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Driving in Bradford – part 1

Many people these days know perfectly well that driving in my home town is becoming somewhat of a trial. In fact, insurance in Bradford can be not only expensive, but some companies will not accept applications for a policy from anyone with a BD postcode. This is entirely down to the overall state of driving in this once great city.

Decent drivers from outside the city who have tried it have said to me how fraught, how frustrating and how bloody scary it was for them, and even very competent and experienced drivers have said that they avoid it if at all possible. It is an embarrassment to me as a Bradfordian, and I have long since realised that I am increasingly singing a solo in trying to drive legally, neatly and politely here. Elsewhere, the relief of driving among like-minded people is physically measurable on a heart rate monitor. It not explained by weight of traffic. Leeds is also very busy but there is a collective and co-operative mindset that I really appreciate.

I wrote “- part 1” in the title of this post because quite simply there is no way that this will be the last time I ever get steamed up about the frustratingly bad driving in Bradford, and ideally I would get some kind of campaign started. I just don’t know where anyone could start, short of banning all taxi drivers currently living or working in Bradford from EVER getting behind the wheel, for work or personal purposes, again.

The Highway Code in Bradford is essentially either completely ignored, or used as a sort of target, as in “let’s see how many of these rules we can break in one ten minute journey”, or similar.

The chief crimes against driving are, in no particular order:

1. Completely ignoring all indications of the right of way or give way signs. For instance, if exiting a side road – especially if turning right – pushing your way into the flow of traffic whether or not there is a gap and expecting everyone else to get out of the way. This is because the people who do this assume that if they are hit from behind, the rearmost driver will be automatically blamed by the insurance companies.
This particular crime is now reaching a point whereby if you are driving on the main road and prevent someone from making this illegal manoeuvre, perhaps by making it politely and firmly clear that you will not stop suddenly to facilitate it and risk being hit from behind, the driver attempting the illegal move will beep at you, gesticulate and shout obscenities out of the window.

2. Cutting across lanes without indicating at all, leaving no gap so that everyone else has to make dangerous avoidance manoeuvres left right and centre. A classic taxi move, and the scum even have the cheek that should you be brave enough to beep at them to indicate your presence (under the Highway Code, the only legitimate use of the horn) then be prepared to find that they will then deliberately drive even more erratically in front of you, blocking you from changing lanes, and even throwing coins and stones at your car to damage it and try to intimidate you right off the road. Think I’m exaggerating? It happened to me. Taxi number 1515, a large silver MPV, if you must know. And the only reason I didn’t report it is because neither the police nor the council will do a thing about it. “It’s his livelihood, we can’t ban or even prosecute him.” That’s the whole reason he should be off the road, you pillock!

3. Taxis. These drivers are, in Bradford, the worst possible bunch of types to be allowed to drive anything. At all, at any time. They should collectively be forced onto public transport, a very fitting punishment in my book because I hate catching the bus almost as much as sharing the road with Bradford taxi drivers.
If you book a private taxi in Bradford, or are picked up by one at a rank, more than likely the driver is not the person registered to drive that vehicle or as a taxi driver. “I’m covering for my cousin, he’s had to go home.” Not only that, the chump at the wheel does not appear to have passed any kind of driving licence, has no idea of the geography of even the major roads in the city centre, and you will have to be pretty darned good at orienteering to make sure you aren’t taken for a ride in every sense of the phrase. Expect – “Eccleshill. Is that Bradford topside?” Which it is, because the city centre is essentially a bowl shape, and therefore most of the outlying villages that merged into it are “topside”, i.e. up the hill. By the same token, Wrose, Clayton, Allerton, Queensbury, Bierley, Bolton, Heaton, Wyke, Idle, Fagley, etc are all “topside”. Don’t confuse the driver by mentioning the points of the compass, or using road names or numbers. Just be prepared to say “right filter lane here – no, other right”, “second on the left, not this one the next one” and so forth. Do not get into any taxi except PERHAPS on a good day a City taxi (white cabs, not general car models) unless you know your way around or have a smartphone with GPS and a map function.
They speed, they don’t wear seatbelts – I totally disagree with the idea that because they get out a lot they should not wear them, that’s pandering to lazy people who cannot be bothered and just want to have special status – and private hire cars often are not roadworthy. It is slightly better than in the past in that they don’t get away with using string to hold the bumpers on any more, but flat tyres, missing headlights, etc are common.
Most of all, they use their work cars for personal use with the taxi plates still on, thereby using bus lanes and so on with impunity as private drivers. I believe that taxis should NOT be allowed to use the bus lanes at all. These lanes are also for cyclists, and taxi drivers are utterly unsuitable lane companions for cyclists.

4. Creeping, and failure to use the handbrake. Many drivers in Bradford automatically park over cycle lanes at traffic lights, and will cheerfully let their cars creep over the white lines and so forth, impatient for the lights to change. However, the worst of the creepers are also least likely to set off promptly and tidily when the lights actually change, often delaying their progress or sticking in first gear for an inordinately long time. I have come to consider this a tactic to try to cause an accident by playing mind games with the driver behind.

5. MSM is not “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre” in Bradford, but “Move, Signal, then look in the Mirror to witness the carnage your poor driving and lack of timely indication has caused”. The number of people who signal what they have just done rather than showing their intentions first to give other drivers a fair opportunity to move co-operatively is staggering. Are they all paranoid that they are being followed by the police, and therefore do not want to give away their tactics too soon? Are they all shaking off undercover agents? No, they are just rubbish drivers.

6. Mobile phone use at the wheel is the norm, not the exception, and the police are so rarely in evidence and dealing with it that such illegal behaviour has a carte blanche, pretty much. This probably contributes to several of the other things that annoy me so much, like taking ages to set off from a junction with no other apparent reason, or swerving on the A647 doing 30mph on the 70mph stretch but insisting that other cars are not allowed to pass… Either text or drive, you cannot do both, legally or physically. No ifs, not buts, no nothing.
I heard someone claiming that young people are so good at texting that they can look elsewhere while they do it, but they don’t when they are behind the wheel – their eyes are firmly on the smartphone screen, checking out which word the auto-text suggestion has thrown up this time. Touchscreen virtual keyboards do not have a position sensor like the pip on the 5 on old mobiles, so it is impossible to type without watching your fingers.

7. It is impossible to cycle or motorcycle safely in Bradford on the roads. Anywhere. Motorbikes are seen as being less worthy of road space because they only have two wheels, and push cyclists have no genuine status at all in Bradford beyond cannon fodder. “But there are cycle lanes and stopping places, and bike racks and everything in Bradford” you say. Yes, there are. However, the average Bradford driver pays not one jot of attention to other road users, entirely bound up in preparing a justification as to why they have more right than anyone else to do whatever the hell they like, and everyone else can go hang.
I have even been the victim of a deliberate targeting by a car, when a vehicle full of youths tried to run me off the road while I was cycling the half mile home from my allotment. I was not jumping a red light, or weaving, I have lights and everything on the bike and the journey was made in broad daylight. I will not ride my bike ever again in Bradford, unless and until there are some serious changes made. I doubt the changes necessary will ever be made.

8. Marijuana is quite commonly smoked in public, and particularly at the wheel. Cars stinking of weed and with clouds of grey smoke emanating from the windows have caused me on at least 10 occasions this year alone to have to shut off the air intake for the cabin of the car so that I don’t inhale the confounded stuff as well. I work in the NHS – I could theoretically be asked to pass a drug test at any point. I would hate to find that passive smoking caused by another driver could lose me my job – these idiots should be stopped.
I reported one of the cars because the only occupant was the driver and so there was only one person who it could be; a 20-something girl with Asian roots. She was the only car in front of me for easily three miles, from Hall Ings right the way to Morrison’s on Thornton Road. I never heard back whether anything was done about it, so I assume the answer is bugger-all…

So there you have it. You are now prepared to drive in Bradford, having been forewarned. Try to maintain your dignity. This sort of appalling driving does tend to lead even the most mild-mannered to eventually shout something like “Well sod that, if he’s doing it, I bloody will too!” and they find themselves driving badly as a sort of counter-attack or self-defence. Those bastards have had more practice – just stay safe as best you can!

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