Extreme Pedantry For The Win!


Last month I got a Penalty Charge Notice from Islington. I am the registered keeper of the vehicle in this alleged contravention:

A car, going the wrong side of a "keep left" sign.

I think normally I would’ve just sucked it up and paid the fine, but… they caught me in the wrong mood. Clearly the street furniture is arranged so as to maximise ticketing revenue from tourists. This appears immediately after a left-turn to enter the road. In the first picture (left) the brakes are on; the car is stopped because the driver is wondering how to interpret this fantastic and unusual display of road furniture. Locals will know about already and just drive around.

I wrote the following letter:

I have received a Penalty Charge Notice from Islington.

“LLATLA 2003″ is a reference to primary legislation London Local Authorities and Transport for London Act 2003.

On reviewing the relevant legislation I find that Islington fail to meet their statutory obligations with regard to the penalty charge notice (LLATLA 2003 Section 4 subection (8)).  I find that:
- there is failure to state the grounds on which Islington believe that the penalty charge is payable.  In particular, Islington should state whether their belief is that Section 4 subsection (5)(a) applies, or Section 4 subsection (5)(b) applies (referring to LLATLA 2003).  I am content that Section 4 subsection (7) does not apply;
- there is failure to state that the person on whom the notice is served may be entitled to make representations under paragraph 1 of Schedule 1 of LLATLA 2003;
- there is failure to specify the form in which any such representations are to be made.

If Islington intends to pursue this matter further, please send a revised penalty charge notice.

Today I got a letter from Steven Prieditis, Correspondence and Appeals Office, Islington Council. There’s some blurb, and then:

Due to an error when issuing the PCN thsi ticket has been cancelled.



I’m actually slightly disappointed. In the (now cancelled) PCN they allege: “Failing to drive in the direction shown by the arrow on a blue sign”.

That contravention did not take place. Referring to diagram 606 of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, we can plainly see that the alleged offence would be failing to observe a sign like this:


“vehicular traffic must proceed in the direction indicated by the arrow”.

You can just about make out the blue sign in the pictures at the top of the article. It’s this:


(Diagram 610 of the regulations). And the description of that sign is “vehicular traffic must comply with the requirements prescribed in regulation 15″ (of The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002).

Wrong sign. Didn’t happen.

PS I hereby license you to do whatever you like with the letter I wrote.

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18 Responses to “Extreme Pedantry For The Win!”

  1. Gareth Rees Says:

    I’m not sure I understand. Section 15(1) of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 says, “vehicular traffic passing the sign must keep to the left of the sign where the arrow is pointed downwards to the left”.

    So Islington could have chosen to reissue the penalty notice with reference to the correct sign, but you got away with it for some unexplained reason. Is that a correct interpretation of your post?

    Truly dreadful piece of road design. Presumably it’s there to encourage motorists to collide with cyclists in the narrow bypasses to the left and right (and thus contributing to Islington’s share of the increase in cycle casualties).

  2. Nick Barnes Says:

    What’s that bit in the middle for, anyway? Oncoming traffic merging into a bus lane?

  3. The signage doesn’t seem unclear to me; it’s a perfectly ordinary “keep left” sign. (What the point of the layout is is another question – I don’t see any signs saying certain classes of vehicle can go through the middle but perhaps there is one out of shot.)

  4. drj11 Says:

    @Gareth: Yes I (ahem: I mean, the driver. I’m merely the person responsible for paying any fines arising) got away with it for some unknown reason. Perhaps they could’ve re-issued the PCN, but I’m not sure they’re allowed to do that.

    @Rest: I really do believe that the bit in the middle is so that tourists and other road users unfamiliar with the street furniture will be hoodwinked into using it and thereby incur a fine. The lawful use is for emergency vehicles. Natch.

    @Richard: Never said it was unclear.

  5. drj11 Says:

    I guess a general point is that Islington shouldn’t just be able to show me a picture and say “you did something wrong, pay up”. They have to say exactly what the wrong thing was. This seems reasonable to me. It also seems kinda reasonable that if they make a mistake, then I get to walk. After all, they should know more about the obscure details of traffic regulations than me. It’s their job.

  6. drj11 Says:

    Argh. I started reading that report and now my brain is melting. Why does the executive summary not contain a single graph?

    What do the colours mean for the different regions of Great Britain on page 14? Absolutely nothing. They’re certainly not related to the 3 numbers presented for each region (pedestrian/cyclst/child deaths). Argh. Tufte would go mad. Help, I’m melting.

  7. drj11 Says:

    lulu charge GBP 2.75 for a 68 page book, (black and white, colour covers). HMSO charge GBP 14.35 for their 54 page report. How do they justify this?

  8. Gareth Rees Says:

    Yes, the report is really poor in lots of ways. It keeps switching between absolute casualties, casualties adjusted for population, and casualties adjusted for population and distance, so that nothing is fairly comparable with anything else. (See for example the utterly useless table on page 36.)

    Most of the recommendations are completely non-actionable — “considering”, “engaging”, “educating” and “influencing” are the key verbs — and unmeasurable (“there is no direct evidence of the contribution that the Think! campaign has made to reducing casualties”).

    Depressing reading.

  9. Gareth Rees Says:

    Also, they picked a font in which the digits are not of equal width, so that numbers in tables do not line up.

  10. Nick Barnes Says:

    They know it’s mostly not worth their while to pursue people who object to PCNs. I got out of a parking one in Camden this way (which I believe was improperly issued, but maybe arguable, depending on one’s view of “displayed clearly”).

  11. drj11 Says:

    @Gareth: I note that Islington prioritise casualty hot spots when considering the enforcement of moving traffic offences. I think you’re right, it must mean that they prioritise the creation of casualty hot spots.

  12. mjb67 Says:

    Hang on, they’ve cancelled that PCN. Maybe that’s because they’re preparing to issue you a revised one?

  13. drj11 Says:

    @mjb: Ooh. That would be cunning of them. So perhaps I shouldn’t gloat so much. We’ll see.

  14. Gareth Rees Says:

    More ranting about the NAO report on my website and my LiveJournal.

  15. NeilB Says:

    The telling thing for me is that they’ve got a camera watching the junction: almost seems like an admission of failure in junction design. Some cities have a middle lane like this that flips directionality according to time of day, but that sign looks permanent (sudden visions of a man on a scooter haring round London rotating signs at lunchtime).

    If I was more cynical, I might think it was a money-making scheme.

    Or maybe all junctions have (in London, at least) have cameras looking at them these days?

  16. Papuass Says:

    Offtopic: Steven Priedītis sounds like Latvian surname :)

    Priedītis is a deminutive of “pine tree”.

    Ontopic: My friend challenges every fine from similar office in my country.

  17. drj11 Says:

    @NeilB: I guess pretty much the whole of London has cameras pointing at it (or cameras that are able to swivel and point at it).

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