can’t say anything meaningful about whether crimes are getting more or less prevalent if your stats are bad.

You assume they didn't take the report based on what? On the OP suggesting the police told his friends to sod off?

I don't understand this story at all.

> I don't understand this story at all.

setquk's father was sat in a car parked at the side of the road, presumably in the driver's seat, with the window open, and was using a mobile phone.

Someone came along on a motorbike, reached in through the open window, and grabbed his phone with the intention of stealing it.

He was quick enough to get hold of the would-be thief's arm and wind the window up, with the intention of trapping the thief there and summoning the police to arrest them.

Unfortunately, the thief escaped (but suffered some broken fingers in the process, presumably as setquk's father tried to hold him there); and unfortunately, although setquk's father was able to give the police the licence-plate number of the motorcycle the thief was using, this didn't help to track it down because the motorcycle was also stolen (and I guess the thief abandoned it shortly after this incident).

setquk sees this as another example of the same phenomenon described in the article and by dtf: opportunistic mobile-phone thieves on motorcycles.

Nailed it

Hopefully with the met cleared to knock these moped riders off we’ll start to see a decrease in moped related crime.

She got a bit unlucky tho I must say. I've lived there for 10 years, and have never seen it happen. I can only think of two friends who've been mugged during that time as well. Assuming 30 friends that's 150 man years per mugging :)

EDIT: she

Yep, 10 years here and never seen it either. Maybe these people target more touristy areas. Author is a she btw :)

The touristy areas thing is probably a big deal. I've also spent ~10 years in London, some of it in Zone 1 without witnessing any attempted street thefts or knowing of any friends being mugged. Approx 1 week in Athens: two, one targeting me (neither successful)

There might be a difference in street crime between London and Athens but it's not that big.

It definitely happens. I live in N5 and my old flatmate had has phone taken from him right outside Arsenal tube station!

I've also been walking on the footpath on New North Road when two guys on scooter have sped past.

Also in N5 and know a few people that have had their phones stolen this way.

I lived in Peckham for 1.5 years and was threatened three times, each time having to take evasive action. And that was in 2001. It's worse now.

How sure can you be that it's worse now if you haven't lived in Peckham since 2001? There doesn't seem to be any discernible upward trend:


The overall rate of violent crime in London is lower now that it was in 2001. And Peckham was a much rougher neighborhood in 2001 than it is now.

20 years here (in this stint) and I've never seen it but I do tend to avoid crowded places (social anxiety) except when peak travelling.

I do know people who've been moped'd and mugged - never suffered either myself (although I apparently have a "resting hate scowl" according to my sister which scares people away.)

My wife had her phone robbed from her in this way in Canonbury (N5) 2 years ago.

It was very scary for her since they went up onto the curb and pushed her onto the tarmack as they grabbed it. It happened at around 6am in the morning at most 20 metres from our flat which was on a quiet terrace of victorian houses.

It's not just touristy areas. It's probably easier for the motorbike thugs to operate in places which have relatively quiet roads that they can escape on. I suspect that if you live in a nice area, but close to some of the inner city ghettos you are most at risk. I've also seen it happen in and around the parks.

I think it depends on the area - I've seen it happen twice in broad daylight on Clerkenwell Road near Farringdon station over the last couple of years and it's happened to a friend of mine near Waterloo.

I've been living in central London (zone 1) for 3 years now and never had any issue (nor my partner, nor anybody I know). It might also be due to the area being touristy or not.

I remember a crime map (I can't find out this link anymore...) showing that the side of London bridge which faces Tower Bridge had a high crime rate whereas the other side was absolutely safe. So if you want to cross London Bridge without taking a picture of Tower Bridge, pick the correct side :)

London is a big city though. As most big cities, I would never expect it to be totally safe.

> the side of London bridge which faces Tower Bridge had a high crime rate

I wonder if that's a function of the traffic level (it's a lot busier than the other side in peak) as much as tourists taking photos?

Do you live in central London? It's hard for me to imagine you wouldn't come across it if you lived within Zone 2, say - I only lived in London a relatively short time, but some guys tried to mug me (I didn't have my phone out), I found a phone on the street and returned it to its owner, and I lost count of the friends it happened to, the incidents on the road I lived on, etc.

I have lived in central London for 25 years and never experienced this, nor do I know anyone who has.

However, I know the problem exists and I have just been lucky. I am not claiming that my experience invalidates that of others - just adding my anecdote to the pile.

I think it partly comes down to what you look like and how you act on the street. Of the people I know who have had their phones snatched the common denominator was usually being too comfortable standing on a street staring at their phones. It's hard to miss kids on bikes/mopeds if you're watching for them, but if you're not and they appear then they'll go for you.

Depends how used to living in a big city you are. I think those of who live here have a bit more situational awareness (that said, the moped thing is new and maybe they roll up so fast situational awareness won't help).

I've lived in zone 2 for three years and not had any issues.

I've seen it happen once & heard of it happening to a couple of friends of friends. Probably depends on the area - the one I saw was on City Rd which is known to be bad for it.

Seen it happen right next to me at bus stop on City Road. Keep tight hold of your bag and keep your phone in your pocket...

10 years and never happened. Heard it happen to more than one female friend, think it's somehow a gendered crime.

Maybe it's less woman years per mugging.

My mother in law warned us that we cannot go to Warsaw because it's the criminal capital (she moved to Germany 30+ years ago); turns out it's probably the safest capital city among Berlin, Paris and Rome by such a large margin that it's not even funny.

Absolutely - and kudos to the OP for not letting this spoil their trip, nor dominate what was a delightful travelogue

I lived in London for all of 2 weeks before this happened to me. It's pretty frequent in the Islington and Angel areas. Be careful.

> It's pretty frequent in the Islington and Angel areas

Around 50% of Islington's population are in social housing < 20% of whom work.

In response to this the British police have recently changed the law allowing them to chase and hit motorcyclists with their cars. Last year, the gangs would ride scooters without wearing a helmet. This would mean that the police weren't authorised to chase them, as chasing them could cause them to drive dangerously and harm themselves

Being pedantic, but it is an important point in a free society: the Police cannot change the law. They have changed their rules of engagement for particular officers, but the relevant law is still the same - and might well be tested in court: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-46440172

"The one exception was a brief stint walking around the South Bank, which was full of bland office spaces with little ground-floor retail or neighborhoods"

As indicated in her update elsewhere in her notes, the best waterfront bank in London is the South Bank, and the best way to see the South Bank is to walk along the actual waterfront bank, i.e. along the river.

The northern side of the river is a mess of blocked off stretches and vehicle roads. Whilst the South Bank is a lovely continuous pedestrian stretch with plenty of food places and small parks along it.

I frequently walk from Waterloo station along the bank to either Millennium Bridge, or onwards all the way to the Borough Market by London Bridge. Lovely stretch of the river.

There are some other nice parts of the South Bank, and I can see on her map she walked through the Cut, but I agree apart from the actual waterfront bank the rest is mostly dire.

Hammersmith has a lovely path along the Thames, with pubs and restaurants. It is truly great, especially in summer. Definitely not the most touristy area but it's a gem for locals like me.

From Putney all the way to Richmond is my favourite part of the Thames Path, within London.[1][2] Try to avoid a Spring tide!

[1] https://www.thames-path.org.uk/thames_putney_richmond.html

[2] http://www.gps-routes.co.uk/routes/home.nsf/RoutesLinksWalks...

Surbiton to Richmond gets my vote. It's peaceful and beautiful and one time I did it Gloriana just happened to be going past. https://spark.adobe.com/page/LYVR3/

Edit: actually, Hampton Court to Richmond would get my vote. I have walked or run the path between Kingston and Hampton Court bridges more times than I care to count, and feel very lucky to live around there.

Kingston to Hampton Court on the far side of the river along the park or indeed, thru the park is most choice, the Surbiton /Kingston side of the river has lots of obstructions alas, though Kingston to Surbiton on that side since the revamp is really rather good.

I can highly recommend the Mute Swan at Hampton Court (near the bridge), a most excellent selection of ales and food (not cheap but so quality).

But in the area I can not recommend enough Richmond park, more so Isabella plantation around april/may when the flowers come out - totally amazing and will be an experience you will cherish, even if you not into flowers, it is mind blowing.

Many good walks in the area, many get overlooked and gets down to playing with google maps and going, that looks interesting. I found a lovely walk along the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hogsmill_River

that runs from Chessington, towards Tolworth and then along to Ewell to the duck ponds - https://goo.gl/maps/khoiQJoaPyS2 Plenty of plums to be had along that route, as well as the odd apple and pear tree, did find one hazelnut tree but the abundance of grey squirrels soon graze that alas.

Also of note would be the plethora of damson bushes near Tolworth Georges fields, which I made some damson liqueur with this year that proved most potent and enjoyable.

My only real gripe about the London area (least the part I live and frequent) is the lack of Hazel and Walnut tree's, lots of Beach trees and whilst their nuts are nice, they are just not the same.

Though if you are into Blackberry's, the area is dominated with them and can happily graze from mid Summer all the way thru to the end of Autumn.

I lived in Twickenham for many years. Eel Pie Island to Richmond Bridge is also one I've done more times than I can remember, usually involving stops at multiple pubs along the way.

I'd run between Putney and Twickenham for my marathon training solely because the incredible beauty would make the pain and loneliness so much more bearable.

Also great as a cycling path - Putney to Hampton Court Palace and back!

I used to live near Baron's Court, around the back of Charing Cross Hospital. My favourite walks were either down to Putney - that stretch after Fulham's ground near Bishop's Park is glorious during the Spring and Autumn in a tunnel of leaves - or go the other way towards the Fuller's brewery and take in some of the pubs en route.

I now live over in Twickenham which has even finer walks along the river or across Richmond Hill, but I always thought it amazing that those vistas over to the Wetlands were available in the heart of Zone 2.

I also live in the area. As soon as the weather get nicer, it is a great way to spend the weekends.

While walking along the Thames, you can also partake in mudlarking (i.e. scavenging in the river mud for objects.)

Ancient things are always turning up. Here's the twitter account of the London Mudlark community: https://twitter.com/LondonMudlark

Rules and regs: https://www.pla.co.uk/Environment/Thames-foreshore-access-in...

That’s an easy route to take for tourists, it’s what three miles from London Bridge to the Eye, and along the way there’s Southwark Cathedral, the Golden Hind, Borough Market, Tate Modern, the Globe, the National Theatre, Heyward Gallery, Festival Hall, and the British Film Institute.

I think planners have put a lot of emphasis on getting public rights of way running along the rest of the Thames, but maybe at the cost of real public spaces for sitting and enjoying yourself.

Even decades ago, I recall from memory a gorgeous nighttime view of parliament, lit up in gold-ish tones, with an emerald green lighting the bridge underside in the intermediate foreground. I'm pretty sure I have a couple of slides of it, somewhere...

When I see pictures and video now, I wonder how much the view behind me would have changed.

Walking London was a cornucopia of experiences, from being treated by an erstwhile stranger to a great dinner on the backside of Chinatown, to being scammed out of 20 pounds -- and getting off lucky it was only that much.

(After a cold winter in Germany, it was a bit like being let out of the pen -- and into an abnormally gorgeous week of April good weather. Although, in reality, my German friends expressed a closeness, and -- I can actually use the word -- Gemuetlichkeit, that a frenetic London could not entirely substitute.)


P.S. This was back when, IIRC, the well-known book had rising to "London on £15 a Day". Or maybe it was £10 -- that sounds right. Anyway, £20 was substantially more than an inexpensive dinner -- or even shared lodging with an English breakfast. Ah, well -- lesson learned, and without physical injury.

The Thames Path is another beautiful way to see the Thames, albeit to the west of London rather than in London itself.


Edit: Apparently TfL thinks the Thames Path continues in London: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/thames-path

The Thames Path runs from the Thames Barrier (London's flood protection barrier, a few miles downstream from the centre but still within the city proper) to Thames Head, the (traditional) source of the river in the Cotswolds. Through much of London it's actually two paths, one on either bank.

Might just leave this here for others to read a bit more about South Bank and the risk it faces: http://www.llsb.com/theproject/

I walked the Thames path (in stages) from the barriers to Windsor. Super strongly recommended.

Those “curb cut grips” are not for increased friction, rather to inform the visually impaired of a crossing.

Similarly there are other paving slabs with ridges, and the direction on the ridge relative to the path tells you if it’s for cyclists or pedestrians.


They are also slippery as F%$k when wet - so a bit of an own goal

They tend to trip people up fairly often too - also the blind can't rely on them being there as they're not consistently installed.

They’ve been a statutory requirement in new developments for at least 20 years.

This doesn't relate to the comment you're replying to.

You’re quite right! Sorry.

The metal ones are - the concrete ones less so.

Outdoors they don't even increase friction. If you're wearing normal shoes and it's raining, the reduced contact surface because of the bumps makes them slippery.

> One-trip tickets on the Tube were surprisingly expensive, £4.90. This is likely a form of price discrimination for tourists, as the cost for the Oyster and Contactless payment cards is much lower.

My understanding of this is that its actually price discrimination against people buying paper tickets, as they're more likely to have problems at the gates and result in a queue backing up.

That seems a bit steep, a day ticket is only a few pounds more.

As for recommendations for tourists, Oyster is great, but, there's really no need, a contactless bank card is capped at the same day and week rate as Oyster.

I've been commuting for the last year on my bank card, it's not the most financially efficient way, but it's not a lot more expensive (than a pre-paid pass).

Also bear in mind that a bank card will take ~2 seconds to scan at most stations' gates, versus milliseconds for an Oyster. It might seem trivial but at London rush hour it's an annoyance for you and everyone else.

One thing people also don't know is that at most stations, your card won't scan if you're standing between the gates, step back and scan or you'll just hold everyone up until you give up and walk away.

It's designed this way, I imagine, so that you don't scan while someone is still paying through the gate and have it close on you before you pass through.

I got an Oyster when visiting London a few years ago and taking public transit was still by a large margin more expensive than any other European city I've been to (and IIRC when available transit in the US is generally cheaper than in Europe).

I was really surprised at how expensive it was! Especially as the pound's value at the time was quite a bit higher than today.

Taking the tube is relatively expensive in London compared to Europe. Taking the bus is relatively cheap: £1.50 for any journey, including any number of changes up to 70 minutes after your first hop-on.

It's great that I can commute to work for a £3 round-trip with a change halfway if I choose not to cycle! Of course, that's in South-West London and even then the traffic can get pretty bad. In central it's probably nightmarish to do it regularly.

Transport for London at the moment is fully self-funding from ticket prices, which I think is unusual elsewhere in Europe.

TfL is not fully self-funded, or even close to it. It derived 47% of its funding from fares in 2017/2018. https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/how-we-ar.... In fact, it's facing a large (close to £1 bn) deficit this year due to falling passenger numbers.

Thanks for the correction. I think the 47% figure is misleading in this sense though, I mean to refer to the running and maintenance costs of the public transport service, but in fact of course TfL does various other things, including maintenance of the roads and contributions to large capital investments like Crossrail which will always mean public grants.

It's pretty expensive yes.

Especially for lower paid commuters in London. Driving is also a non-starter if you work centrally so it's really your only option.

The only European city I recall being expensive compared to my usual commute was Geneva, Switzerland.

Eastern-bloc tend to be cheaper while the likes of Germany are closer to our prices.

Hamburg is similar.

more than €5 for one direction? I doubt Hamburg is that expensive. Berlin transit is staggeringly cheaper than London.

I don't know what you're on about, but I am paying £2.90 to get from Brockley to Shoreditch High Street to get to work (7 miles in total). That's the same price I would pay for a bus I believe.

People presume that Berlin is the center of Germany, when in fact it absolutely isn't. Hamburg is a much more wealthy city that Berlin. Here's [1] the ticket prices for Hamburg [1] and here's [2] the ticket prices for London, are you seeing much difference?

[1] https://www.hvv.de/en/tickets/single-day-tickets/overview [2] https://www.visitbritainshop.com/world/london-travelcard/

I'm not super sure about the rings in Hamburg but: 7.80€ for "Hamburg AB All Day Ticket" vs £13.10 (=14.68€) for London zones 1-4 "1 day any time" from your links are a factor of 2 more expensive for London. As for what I'm on about the >5€ price for a single ride ticket: I simply took the OP at their word (they mentioned the ticket costing £4.90 in the quote above us - anecdotally I paid about that much when visiting London and staying at friends' places).

For Berlin I pay 760€ for a yearly ticket despite not living centrally (AB zone ticket still covers it). London zones 1-2 yearly ticket[1] is £1404 (=1574.45€) again factor of 2 more expensive.

When we lived in Vienna (a wealthy city, probably similar to Munich or Hamburg) transit prices were similar to Berlin (maybe even cheaper).

Not to mention that because London housing is so expensive most "common people" (who aren't living with room mates or are very wealthy) live in what we would consider a suburb rather than the city (in terms of distance from the city center) thus paying fares from further zones (iirc my friends at the time lived in zone 3 & were middle class professionals not paupers and/or with huge families).

[1] https://www.londontoolkit.com/briefing/travelcard.htm

If you're using Oyster or contactless payment there's a maximum fare that will be charged, after which all other travel is effectively free - this is different to a daily travel card. If you're staying within zone 1 & 2 that cap is £7, for a week fares will be capped at £35.10.

If I travelled into the centre of Munich every day (I'm in the 7th ring out of 16), it would cost me 1400 euros a year (a full network ticket would be 2700 euros!). That seems rather similar to London.

I don’t know about Munich, maybe it’s the exception in the German-speaking countries.

From 8 years of living in Vienna and 5 of living in Berlin transit costs were never significant to me & I never lived in the center of either city.

The numbers quoted from the links above line up with my gut feeling when visiting London (my feeling was even more extreme actually, but a few years ago the GBP was worth a lot more € than today).

Nor Vienna, nor Berlin are considered to be the business centres of Europe.

I never said anything about whether or not this is justified only that I was surprised it was that expensive & that it’s more expensive than other places I’ve been to (including NYC, if you want to talk about global business/financial centers).

Zone 4 is quite a way out.

Zones 1-4 is the cheapest day ticket available, that’s why I took it as an example. Feel free to look into the provided links if you think there’s a better example listed.

I'm not debating that. London is over x2 the size of Hamburg. Towns that are in zone 4 are around 15km from the center of London, in zone 6 it's close to 30km. I live in London and commute everyday, I'm acutely aware of the cost of travel in the city.

I don't know how it works in London, but I just moved to Cambridge from Canada. Our contactless cards would not work on the bus system. We had to pay cash until we got our UK banking sorted out. That's not an option on TFL, so visitors just have a plan B if you plan to use your bank card.

If your contactless card doesn't work you can buy an Oyster card from underground stations and most convenience stores which can have a balance added to it with cash.

I have not noticed this time delay for my bank contactless card.

It only seems to affect some stations (the ones I frequent at least), I've always assumed is due do an additional API call to the banks system on top of the normal Oyster check, but it's certainly slower than Oyster even when it's not this slow.

I haven't tried with a different bank though, so it could be bank specific.

It's a tactic to discourage the use of the paper tickets; they want to get rid of them, the Oyster card allows for much faster movement of people inside the stations and due to the gates much lower fraud.

In NL we've moved to a card system like that some years ago; the amount of people traveling without a ticket in the subways and trains has declined by a lot, and consequently, crime and violence against the train staff that fined them if they were checked. Likewise, staff could be reallocated from appearing as a big gang of ticket checkers at the exits of random stations to other tasks.

They do tend to put at least one guy near the gates though, for one to help out people that have trouble with the system, and on the other to discourage people jumping the gates. They're quite high so that's quite a feat, but there's also a builtin system so that it opens if pushed hard enough (in case of emergency).

Anyway. Ticket machines are big and expensive machines.

The person near the gates is mandatory (a legal requirement), if the staff aren't available to provide that person the gates will be switched off (so you can just walk through) or they close the route entirely (and if it's the only route that also means closing the station).

The gates are designed so that an adult can force their way through despite the gate being closed, but nevertheless in a fire or other emergency situation you don't want to wait for fleeing people to force the gates, so there must be a trained human available to command the gates to all open immediately. In a tube station there will be a control booth with CCTV of all areas somewhere to direct operations - the gate still must be supervised by someone physically nearby, not solely from the booth. Flow controls that don't prevent you fleeing from an emergency (e.g. the "Do Not Enter!" flashing signs at some tube entrances that can be activated to prevent overcrowding, or the changeable internal direction markers that let them send unfamiliar users over a longer alternate route to their destination) are controlled from the booth though.

Why not just phase out the paper tickets? They disappeared in Korea after just a couple years of the electronic cards being on market, it seems like.

The national railway system is integrated with the same type of paper tickets. You can buy a ticket from a station in northern Scotland to Brighton (changing in London) and it will operate the barriers on the London Underground. It's also readable by the ticket checker on the rural service in Scotland.

There are posters all over London pushing people to use contactless, it's not an attempt to swindle visitors.

The EasyCard in Taiwan (basically an Oyster card equivalent which can also be used at shops, so more like HK's Octopus card) can be used on trains throughout the country, so train connectivity can be done without paper tickets.

It's a bit of both I reckon. Even a lot of non-London Brits don't realise how easy it is to get an oyster card in the station, and very few know that you can just use contactless payments.

More than 50% of pay-as-you-go journeys are made with contactless as of April 2018, so I don't think "very few know" is fair (fare, heh).


It's mainly regular Londoners who use contactless I think. We're an extremely advanced city when it comes to public transport payments. But at the same time you need to be able to digest the numerous rules around it like daily and weekly caps etc.

I've got so used to this that a few months ago I did a bus journey in a medium sized town and it felt totally backwards having a physical ticket.

I went out east to lakeside one day to do some shopping with my wife; we got as far as Dartford, then there was a bus we had to get, I tapped my Oyster on the reader, it didn't work, the driver gave me an odd look, so I tapped my bank card, it didn't work, another odd look, so I said, "it's not working, do you take cards?" He looked at me as if it'd just offended his mother. "No" the driver replied. So I asked "What do you take?" And he replied "Cash". I was slightly taken aback.

This bus station is in the middle of nowhere just past Dartford, there isn't a building in sight let alone a cash machine, so, I looked in my wallet to find only my single, brand new, plastic £5 note with a palindrome serial number I'd been keeping. With a sigh I handed it over and we got our bus.

Lakeside was crap.

That's exactly the problem. You pass an invisible line somewhere that TfL stops existing and you're getting mugged straight up in redneck country.

Lakeside is indeed crap.

Outside of central London a lot of bus companies either have their own card system or none at all, of course the card for one company rarely works with others.

you could go Fenchurch st to chafford hundred and walk over the pedestrian bridge for I believe £5.90 return.

maybe not ideal for your circumstances but food for thought

I use contactless when I travel to London - as a visitor, it's far more convenient than buying an Oyster and far cheaper than paper tickets.

>But at the same time you need to be able to digest the numerous rules around it like daily and weekly caps etc.

The price caps are quite easy to understand - you just tap your card when you travel and you'll always be charged the lowest applicable fare. You don't have to think about whether you need to buy a daily or weekly ticket, because you'll never be charged more than the daily or weekly fare cap.

The price caps are but it's a bit of a pain if you forget to touch out somewhere or have to use national rail etc.

Plus sometimes it does actually go wrong. I have to request about 2-3 refunds a year where I've done the same route and not forgotten a thing.

> You don't have to think about whether you need to buy a daily or weekly ticket

If you're not wealthy, it's certainly worth knowing whether or not you've reached a cap.

I think it's because they have to maintain ticket machines for the people who choose to buy single tickets rather than use their Oyster/Contactless. It means maintaining the legacy ticket infrastructure which is less efficient and more time consuming. Anyone can get an Oyster card at a vending machine and most people in the developed world have a contactless payment card.

Despite using contactless via Apple Pay, I don't actually have a contactless debit card. HSBC never issue me them even though I asked!

I'm not sure contactless is as ubiquitous as we think it is.

May not be, but my local coffee shop in suburban Brockley no longer takes cash, which seems a pretty strong signal to me.

My HSBC UK Visa debit card has had contactless support for at least five years. Perhaps just report it lost to get a new one issued. Even my US debit and credit cards have it now (with the exception of a metallic Amazon Prime card.)

I’ve lost it twice. Still no contactless :(

Do not buy single tickets on the tube, ever.

They are designed to discourage you, and to push you towards solutions that are better for TfL and the environment: contactless cards.

Get a contactless bank card, Apple or Android pay on your phone or smart watch, or buy an Oyster card.

If you know you'll be travelling a lot for a week or two, look into a 7 day travel card which you load onto an Oyster card, and gives you unlimited travel for the zones you're interested in.

You can still travel outside those zones, but will pay a fare increment.

This reminds me of the Swiss system, where there's a notion of the "half fare card" which is conventionally supplied by companies in Switzerland to their workers. 50% of the ticket price is essentially a "tourist tax", which is unavoidable by buying a different kind of ticket (like an Oyster card) at the station. I think it's pretty smart.

That's nothing like the situation in London.

There is nothing to stop visitors from using either contactless card payments, Android/Apple pay, or an Oyster card. Oyster cards are easily purchased from all stations, especially places many people arrive like Heathrow Airport. They're promoted on websites aimed at tourists like visitlondon.com, and covered in every guidebook to the city. The £5 deposit and any remaining balance is refundable at many machines, and doesn't expire.

> 50% of the ticket price is essentially a "tourist tax", which is unavoidable by buying a different kind of ticket ... at the station

Do you mean "avoidable"?

I do not. I mean it's not avoidable that way, because there's no ticket with the discount available at the station.

Can't you buy the half fare card on the spot and then use it?

You can, but it will cost ~$120-150 if I recall correctly, so unless you're making several trips it's rarely worth it.

They do have a 'secret' ticket called a Swiss Transfer ticket which will take you from any airport to any train station and back for a much cheaper price than a normal train ticket. However you cannot buy it in Switzerland, but have to order online before your departure.

People should just buy the Oyster, problem solved and it's cheaper unless you're making only one or two trips

At this point contactless has enough consumer adoption to be the easier option. If you're a tourist and don't have a contactless card you can use Google pay etc.

however, you are (maybe) being more anonymous, if you use a normal oyster(if you haven't added personal info to it)

And Apple Pay.

You can get an Oyster refund from machines in almost every station now. It's cheaper even for a single trip.

Why use Oyster over contactless? I don’t want to carry yet another card.

Oyster vs Contactless


+ prepaid - load it up and go

+ the system manages the maximum fares

+ automatic refunds for 'minor' corrections/errors

+ app available to track transactions albeit not real-time

+ can be registered online to receive reports and the ability to manage account

+ max fares for no-touch are sandboxed i.e. in red up to a certain amount + no journeys, until they are resolved and/or further funds are added to clear the event


All of the above with some caveats

- no limit on credit/debit cards i.e. if the pad fails to recognise touch-in/out events it results in a maximum fare. These events might also incur additional charges depending on your issuer

+ there are nuances due to misaligned systems and thus exists a cheaper way of calculating weekly maximum fare when acting as a 'Travelcard'

= refunds have a similar route but with added protection of consumer laws. YMMV

Oyster/Contactless can also be used on certain river services and the Emirates Air-line.

Due to implementation, there is a high-latency between touch events and notifications from the app. So, it might be prudent for some to limit the expenditure.

As for carrying less plastic, Revolut might be an option? However, as a short to medium term visitor, Oyster makes more sense - even considering the refundable deposit.



> Oyster/Contactless can also be used on certain river services and the Emirates Air-line.

You can buy an airline ticket on Emirates... using your Oyster card?

The only reason would be for regular visitors who don't have British bank cards, but do pay an unreasonable transaction fee to their bank for foreign purchases.

TFL gather together all journeys made per day, so no matter how many journeys are made with the same contactless card there will be one charge made. However, an awful foreign bank might charge $2 per transaction, which could be more than the refundable deposit on an Oyster card.

It's more nuanced than that. I have to use Oyster over contactless because it's the only way to get the 1/3rd discount when you have a 16-25 or 26-30 railcard. They can't currently be connected to a contactless card.

I thought they also grouped into a week ticket?

You would still be charged every day until you reach the cap, then not charged until the next Monday.

It takes half a second to scan rather than a second with a bank card. Gotta keep the queue moving. ;)

You can get monthly and annual passes on Oyster, not contactless, which are cheaper and have some other benefits like not fineing you if you touch in and not out.

I get an annual travelcard on it. This works out to marginally cheaper on Tube charges overall, but there's another benefit to it as well.

A slightly better draw is that you also get a Network Rail Gold card, which entitles you to a 33% discount on some train journeys. The partner and I use this quite frequently when visiting various parts of the UK!

Contactless can't be used for monthly and annual travelcards, as well as concessions. Additionally the capping works slightly different, for example if you only use buses or trams they have a weekly cap that only works with Oyster.

For most visitors, contactless will give the same prices as Oyster, and is a lot cheaper than paper tickets.

I didn't even realise you could buy paper tickets. You can use contactless credit cards and apple pay directly on the gate, so there's no reason to buy one.

I usually had a paper ticket in London because I’d be coming in from Guildford - the mag strip on the paper ticket you buy for your commute into London also encoded a travelcard for tube usage.

Still the case now, a lot of train tickets-with-travelcard are paper.

Just two weeks ago I was finally able to get an oyster-like card from South West Rail that works with the train and the tube. Progress, finally!

Maybe there should be a generic oyster card, that should work for all public transportation systems in uk. One physical token, linked to many accounts.

The standard for this exists, it is named ITSO. You will not be surprised to learn that although many local transport systems issue cards with ITSO logos they don't actually interoperate in a useful fashion since different local authorities and operators have contradictory requirements.

For example in Bingley (Yorkshire) where my mother lives, and in Southampton (on the South Coast) where I live, the buses use ITSO smartcards. But you can't take a ride on her bus with my smartcard.

Contactless bank cards do work on both systems though, and on the London transport network. So "Use a credit card" ends up being the "one physical token" solution.

> But you can't take a ride on her bus with my smartcard.

Even if I put some money on that card, via her bus' payment system? As in, I go to a tfl ticket machine, touch, put money on, touch again and then I can use the card on the underground. Then I go to Southampton, go to a ticket machine, touch, put money on, touch again, then I can use the card on the Southampton's transit system.

Unlike Oyster, you usually can't load "money" into ITSO cards. In Southampton you can load "journeys" or "season tickets" and I think the same in Bingley. I put journeys on my Southampton card because I don't use a bus for weeks at a time. But you do that by going to a web site with ID for the local card, there's no way that I've found to go "Er, I have a different ITSO card from somewhere else".

> As in, I go to a tfl ticket machine, touch, put money on, touch again and then I can use the card on the underground. Then I go to Southampton, go to a ticket machine, touch, put money on, touch again, then I can use the card on the Southampton's transit system.

Literally just tried this with the Southampton card in London against a tfl machine. No Dice.

Shame, but yeah, not really surprising.

It's Southampton that I'm in too, as of about two weeks ago you can now get the card that operates the train gates at central and oyster gates in London. About 8 years after they put in the gates...

Baby Steps!

That would be nice :)

I think the fragmented nature of the operating companies probably doesn't help. Maybe with time!

If you have incredibly poor credit, you can’t even get a contactless debit card from many banks.

A transport network needs to be designed so that everybody can use it - that means being able to access it with cash.

Even Oyster’s £5 deposit per card can be an issue for some people.

You don't need credit to have a contactless debit card, they're just locked down to require online transactions so that it's impossible to go overdrawn. In normal operation a TfL gate is online (ie able to talk to your card issuer) so it can work with any type of card.

Sure, but many basic bank accounts (those available to people with extremely poor credit history and no income) don't have a contactless debit card anyway, such as the one Bank of Scotland does: https://www.bankofscotland.co.uk/bankaccounts/compare-curren...

TfL gates aren't online in anything but the most basic way - the first time you use a contactless card on TfL each day they'll place a hold for 10p to verify the card is valid. They then modify that to request the total cost of travel for the previous day after that.

flexbasic from nationwide issues a contactless card from the get go if you don't get offered a "normal" current account. also supports apple/google/samsung pay.


I love the comment on sun-bleached black paint on the upper floors, but it's completely wrong. These black bricks are not black because they've been painted - they're black with coal soot from before burning coal was banned in the 1950s. If they're less black on the upper floors, I guess it's because 60 years of rain eventually has some effect.

To be fair, some of these places have since been painted black just because that’s what people came to expect.

10 Downing Street is an example and there’s something about it in this piece on its reconstruction: https://history.blog.gov.uk/2017/07/19/rebuilding-no-10-down...

Until relatively recently, most of the tourist postcards of London you could buy in the tat shops in town had old photos where the buildings were all blackened. I'm not sure when they were cleaned, some time in the late 70s or early 80s perhaps. A dramatic difference!

A little off-topic, but it's nice to read some positive news about the UK (and England in particular). I feel that we get a lot of bad press, which is a shame as really the UK isn't such a bad place overall.

I have spent 2 years (on and off) in various parts of England and it was the most amazing time of my life. Life is a bit expensive over there but it's well worth it if you consider the positivity that people display, the very special sense of fashion and of course the accent (I find british people to be very well spoken in general, which helped me a lot in improving my understanding of the language). I'm a bit worried about brexit because I'm seriously considering moving back there for work.

> I find british people to be very well spoken in general

Well, it's their language, at the end of the day. You'd expect them to be well spoken, innit? :p

He probably meant polite? You find this with a lot of American people too, contrary to popular opinion elsewhere.

I keep thinking about leaving - I'm a NZer in London, but I fucking love living here.

There is a serious problem with the way the elite treat this country though. It becomes more apparent the longer you live here, with the way David Cameron handled the EU ref being the perfect example. They're so sure of themselves, they've never really experienced a situation where they haven't been in the advantage, and they have 0 empathy. Then they fuck things up royally.

This is the absolute #1 downside of this country, and I say that as someone who would probably be counted as one of the elite for having gone to Cambridge. I did not however go to Oxford and do PPE, which is the prerequisite course for running the country.

The narrowness of the elite and their supporting media organisations (including the ones run by overseas tax exiles) causes a terrible inward focus. Entire regions of the country end up feeling forgotten, with good reason.

Also an NZer in London, and I am leaving, though to Berlin, not back to New Zealand. Berlin (and Germany) aren't perfect - far from it, but they haven't yet damaged themselves as badly as the UK has.

I love the UK, and am actually going there tomorrow.

...and that’s exactly why I feel so strongly that they are being idiots. Nobody would care about an actually terrible country ruining its future and descending into madness.

Kurtz79 32 days ago [flagged]

Brexit has done a lot of damage, at least in EU countries (and not in all circles), to the image of British people as reasonable, realiable, level-headed fellows.

But apart from that, I'm not sure what bad press you get?

> I enjoyed nearly all of the neighborhoods that I explored. Bloomsbury, Hyde Park, Soho, Notting Hill, and Mayfair were especially pleasant.

i.e. the 5 richest areas of the city. Definitely not representative of the real London. Head to Camberwell, Manor House, Ealing and Walthamstow next time to see where "regular" people are living.

London is one of the most unequal cities on the planet. You get this surreal mix of wealthy billionaires and poor migrants living hand to mouth. The upper classes protect and segregate themselves from the riff-raff through pricing. My experience was that London is not actually a community, the cultural and socioeconomic rifts are so profound that random people seldom interact, there is little small talk to be had with strangers.

Tourists thoroughly enjoy the central areas but seldom realize they could never afford a home there of any decent size.

I'm pretty sure that title would go to the capital of some banana republic whose elites are probably living in London the half the time anyway.

yes, having spent a couple of months in India I doubt London has worse inequality than tier-1 Indian cities.

London is a rich person's theme park to which tourists are permitted some restricted access, for an exorbitant price. ("tourist" includes people renting for the short to mid term, who simply could not afford to buy, and will move out of London to do so)

Most unequal on the planet? That is ridiculous. Even SF with its thousands of dotcom millionaires and thousands of homeless is worse, let alone places with proper inequality like Mumbai or Lagos...

Ealing has some upmarket areas.

For the roughest and poorest areas try Harlesden, Tottenham, or Edmonton. (Or don't, because they're dangerous.)

That's not a complete list, but they'll certainly give visitors a different view of London.

"regular" or "poor"?

I would argue that the neighbourhoods above are just representations of the other side of the spectrum. Not where "regular" people live.

> Brick Size Forensics

There is a far easier way to _roughly_ date buildings.

o English bond: pre georgian to early victorian (1650-1840)

o Flemish bond: victorian to ~1930s

o Stretcher bond: anything with a cavity wall, so 1950>

If the brick is glazed its ~1870-1930

see https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Types_of_brick_bon... for what the bonds look like

thanks for the link edit!

What a lovely article.

About the market off Edgware Road ("Most merchants had already left, though a handful were finishing packing up. Many had just thrown their cardboard boxes, packaging, and other trash on the ground for someone else to clean up") - this is Church Street, which is a pretty good local market for everyday food and supplies. It's a daily market and I think the same merchants occupy the same spaces every day, which may be why they're a bit relaxed about clearing up. It's a slightly grubby area but I like it.

At the end of Church Street is Rossmore Road: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7helGibteIM

They are licensed market pitches, the fee includes cleanup and the local council will come in the night and clear away all the debris and hose it down. There are many markets like this in London, Ridley road market in Hackney is infamous for having a meat stall that was caught selling bush meat from endangered species[0] and there was supposedly a case where human meat was found in the 1990s although I cant find an reference. Apparently the bin men get paid danger money for cleaning this market!

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/uk/2001/may/26/jeevanvasagar

The note about the Brunswick Centre is interesting. This odd space-age utopian building was in much worse shape until a £20M renovation in 2006, with The Guardian characterizing it as one of the “most miserable places in London”: https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/amp.theguardian.com/artanddes...

In that article, the architect mentions he originally wanted it built out of brick in the style of Alvar Aalto, but they had to settle for painted concrete. In 1970 even the paint job was cut from the budget and wasn’t done until the renovation, so for 36 years the Brunswick was a brutalist bunker.

Im glad they fixed it. It’s an interesting landmark of British modernism’s fling with low-key sci-fi architecture — and the grocery store is good, I go there all the time.

I occasionally have to take my daughter to Great Ormond Street hospital. We park in the car park underneath the Brunswick Centre. It's nice to sit out on the shopping area and get something to eat afterwards these days. There's also Skoob books on the end which is a wonderful place to have a browse.

Compared to how it was (I have been there) it's a really nice place now. I wouldn't be averse to living in it if it wasn't so expensive.

At the same time I like brutalist architecture. I used to hang out in the Barbican when I worked at that end of the city years ago.

Great book shop in the basement of that building (Skoob). Coram's Fields round the corner is brilliant if you have children.

> Curb cut grips: I can imagine that these grips are important when the ground is wet and slippery. Would not be fun to find yourself tripping into oncoming traffic...

I thought those studs were to make it clearer for blind and partially sighted people where the crossing is?

That's right, and the different shapes mean different things.

There's a Tom Scott video about them: https://www.rnib.org.uk/rnibconnect/welfare-and-money/tom-sc...

It's interesting to see an outside perspective on a place you're so familiar with. One point that was pretty funny was the idea that London is pedestrian friendly with all those little streets to walk along. I think it's more down to London being haphazardly constructed over the last ~2000 years, and even when it all burned down they refused to change the layout. Which does make it fun. You don't get the line of sight you find in other European cities, and you can twist and turn around the place to your heart's delight.

I have lived in London for the last 5 years, and although it's much more pedestrian friendly than any city in the US, I find it less accomodating than other (admittedly smaller) cities in Europe. European cities embrace plazas and squares and usually have long, wide and straight boulevards leading to them as the main features. London doesn't have a straight road longer than a few hundred meters. The biggest pedestrian-only space is probably Trafalgar square, and it's so packed with tourists that you lose the benefit.

When I moved to London I was shocked how hostile to pedestrians it was. Oxford street should not have cars on it (there's an ongoing project but it's taking forever). Same for other neighbourhood thoroughfares, like Regent St, Piccadilly, Bishopsgate, Fleet St, etc. It would be a much better city if that was the case.

About chimneys: Up til the 1950s, coal was used in fireplaces and there was one chimney per room, plus maybe an extra chimney for a kitchen range[1]. This abruptly changed in the 1960s with central heating, so houses would be built without a central chimney stack at all and with just a single boiler flue often through a side wall or at the side of the roof. So you can fairly reliably date houses to "before 1960s" or "after 1960s" by looking for a chimney stack, and if there is a chimney stack you can count the number of original rooms by counting the chimneys.

[1] Our house has 4 rooms and 5 chimneys and that's the best explanation I have. Our house also has a boiler flue fitted much later - made from asbestos!

Those "Curb cut grips" are tactile paving:


Does San Francisco not have that?

Tube stations: St John's Wood, Cockfosters

Another story: foreign friend of a friend came to work for an estate agent. She wondered why having a toilet was something to put on the sign. Surely every place has a toilet? And why were all the signs misspelled?

Probably means an indoor toilet.

Edit: that went way over my head... sigh

"to let" != "toilet"

It's an amazing opportunity for guerrilla typographers though.

well that was embarrassing

> Crutches and leg braces: I saw many more people with crutches and leg braces walking around than I typically see in San Francisco. It was a striking difference, so I don't think it was just a fluke. A few hypotheses:

I too have noticed this. Does anyone have any explanation? Due to better health care? Worse health care? More of a walking culture? more interest in soccer which causes these types of injuries? Something else entirely?

Nearly half of Londoners don't own a car and a lot of people who grew up in London don't have a driving license. It just doesn't make sense to drive in central London - it's slower than a bike or the tube, there's an £11.50 ($15) daily charge just to drive into town and parking costs a fortune.

I suspect that most Americans with an injured leg would travel by car unless they had absolutely no alternative, while a lot of Londoners see nothing wrong with hobbling about on crutches.

A minor addition to your hypothesis is that most cars in London are manual (stick shift) - even if they could find somewhere to park, pay the congestion charge, etc they might well be less able to operate the vehicle too.

Manual cars are more popular but automatics are still easy enough to find. Also if you're registered disabled you may qualify for a specially adapted Motability car.

Both good points.

I was assuming that most people are on crutches temporarily, as I've only ever known people to use them this way. I would assume this group are less likely to get a special car just for the duration or their use.

A quick google didn't give me any idea of what proportion of people use them permanently/long-term, although there are reports of complications increasing with prolonged (>1 year) use [0] so it implies they definitely are around.

[0] https://www.cege.ucl.ac.uk/arg/Lists/ARGnotes/Attachments/6/...

I live in London and travel to America 10 times a year over the last 3 years. I would agree with above.

In the USA I see more people with chronic healthcare issues that have not been treated (they just get on with it). I suspect its because of the cost of healthcare - in the UK minor issues like leg injuries dont require you to think about cost before seeking treatment. whilst in the US you would have to consider if its a good ROI based on your income.

So the cost may be enough to nudge US ppl to ignore, whilst the free element means more ppl seek intervention in the UK

Of course this is just opinion and not real data.

Maybe because driving in London is not an option (congestion charging / insane traffic / no parking), so you see more walking wounded.

After having lived in London for a few years, I noticed this everywhere too. I am no expert but I have a theory that it's a combination of: Genetics - you'll notice this when you watch people walk and have odd knee/ankle flex. Discipline - not learning how to walk properly. This sounds silly, but when you drag your feet and wear improper shoes injury is more likely. Healthcare - I have noticed that people are more likely to go to the doctor compared to the States

Among older folks it is perhaps also related to nutrition - unlike the US, we had rationing through the war and well into the 50s so many people will have grown up with a barely adequate diet.

This is really quite an offensive statement, and I can't quite believe I've read this on here.

I just want to mention that what you've written is not ok.

You think English people have genetically weak legs?

I blame the Ministry of Silly Walks.

I’d be tempted to say football and running in parks?

I would wager that joggers are less inclined to get leg injuries than non runners

Maybe the northerly location reduces sun exposure making bones weaker?

You seem to be getting downvotes, but the NHS did issue guidelines suggesting that British people increase their vitamin D intake or supplement it: https://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/the-new-guidelines-on-...

Fewer steep hills?

> Seems like they are in some sort of transition for the address system. Google maps has letters and numbers, but when you get to the street there is a typical name.


The author has misunderstood the fact that e.g. the A3 is Kennington Park Road. It's not a transition at all: they're systems that coexist.

Google Maps (on Android at least) has an awful style when using it as a pedestrian. The map overemphasises the road numbers like A3, and it can be difficult to find the name of the road.

Google Maps is very clearly "designed in California", with no awareness of the rest of the world.

> Google Maps is very clearly "designed in California", with no awareness of the rest of the world.

I had the same impression in Asia, where subway exists are numbered and it makes a lot of sense to get out at the right exit but Google Maps does not really take the exits into account although they are on the map.

It also does not display the non-Latin names of stops, which would've been useful sometimes, especially when asking people for directions. People in Asia aren't often terribly familiar with the names of the stations in English.

One of my biggest gripes when using Google maps for car nav. The road names it uses rarely match street signage or road markings, especially at busy roundabouts. The approaching lanes it recommends are also usually incorrect. I wish there was something better.

To be fair, it’s an oddity from an American perspective. Our highways are numbered, some streets are numbered but most are named, and it’s vanishingly rare that a street will have both a number and a name.

So, let's take Route 66. Are you telling me that none of that route had a name? Or did they go along while adding Route 66 signs and take _out_ existing names for the roads used?

Did people wake up one day and find that their "Main Street" was now just "part of Route 66, it doesn't have a name" ?

The letter-number designations like "A33" in the UK are like your route numbers. Some were purpose built and nobody cares what the underlying road is "named" (all the major Motorways are like this, there is no "name" for the M25, it's just the M25) but most are pre-existing roads, designated as part of some route and to locals the original name is what they'd call their bit.

e.g. Nobody where I live would say "the A335" they'd say "Thomas Lewis Way" because that's what this part of the A335 is named even though it was constructed specifically in order to bypass local streets for the A335 route. A person from out of town might say they used the A335 but probably people would look puzzled, then go "Oh, Thomas Lewis Way, yeah".

> all the major Motorways are like this, there is no "name" for the M25, it's just the M25

You're right for practical purposes, but they do often technically have names. The M25 is the "London Orbital Motorway": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M25_motorway

If you're going to link to technical motorway facts, roads.org.uk is the place to link to!


Today I Learned. Thanks.

> So, let's take Route 66. Are you telling me that none of that route had a name?

In the Midwest, at least, it is very common for larger roads to have both local names and route numbers (one of county, state, or federal); no, the road name is not removed that I've ever seen. An example, heading due west from Chicago is state route 38, which is Roosevelt Road through the city and suburbs, then has other names as it passes through smaller towns - often "Lincoln Highway," as 38 generally follows that historic route. Frequently state routes will have the name "State Street" within smaller towns.

The Interstate system is a departure from this, and rarely do they have names - although in Chicago they do have de facto names, which often confuses outsiders when they hear the traffic report. "What the heck is the Ike?!"

I’m not sure if the UK is the same as here, but in Australia the reason you have both for major roads is that generally you have regular names, and then the letter/number is the route designator. A route will generally traverse multiple streets/roads/motorways. So in the state I live in if you follow the M1 you will go from the Pacific Motorway at the southern border, onto the Gateway Motorway and then on to the Bruce Highway. So they have different roles.

Around here (Boston) there are many roads with both a name and a number. Route 16 is the Mystic Valley Parkway, and then later on that splits off and 16 is the Alewife Brook Parkway. Or, Route 60 is also High Street, at least by us. For these two think we use the number a bit more, but the name is also used. Other roads, like Route 2 are called that in some sections but not others (no one would call Memorial Drive "Route 2"). Even the interstates have names that no one would use: Route 128 is the "Yankee Division Highway", but everyone says 128 (or maybe 95). And some interstates have names people do use: the Mass Pike (Massachusetts Turnpike) can be called "90" but generally isn't.

Overall, this is complicated and it's not surprising to me that it's hard to get a computer to do the right thing.

> it’s vanishingly rare that a street will have both a number and a name.

Not really. In New Jersey for example, almost all major roads have both a name and a number, and both are displayed on Google Maps.

Probably the fact that:

1. Every major road has a name, like "High Street"

2. In London, some street names are ambiguous. So in some parts of London, every street sign includes the postcode district in red. For example, a street might be signposted "High Street W3" [1]

3. Some of these streets will also have a numeric code, like "A4020"

4. Addresses on these streets will also have a full postcode, like W3 6LE

5. Google also shows "plus codes" like "GP4M+P7 Acton, London" which no-one else uses (I think they're useful in other countries, that don't have high-precision postcode systems)

[1] https://goo.gl/maps/MvhNRytmDpN2

Yeah, as a Londoner I have no idea what the OP is on about here.

They're just misunderstanding post codes.

'The people I hung out with while there were bitter towards the required TV licenses and "religion" for NHS in public discourse. Curious how widespread this attitude is.'

Not very widespread at all in my experience.

No, agreed. The NHS is very popular amongst the majority:

- Seventy-seven per cent of the public believe the NHS should be maintained in its current form. This level of support has remained consistent over almost two decades despite widespread social, economic and political change. - Around 90 per cent of people support the founding principles of the NHS, indicating that these principles are just as relevant today as when the NHS was established. - A clear majority (66 per cent) of adults are willing to pay more of their own taxes to fund the NHS, underlining growing support among the public for tax rises to increase NHS funding.[1]

[1]: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/what-does-public-t...

The OP was talking about how forbidden it is to speak of changing the NHS in any way.

You are saying the NHS is popular.

Those are orthogonal: you can like the NHS and want to change it.

That's a good point. I didn't consider that. It was my mistake to simply take that as criticism/negativity of the NHS.

NHS is very popular amongst the majority:

Absolutely, but at least when I lived in England everybody was also very opinionated about how CurrentGovernment ruining it, how it used to be so much better and how you need to to X right now to fix it.

I have met a few people who ranted about the NHS and TV Licenses - a very small minority but they definitely do exist. Often the type who live abroad because the UK has, in their opinion, too many immigrants.

Edit: I'm not suggesting that either the BBC or the NHS are above criticism - far from it. But I'd rather criticism was based on facts and not what the Daily Mail reports.

You met these people abroad then?

Not always - have heard those views from people back in the UK from their tax-exiles as well.

Mind you - I'm only talking about a handful of people but the ones I did meet who thought that way were at such a level of foaming at the mouth lunacy I can't really forget them. I did memorably try and explain to one crowd why I was quite happy with not being able to shoot trespassers on my lawn but I think I was regarded as a dangerous communist after that.

NB Not had any conversations like that for 10+ years...

Thee is a wing of UKIP who want usa style gunlaws or a return to the pre 1930's rules or lack of - there is a reason the Shelby's in peaky blinders can own SMG's and LMG's

I remember meeting a British couple in Australia who told me they moved there to get away from the immigrants.

Dropped in to say that too - that's pretty unusual. The vast majority of Brits think the NHS is a great thing, don't really care about the TV license and love the BBC.

I get that the NHS has this 'sacred cow' thing going on, where it's almost impossible to criticise and even proposing much change must be done tactfully... but this is because we think it's great, if underfunded.

'The people I hung out with while there were bitter towards the required TV licenses and "religion" for NHS in public discourse. Curious how widespread this attitude is.'

I think its fair to say that a person's views on public service broadcasting and public healthcare, i.e. the TV Licence (which funds the BBC) and the NHS, correspond to where they are on the political spectrum - the further right are openly critical, the moderate right are insincerely supportive, and the centre and left are openly and genuinely supportive. Based on this, it sounds like the author was hanging out with some people from the far right, in which case this would not be hugely widespread in the UK as a whole.

Not sure if you'd call them "far right" exactly, but the tech-bro super-libertarian (think "taxes are theft") types also tend to complain about the TV licence fee and the NHS...

> Bloomsbury, Hyde Park, Soho, Notting Hill, and Mayfair...

For those not seeing the implication: These are areas that have some of the UKs wealthiest residents.

For anybody wondering. These areas of London are all extremely wealthy.

It might be possible that the demographics populating these areas might be less 'grateful' for the services the NHS provides.

Exactly, many will have their own private health insurance and begrudge paying for something they don't need.

They hope they don't need it, but if you're getting operated on in an expensive private hospital and something goes badly wrong, or if you just fall down the stairs while you're there, guess what they do: they dial 999[1] and an ambulance comes round from the real hospital. And you won't be charged[2] for that service. Hooray for the NHS.[3]

[1] You can dial 112 instead if you prefer.

[2] Unless the private hospital charges you an admin fee for calling the ambulance for you, which I wouldn't put past those bastards. If it was profitable to slowly torture you to death that's exactly what they'd do to you. Personally I prefer to be treated by someone on a fixed salary who just wants to do the best they can with the resources available to them while earning the respect of their colleagues.

[3] This has turned into a bit of a rant, but I suppose it gives people a feel for the British NHS "religion".

The issue with British NHS religion is not that "the national healthcare shouldn't be free", it's that 95% of British population don't even want to discuss what's wrong with the NHS in the first place.

You were the first to have it and now you messed it up, compared to most of the european countries.

Believe me we know what's wrong with it, we're just careful to criticise it. The root of all those problems is a lack of cash. The current govt. is de-funding it to breaking point so they can bring in private contractors.

Cite I have heard French doctors praising the NHS for efficiency.

Of course, that private health insurance will generally dump them straight back onto the NHS as soon as they can describe an issue as “chronic” or it gets too complicated for them to want to pay for. Good quality healthcare plans (vs health insurance for acute events) doesn’t exist in the U.K.

Often it's the same doctor who will refer you to themself in the NHS after an initial private consultation if they work out that the insurance company isn't going to pay enough for your treatment to make it worthwhile.

They got rid of the TV licensing in NL a while ago, since most people have cable, sattelite, or none of the above. We still have (and, imo, need) public channels and broadcasters, but they're paid from regular taxes now.

For political reasons the UK's TV license is collected by (a third party contractor on behalf of) the BBC, but the money doesn't actually go directly to the BBC, it goes to central government, they carve it up and send some to the BBC.

Lots of odd things are funded with this money, including for example local newspaper reporters at for-profit newspapers (!) but the name and forcing the BBC to actually collect it mean in the public consciousness it's all blamed on the BBC.

Now, Public Service Broadcasting is _distinct_ from having central government revenue funding a broadcaster as happens for the BBC. All UK terrestrial TV is "Public Service Broadcasting" and so are the old US TV networks. PSB means you're using up some finite public resource (radio bandwidth) and so you need to "give back" to the public. It's pretty common to require a daily news broadcast and to have other constraints "for the good of the public" e.g. a non-English country might require at least 10 hours per week of the local language even though viewers would really just prefer wall-to-wall imported soap operas in English or whatever.

As well as the internationally famous BBC, Britain also has "Channel 4" which owns the Film Production company Film4 that made or co-made films you've probably enjoyed (e.g. "Trainspotting", "12 Years a Slave"). Channel 4 is a PSB, but more importantly it's publicly owned. It operates more like a for-profit television company (e.g. advertising) except the money goes back into making TV and it has a publicly controlled mission to be er, challenging. So e.g. the BBC went "Hey, half the population are women, so it's crazy to have all these panel discussion shows with 6 men and no women. From now on, if your show has a panel discussion it needs either a woman or a sign-off explaining why there weren't any women" but C4 is the kind of place where they go "Hang on, there totally must be Muslim lesbians, right? Let's do a show about the Muslim lesbian dating scene, so there's this whole tolerance angle but also it has hot women kissing each other".

That's an excellent breakdown, but Channel 4 would be very wary of highlighting the animosity towards gay people in Islam.

As with the weather, just because we complain about it all the time doesn't mean it's actually bad.

Quite the contrary in mine. Dissatisfaction with “tax money waste” correlates with the amount of tax they pay.

The unhealthy reality is that criticising the NHS or the TV license is not allowed on penalty of being ostracised and labelled an extremist.

So most people abstain unless they know it is OK to talk.

The NHS is fine to criticise. But if someone says the solution to its issues are to sell the profitable parts to the friends and family of conservative politicians.

Then that's not going to make you popular.

[Immigrant in UK] I'll never forget at one party/gathering where in a conversation I proposed that some base charge should be applied to those who book appointments with their GP and don't show up. I suggested a fiver (which I think is very low tbh). I was then subject to the most unexpected arguments, accusations and outrage! I truly got it then that the NHS is the real state religion in Britain.

Because when you start charging, the price will only go up.

University used to be free in the UK. Then tuition fees at University started at £1000ish a year, went up to about £3000, and is now £9000. All in about 10 years.

Also small fees like these affect the poor more than the well off. If I miss an appointment and it costs me £5, I wouldn't miss the money.

A quick search apparently shows that a quarter of British households have less than £100 in savings. [0] When that's 5% of their money that's just punishing the poor.

[0] https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-4234518/Savings-...

I've literally heard all of this before.

I'll say "Well they shouldn't miss the appointment, they can cancel if they can't make it"

To which you'll reply something about people and last minute, completely unavoidable things which prevent appointments being made.

To which, I'll reply that blah blah and on and on.

I've learned there's no point. I don't think fees for that are abnormal (have seen them and their handling of scenarios in operation in other countries to no big alarm) but it's against NHS dogma! Don't get me wrong, I like the NHS but there's seriously zealot-esque thinking towards it from many corners. It's not a case of "totally free" or the USA.

But as said, I'm an immigrant and have learned to keep quite on such matters.

GP appointments are 10 to 15 minutes long. Are missed appointments such a issue for GPs?

If someone doesn't show they move onto the next person.

Usually GPs have an issue in that appointments take longer than planned, so there's often waiting on the side of the patient.

Most GPs have appointments reserved to be bookable on the day if you call up in the morning.

What problem are you proposing a solution for?

Your comment about religious zelotry is condescending. Saying that anyone criticising your viewpoint is a blind fanatic.

First off, apologies. I mean more of a rigid, defensiveness in general among British people? Do you know what I mean? No offense meant and I withdraw that.

> Are missed appointments such a issue for GPs?

"Patients who miss GP appointments are costing NHS England £216m a year, officials have said." - https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46732626

And the incident I described what started due to one of the girls, a receptionist in a GP, bemoaning how many missed appointments they have and what a backlog it begets. People agreed. Just now I checked my doctor's online portal and I can't get an appointment for over two weeks (they advise to ring up at 8 on the morning if it#s an emergency and they'll try to fit you in). Unfortunately recently I had cause to have 6 appointments over a two week period, I saw a lot of names being called and no-one attending.

> If someone doesn't show they move onto the next person.

This presumes that people without an appointment, just hang around the waiting area... As said the backlog grows.

Yeah, there's a real .. bimodality? to NHS service users. A small fraction of people, usually elderly and/or disabled, with essentially infinite health problems, take up most of the time. Everyone else has to fit in around them.

Often their inability to keep appointments is inextricably linked to the medical condition, too - either physical or mental. Often it's linked to poverty or insecure living too.

We could start trying to price them out, which will at the margin result in someone dying of a preventable condition. This seems to be becoming more politically acceptable (see benefits system, food banks, refugees etc), but it's also something people are right to be squeamish about.

I can see your argument, although while £216m is a lot of money it's still a drop in the bucket compared to the NHS's total budget (about 0.2%).

Personally, I think the situation can be improved by more education. I think a fine would unfairly affect the less well off, not only because it would be a much more significant amount to them but because those are the same people who are more likely to have unforseen circumstances that mean they can't make an appointment, such as a job where they might just change your shift with little/no notice.

I think the actual booking system could fix a lot of these issues at most surgeries, too. My last surgery held back 75% of appointments such that you couldn't book them until the day of the appointment. This meant that you could almost always get a same day appointment as long as you called at 8:30am, and also meant you probably had a much better idea of whether you were going to be able to make that appointment or not. People who needed to get an advance appointment could still do so, and would have to wait a couple of weeks usually but that's no worse than most other places. It really did seem to fix a lot of the problems I've seen - I don't know why more places don't do it.

> but it's against NHS dogma...there's seriously zealot-esque thinking towards it

It's not dogma but yes it could be classed as zealotry, and not in a derogatory way. There are worse things to be a zealot about than public health. I cherish one part of our country that actually has written, founding principles.

They shaped what the NHS has been for over half a century, and what many people still want the NHS to be.

It's funny because they already pay a prescription charge (small fixed fee regardless of the contents of the prescription) at a pharmacy and there aren't enough dentists taking NHS patients for everybody to avoid paying for private dental services. So it isn't as if it is all literally free. I guess the difference is the NHS logo on the door.

In Scotland there is no prescription charge.

In England if you know you are going to be getting a lot of prescriptions you can pay an amount upfront, then prescriptions are at no extra cost than that. https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/help-with-health-costs/save...

The state of dentistry in the UK is shocking.

These are the same people who forget that a single visit to an NHS dentist is about £20 anyway.

It isn't if you have the certificate saying you proved you can't afford this sort of thing. Most NHS dentists have the paperwork and posters advertising it if you are somehow unaware those exist. Everything is free if you're both poor AND fill out all the paperwork.

There is a debate to be had about whether "make poor people fill out paperwork" is a justifiable approach, but it doesn't have to cost you £20 for the check-up.

I was going to do this when I was a student and the form was so long and convoluted I decided to just pay. It all seemed just slightly designed to stop you claiming it.

I filled that form out too. It wasn't the quickest, but it wasn't difficult either. Definitely didn't get the impression that it was some kind of barrier.

Exactly my point.

If someone emits a criticism it MUST mean that they want "an American system" and "to sell the profitable parts to the friends and family of conservative politicians" because, of course, that's the only alternative to the current situation...

So it's fine to criticise as long as the criticism is limited to suggesting that perhaps the hospital's car park could be slightly cheaper, if that's not too much bother, please, sorry.

Hence why people either say that everything's great or keep quiet.

Rather like Brexit and the various "Lexit" plans, regardless of what people might want or might be better under a different system, what you're going to get in practice is some kind of privatised system. We're a very long way from being able to safely discuss progressive improvements.

(More funding would be hugely popular, as the Brexit A/B testers discovered with the "£350m for the NHS" bus...)

NHS maybe, the license fee is fine to complain about

But sometimes people see an attack on the license fee as an attack on the BBC, which is also treated as a beloved institution by much of the UK.

Criticising BBC news coverage for not reflecting ones own political biases is practically a national sport though

I live here and don't pay the TV license. I don't consume BBC content, and dislike how they try and send angry letters for not paying for something I don't use (the BBC FireTV app runs at about 6 frames a second and is frustrating to use). Imagine if Netflix was claimed to be 'mandatory' and they could enter your home to check you're 'really' not using Netflix.

The NHS is popular, and people like it, but it's also very inefficient and it can become a political nightmare for anyone who tries to address that.

"very inefficient"

Given the health results for the amount we pay I think the NHS is actually very efficient - most of the problems with the NHS seem to have come about through ideologically motivated meddling and an an unwillingness to resource it properly.

I should perhaps get some real stats, but it seems almost everyone in the UK has some story of NHS staff not caring about their own performance. I waited three hours in urgent care once when the nurse in charge said she couldn't do anything without a scan - the front desk nurse could have said the same thing. I also has whooping cough and could have killed a friend's infant due to an NHS doctor that didn't bother to read national bulletins.

> Imagine if Netflix was claimed to be 'mandatory' and they could enter your home to check you're really not using Netflix.

Poor analogy, Netflix would also have to be owned but not funded by US Govt.

TV licence people can't exactly kick in the front door and search you for broadcast reception equipment, they're not the police, more like slightly more official bailiffs. They may threaten you with all sorts of legal toil but their powers are quite limited, they rely on their reputation to scare you into submission.

> Netflix would also have to be owned but not funded by US Govt.

Well yes, that's part of the scenario. That doesnt dismiss the point there's a news and entertainment company that thinks everyone watches their content and therefore sends them angry threats

> more like slightly more official bailiffs

No they're _less_ official than bailiffs.

Bailiffs can force their way into your home to take your property to pay for some fines and taxes.

A TV licence person can do absolutely nothing - they're just a normal member of the public.

Don't bailiffs need to have been allowed to cross the threshold of the premises (ie. you open the door to them and then they prevent you from closing the door)? It's illegal for them to kick your door in.

I mean't more official in that TV licence people work for a government owned organisation. Though I hadn't realised they didn't even have bailiff powers.

> It's illegal for them to kick your door in

Not true in all cases!


> Bailiffs are allowed to force their way into your home to collect unpaid criminal fines, Income Tax or Stamp Duty, but only as a last resort.

If these circumstances don't apply they can take things from outside your home, such as your car.

TV Licensing People certainly can't drive off with your car.

I stand corrected, gov.uk is so easy to use I've really no excuse for not looking this up earlier.

> TV Licensing People certainly can't drive off with your car.

It would make for a very interesting Top Gear replacement if they could though.

By the way, they can't actually legally enter your home without your permission. You can just turn them away at the door

Can you elaborate on how the NHS is inefficient? I.e. what metrics measure this? What in comparison to?

Ideally with data and not anecdotes

The "reasoning" I usually hear about this is basically:

- The public sector is inefficient (1)

- The NHS is in the public sector

- Therefore the NHS is inefficient

[1] Apart from the bits that the person repeating this argument is proud of (e.g. SAS) or scared of (e.g. GCHQ)

Re waste they haven't worked in the private sector then.

From my experience:

1. Hardly any way to see a GP outside work hours, so you have to take time off.

2. Cannot see a GP near to where you work, it has to be near to where you live. Which, combined with point 1, is a pain.

3. If you don't use the NHS and go see a private GP instead (which makes economic sense given how much your time off costs vs a private GP costs), you still have to pay for it.

4. Hard to get an appointment at short notice; registration is a pain and very inconvenient.

5. Unless you are dying, they are unlikely to offer any real help/proper tests, but then again that depends on individual GP and is probably not that different between NHS/private.

6. No personal accountability for your health. You end up paying for all the clowns that drink too much on a Friday night and end up in an ambulance and other people that do not take care of their health. Old people seem to go to a GP just because they are lonely.

I have not had to use NHS hospitals luckily, but I am guessing if you are not dying the wait times could be bad.

But these are all great efficiencies. It’s a total waste of money to optimise gp locations for people that are well enough to go to work and can afford a private gp if they want it.

If you’re really sick you’ll be seen very quickly, and you’ll be extremely glad the doctors aren’t busy pandering to people with minor conditions.

That's what some one pointed out its the receptionists job to filter the worried well and prioritise those that need it more.

> From my experience:

> Old people seem to go to a GP just because they are lonely.

I somehow doubt the above.

That's not inefficiency, it's quality. Anyone who has lived in France for example will tell you that the NHS isn't that good. However, it's very cheap. Hence the efficiency

So most people have sick pay to go the doctors

There are inefficiencies in the NHS. Mostly due to it not actually being national, but regional. NHS is split into england, wales, scotland and NI. Then in eact country a county will be split up again into Primary Care Trusts, which cover between 100k-500k people.

This leads to oddities like there is a national contract for medical staff (nurses, surgeons and doctors etc) but hundreds of different employers.

Each PCT negotiates it's own suppliers, and has a number of stakeholders who are normally GPs. Its all totally ballsed up.

Thats not even touching the IT systems.

However using per capita spend on health, it is ridiculously efficient https://data.oecd.org/healthres/health-spending.htm

It can cause problems if you have serious conditions and you are having to be treated in two or three trusts eg my local hospital cant do all my bloods.

The outsourced local Patient transport fiasco in my trust caused no end of problems people missing dialysis treatments etc.

> That's not even touching the IT systems.

Yeah, there's a disparate mix of up to date tech and unpatched Windows XP systems, since there's no centralised tech management - some trusts care about patient data and external threats, others don't.

lower survival rates for cancer

longer waiting times

an inflexible system with no opportunities to pay for top ups to standard care



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