A road designed for motor vehicles

A correspondent has pointed me to this story from last week -

Steven Berkoff was found guilty today of driving without due care and attention after knocking over a woman on Oxford Street.

The 76-year-old actor, playwright and director was fined £400 after hitting Fiona Scully with his Volkswagen Beetle as he pulled on to the wrong side of the road to overtake another car on New Year’s Eve. The star had insisted he was not responsible and blamed Miss Scully for the accident, allegedly telling her: “I didn’t touch you.”

But his victim accused him of being “aggressive” after he knocked her to the ground, with City of London magistrates’ court ruling her evidence was “credible”. Chairman of the bench Dr Andrew Pairmley gave Berkoff, of Limehouse, three penalty points to be added to his UK driving licence when he applies for it to be restored — it expired after he was banned for six months in February for jumping a red light.

Berkoff was fined £350 for driving without due care and attention and £50 for driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence.

More detail -

Miss Scully had been shopping after work and was walking with a friend for dinner in Soho. At about 6pm they were standing on the north side of Oxford Street when a Mini stopped and gestured for them to cross.

Miss Scully — who said she had to use a walking stick for 10 days after the crash — said: “Once we passed the Mini I heard a car sounding its horn and then a car pulled out from behind the Mini. It wasn’t moving at great speed. It braked and it hit me, knocking me to the ground. At that stage the car would have been on the other side of the road. I had passed the centre line. I was walking quite slowly, I didn’t need to rush.

“The driver got out and said words to the effect of ‘I didn’t touch you’ or ‘I didn’t hit you’. I remember the driver saying ‘she just ran out’. I didn’t run out. I thought he was quite aggressive. I was quite shocked at the time he didn’t say ‘Are you OK?’” The court was told other witnesses confronted Berkoff. The actor said: “My standard of driving is a very high standard and in 40 years I’ve only had one incident … I’m very careful.

“I didn’t lose my temper, I was angry because of the situation. It was a road designed for motor vehicles. If a pedestrian crosses they have to be particularly careful.” Berkoff already admitted driving without a valid licence because his Californian driving licence had expired.

Boggling.

It seems the driver in front of Berkhoff slowed to let the two women cross the street. Berkhoff, for whatever reason, chose to overtake this vehicle and struck one of them while he was driving on the wrong side of the road; then got out and blamed her for ‘causing’ the collision, while she was still sprawled on the ground.

Of course it was the person crossing Oxford Street – possibly the street that has the highest pedestrian footfall in Britain – at 6pm on New Year’s Eve who should have been careful, because Oxford Stret is a ‘road designed for motor vehicles’.

Scully told City of London magistrates court that she had been shocked by Berkoff’s reaction to the incident. “I thought he was quite aggressive when he got out of the car. I was quite shocked at the time and am still quite shocked that he didn’t say ‘are you okay?’ There was no apparent concern or offer of assistance. What struck me was a very aggressive man in a rush who showed no concern for my welfare when I was lying on the road in front of his car.”

At the time of this incident, Berkoff did not have a valid driving licence – the Californian one he presented had expired.

Berkoff – despite claiming to be a ‘careful’ driver – is a serial offender, having amassed 12 points on his British licence in a short space of time. As the article notes, he was banned from driving in February this year, after being caught jumping a red light back in October 2012.

James Bond villain Steven Berkoff has been banned from driving after jumping a red light, despite maintaining he was trying to get out of the way of a police car. The veteran actor, writer and director, 75, who played General Orlov in Octopussy alongside Roger Moore, said he had not meant to break the law.

In a letter read out at City of London Magistrates’ Court he claimed while driving his VW Beetle through Central London: ‘I heard a siren in the near distance and turned to get out of its way.’ But he still pleaded guilty to failing to comply with traffic signals on October 25 last year, earning himself a six-month ban from driving.

Berkoff, who has been caught speeding twice in the last two years and ran another red light in March 2012, already had nine points on his licence.  He was handed three more points today, leading to automatic disqualification.

‘Mr Berkoff was driving a Volkswagen Beetle motor vehicle in Upper Thames Street, at the junction with Queen Street Place’, said prosecutor Varinder Hayre.  ‘He crossed the stop line when the light had been red for 1.5 seconds, and he was at a speed of 27mph.

Maybe he should bear in mind that, the next time, ‘that could be your mother.’

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16 Responses to A road designed for motor vehicles

  1. Ian says:

    So he doesn’t actually have a current licence, he was, at best, driving extremely badly and aggressively, he already had 9 points accumulated if he ever bothers to renew his licence. Why isn’t this guy in jail?

  2. Classic case of denial, not uncommon among drivers and fed by our car culture that sympathises with people for being fined for breaking laws that all drivers routinely break unless they get caught.
    Way back in the early naughties, I used to work at City of London Magistrates court as a temp, preparing papers for court. That’s when I really saw just the sheer scale of how many people there are out there driving without licences, tax and insurance, and that was on top of whatever else they’d done to be stopped in the first place. It’s basically makes up most of what a Magistrates court does. Every town, has one (apart from Ely!) and cities like London have several. Drivers think they pay for the roads when in reality, we all pay to chip away at all those people who are out there driving when they shouldn’t even be behind the wheel.
    The red tops go on about illegal immigrants, this countries dirty secret is the roads are made up of an alarming percentage of drivers in denial or who really shouldn’t be there for one reason or another and there’s very little being done about it. There are cars out there that have no paperwork or even a legal owner that are constantly in use and being used as payment for drugs, I spent a great deal of time making a list of serial offenders who didn’t show up to court and the majority according to the Met officer were cars that were known to them for one reason or another, it’s better they leave them be, they would only find another car that would need to be identified. That boggled my mind. I tried to think up ways it could be improved, like making people show their licences before getting petrol but nobody wants a black market in highly flammable fuels. It’s a free for all unless you want to see a an even bigger black market within the auto industry.
    You could make a drivers licence akin to a pilots licence, making it rigorously controlled and with many re-tests that it truly is a privilege to drive, and that the drivers or the motor industry pay for this rather than the tax payer, it’s still closer to prohibition and then we are back into a black market situation.
    This in when you see why Dutch roads are the way they are – why vehicles are restricted and slowed right down near people and why roads are for cars and cycle lanes are for bikes and there are traffic lights and crossings all over the place, much more than here – they admit that there are homicidal maniacs out there and keep them away from people as much as humanly possible. By taking away the perpetrators from cities they are actually ticking all the boxes, from road safety to quality of life. The police are left to chip away at the law breakers like they do here, but at least they are not on their shopping streets and outside their schools. The surprising bit is they are also economically better, that it doesn’t hurt the economy, in some cases it’s much more profitable, them canny Dutch :)

  3. Cycleoptic says:

    Although a road for cars isn’t Oxford Street restricted to private motor vehicles during the daytime, which some reason doesn’t seem to be enforced!

    • Hmmm… it’s not a road for cars, it’s a street for people! It’s main role is as a shopping street, one of the most famous in the world. Since the shops aren’t “drive-thru” people are expected to leave their cars somewhere else, and walk to do their shopping.

  4. Mark Hewitt says:

    Driver sees a car in front slow, fails to consider what the reason for the slowing might be and presses on to overtake. Stupid move and one of the major causes of accidents.

    Given this persons driving history it’s clear that his temperament means he’s unfit to drive a motor vehicle. A ban of at least 10 years would give him chance to ‘grow up’.

    I’m firmly of the belief that if you are caught driving while banned (having a lapsed licence doesn’t qualify as banned) then you should go straight to jail, automatically, no questions.

    • Very common though. I regularly use this section of Brixton Hill. It’s part of LCN25 – you turn right into the road where Sainsburys is.

      IF you’re lucky enough for someone to obey the ‘keep clear’ and stop leaving the junction clear you still have to watch out for the car behind which regularly accelerates into the other lane.

  5. Paul M says:

    According to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Selfridges,_Oxford_Street) Gordon Selfridge arrived in the UK from the USA in 1906 and started to develop his own flagship store on Oxford Street. It was opened in 1909. He acquired the site by buying up an entire block of Georgian buildings and knocking them down.

    1909? I don’t think we had cars in 1909 – perhaps Herr Benz might have been shipping his early models, but not much else was available. Omnibuses at that time were horse-drawn. It was around that time that the Times opined (I paraphrase) that if traffic continued to increase at its current rate, London would be neck-deep in horse-shit in 20 years.

    Georgian? Well, I can’t picture Jane Austen in a Volkswagen Beetle, can you?

    In fact, private cars are a rarity on Oxford Street, although not actually prohibited there. By far the majority of vehicles are buses and taxis, and buses are responsible for the great majority of pedestrian casualties there. (When I say “responsible”, I don’t necessarily mean the driver is at fault, merely that the “colliding” vehicle is most likely to be a bus).

    Some people think buses should be removed from Oxford St and routed elsewhere because of the danger they represent. TfL evidently thinks that would create insurmountable logistical problems. I wonder whether the danger buses present to pedestrians would be mitigated if, instead, all other vehicles were to be banned (except for deliveries out of shopping hours?) so that the roadspace is less crowded and confused for them. After all, buses fulfill a vital function in providing an alternative to travel in a private car or taxi, so they should in principle be last motor vehicle to be banned from a road.

    • I think nearly all of the section from Marble Arch to Oxford Circus is closed to private vehicles – it is buses and taxis only. The section from Oxford Circus to TCR is open.

      There have been some ‘pedestrian only’ days in the run up to Christmas – I wonder how they worked?

    • Mark Hewitt says:

      Northumberland Street in Newcastle, after it ceased to be the A1 still allowed buses for many years. I remember as a child going along there with my Mum her hand clasped tighly to mine as we crowded along narrow pedestrian paths alongside the buses which were nose to tail alongside.

      Buses were later banned, and it was transformed, from an oppressive experience to a wide shopping street which is full of shoppers all day and the very idea you could have buses down there seems preposterous.

      If you want to create a pleasant shopping street, just banning cars but still allowing buses won’t do it.

      In my home town of Chester-le-Street the main shopping street is bus only, and we still have to crowd down narrow pavements barely wide enough for two people to pass.

    • Chris says:

      >>(except for deliveries out of shopping hours?)

      You cannot access any of the ‘tradesmens entrance’ / goods in delivery points on Oxford street so there is absolutely no necessity for them to be allowed on there.

  6. Patrick O'Riordan says:

    So a £400 fine in total, but I wonder how much it cost to prosecute the case given all the time involved from legal and administrative staff. Even if Berkoff was jailed, apparently that costs the tax payer about £40,000 per year.

    There is whining from motoring organisations that traffic fines are just revenue generation, but I can’t see how these fines would even cover costs, so the taxpayer is just subsidising the consequences of bad driving.

    Another hidden cost of motoring.

  7. rdrf says:

    Oooh – beat me to it. Berkoff is due to appear in the forthcoming RDRF posting on blaming pedestrians.

    I do remember many years ago that Berkoff described how pained he was when he was mocked in public for having been ticketed for parking illegally. Or some such trivial incident. This was before the internet, so regrettably I have no record of the incident.

    Shows what a mimophant (Arthur Koestler’s word for those who have the arrogance of a heavy elephant and the sensitivity of a mimosa) he is.

    Robert Davis, Road Danger Reduction Forum

  8. Need to send Stephen Berkhof a link to Carlton Reid’s online book “Roads were not built for cars” What an unpleasant attitude he has to other people in this incident. I do hope Ms Scully secures exemplary civil recompense from Mr Berkhof rather than the MIB, as it might just have a slightly more potent effect than basic tariff fines for parking and speeding.

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