Clarkson on: Fulham
History has produced many fools. Alfred may have been great but he couldn't even cook. Dan Quayle couldn't spell ‘potato'. Colin Welland thought Chariots of Fire heralded the triumphant return of British movie making. But if you want to see contemporary idiocy on a scale so vast it beggars belief, I urge you to sit in on a Hammersmith and Fulham Highway Committee meeting. Forrest Gump meets Worzel Gummidge isn't in it.
Being Labour-controlled, you expect the townhall to be full of dim-wits but these guys set new standards. Ask them to spell ‘potato' and it would come out as ‘grpfing'. Let them loose on the roads and all hell breaks loose.
A few months ago they decided it would be a good idea to put a bus lane up the Fulham Palace Road which, as anyone who has ever been to London will tell you, is the busiest road in the world. You will never see an M-reg car down there because nothing has moved since last August.
Anyone with even half a brain could stand on the Hammersmith flyover, gawping at the resultant carnage, and announce that the scheme had been a failure. But not the chaps and chap-esses on the council. Oh no. They've gone bus lane crazy. Temporary bus lanes have become full-time bus lanes. Cycle ways are bus lanes. Buses coming out of the station have right of way and their own set of lights. In Fulham the bus is king and the bus driver is Craig Breedlove.
Richard Noble should not worry about American competition for his new land speed record attempt. Nor should he concern himself with technical difficulties. His biggest threat is that, every morning, buses in Fulham are reaching speeds of 900mph.
So why don't I get on board? Well, a) they don't run a service from Battersea to Edgbaston and b) I don't want to. However, the Council is winning. On roads where there are no buses they've built speed bumps. Who cares that they wreck cars, or that they add to pollution as people speed up between them, or that they are a problem for ambulance and fire crews?
"In Fulham the bus is king and the bus driver is Craig Breedlove"
Fulham has become so hard for car drivers - and I have to drive through it to get out of town - that I am now seriously considering leaving London for good. Yes, we've starting taking Country Life and making ‘ooh' noises at just what you can get for your money in the shire counties. We even had a practice run last weekend, up in Scotland. We drove from the hotel for five miles before we saw another car. It was heaven. I could have done 100mph. If I'd had a bus, I could have done 900.
For sure, the fields were all green, which is a hateful colour, and there were trees everywhere, rustling and snuffling in the breeze. Then there was the mud, which is what makes the countryside such a foul place. There is no mud in Jermyn Street.
Country pubs are pretty nasty too, full of people in chunky jumpers drinking beer with beetles in it. And I can't think of anything worse than having to get on with my neighbours, or having to talk to the postman in the morning. But the simple fact of the matter is this: you can at least move around, which you cannot do here in London, where my postman could be a green monster from the planet Zarg for all I know.
You can also park. In Fulham, residents spend eight hours a day at work, eight hours asleep and four hours looking for somewhere to park. The remaining four hours are spent popping up the Fulham Palace Road for a packet of fags. In the country, people have drives so they can park right outside their front door every night. You can even have a garage without having to sell your children into slavery.
The only way someone can raise enough money to have a garage in London is by becoming a rent boy. Or a stockbroker. Neither of which appeals terribly.
Eventually, of course, everyone will see things the same way and the gradual shift to the south east will be reversed. Everyone will move back from whence they came and the idiots from Hammersmith and Fulham Council will look down from the top floor of their red-flagged townhall and marvel at what they have done. The buses will have the roads to themselves. But there will be nobody on board.