Sunday 19 May 2024

Big Traffic Warden is Watching You


(Apparently traffic wardens in Oxford are now called "Civil Enforcement Officers"... Doubleplus ungood!) A while ago I reported on Oxford's new Local Traffic Neighbourhoods, see: The council appear so determined to proceed with its fifteen minute city agenda that I was surprised to walk up Divinity Road in St Clements on Friday and find the bollards gone. I walk up that road at least every day or two for work and for over a year the solid bollards I mentioned in the background link above have been there. I wondered what on earth had happened. There is no sign of vandalism, in fact it's clear the bollard removal was planned; the sockets have been removed and the holes filled in. Then I spotted the dead tree of CCTV cameras set up on two nearby lampposts. It turns out that the LTN's are still there but the control method has changed. The lack of bollards means that emergency vehicles and dustcarts etc can pass through to do their public service unhindered, but any unauthorized private vehicle will be spotted by the CCTV, its number-plate will be photographed and the owner will receive a fine; in a manner similar to a speed-camera. This is called "automatic number plate recognition" and three of the LTN's have had this introduced as an experiment; Divinity Road, Magdalen Road and James Street. I actually consider this worse than the bollards. The presence of a tangible, visible physical barrier is somehow more honest, more respectful. The ANPR system induces a change in human behaviour by a psychological rather than physical constraint. I've noticed the acceptance of universal surveillance by the state, in all its forms, has changed us. We have evolved new mindsets and actions because we now always assume we are being monitored. Oxford has been singled out as the first place to test this new form of society on a national and even international scale. There is hope; I see a lot of people in Oxford fighting back; and this was obvious in the recent elections, see: There is still hope that we can halt this runaway train to Orwell Central.

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