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A red face to go with the red trousers

He’s best known for his red trousers but it is George Ferguson’s face that is glowing bright red today.

The Mayor of Bristol is never out of the news in the city and has made headlines for the wrong reasons in the past with his unfortunate habit of using the F-word.

First he abused a man who persistently questioned him about residents’ parking zones at a party. Ferguson refused to say sorry, claiming that the man was stalking him. Then he used the same word in a row with the city’s Conservative leader Peter Abraham. On this occasion he issued an apology of sorts but said he had merely used “strong language in a private exchange.”

It couldn’t really get any worse for an elected mayor could it? Oh yes, it could.

He’s become the plague of the city’s motorists. Not only introducing those increasingly unpopular parking zones all over Bristol, but also his ‘Make Sundays Special’ campaign (in which cars are banned from the city centre) and an astonishing number of 20mph zones. Some 13,000 20mph speed limit signs have been put up across the city with the total bill costing taxpayers more than £2.3 million.

Ferguson has always bigged up his green credentials, travelling round the city Boris-Johnson style on a bike (increasing numbers of cycle lanes have also infuriated motorists in many parts of Bristol) and, when he does get behind the wheel, doing so in an electric-powered Smart car. So imagine the field day the anti-Ferguson brigade have been having now that he’s been done for speeding.

And he wasn’t going down a very steep hill on a bike or even having his Smart car pushed by Bristol Rugby Club’s pack, he was driving an ordinary car. He was caught doing 35mph in a 30mph zone on the Portway, a main route into the city, which most residents think should be a minimum of 50mph along its entire length. It was an official fleet car that had been hired from the city council, which he insists he rarely uses. He would say that wouldn’t he?

Unlike his language blunders, he has at least said a very hasty sorry on this occasion. “I am shocked to have just discovered I exceeded the speed limit on the Portway last month,” he said. “This was an inexcusable mistake on my part on one of the rare occasions when I have had to use a council fleet car.

“I am only too aware of the dangers of exceeding speed limits and commend the Avon and Somerset police for their vigilance.”

But it’s what he went on to say after issuing that grovelling apology that is more outrageous than his speeding, his swearing or even those 13,000 20mph zones.
“I have blemished an otherwise clean licence and shall be paying the penalty charge willingly from my own pocket.”
He’s implying that we should be grateful for the fact he’s paying the £100 fine himself. What should we expect? That it should come out of an official city council pot for “fleet car fines”? Pay up, George and do so immediately.
Oh, and it might be time to think again about those 20mph limits which you’ll presumably find even more difficult to stick to than the 30mph one the next time you get behind the wheel.
Edinburgh is another city that is soon to introduce a significant number of 20mph zones – and council leaders have been shown some interesting stats for the UK a whole. Between 2009 and 2013 there was a 76 per cent rise in the number of injury-related road accidents in 20mph zones. Some 3,164 people have been killed, seriously or slightly injured compared to 1,795 four years earlier. In comparison, accidents on all other roads in built-up areas fell by 17%.
Those 20mph zones could be luring pedestrians into a false sense of security. More and more of them seem to have been walking in front of cars.
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Kevan Blackadder

Written by Kevan Blackadder

Kevan Blackadder is a media consultant who runs Blackadder Media Limited. Kevan was previously editor of the Gloucestershire Echo and assistant editor of the Bristol Post. A Cumbrian who moved to the South West “for a couple of years” in the 1980s, he can’t quite believe he’s been there ever since.

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