Take your car to London, but show some sense, too

A Lamborghini super car parked illegally in Knightsbridge, London, as a parking attendant starts to issue a ticket. (Stephen Lock for the National)
A Lamborghini super car parked illegally in Knightsbridge, London, as a parking attendant starts to issue a ticket. (Stephen Lock for the National)

In a few days time, I shall be taking a short summer break in my other home, the Channel Island of Jersey.

There, among other things, I hope to see some rain, since Abu Dhabi, sadly, has not been blessed with the summer storms that have affected much of the north of the country over the past few days.

I look forward to strolling along in gently-falling showers, and, if I want to do that on a cliff path overlooking the sea, all I have to do is to jump into my modest little car and drive a few minutes to reach a suitable spot.

It’s good to have a car at my disposal, just for getting around.

I’ve never been particularly attracted by the idea of a flashy top-of-the-range vehicle and I’ve never even driven a convertible. I’m happy to leave that to others.

I want to get where I’m going without attracting too much attention from other road users or from passers-by.

Judging by a flurry of publicity in the British media over the past few days, however, that may well be an indication that I’m rather old-fashioned compared to some UAE residents.

During the summer season, it’s become a habit among some young GCC citizens, including some from the Emirates, to ship their cars to London, to compete in a fashion parade with their brightly-coloured and highly-priced Ferraris, Lamborghinis, McLarens, Bugattis, Maseratis and much else besides. The best place to see them, I gather, is in the vicinity of Harrods in Knightsbridge, where these gilded youths gather.

So far, so good. They’re certainly not the only people who seek to flaunt their wealth. Provided the cars are properly and legally parked and provided they’re driven in such a way as to attract attention but not to cause a disturbance, that’s no problem.

Unfortunately, or so the British tabloid media would have us believe, such good behaviour is often markedly absent. The drivers of the cars, it is claimed, often park them illegally and wander away, regardless of the rules, blithely discarding the notices of traffic and parking offences they find on their windscreens when they return.

Some compete with each other late at night to race around the nearby residential streets, making a lot of noise and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

This game – if that’s an appropriate way to describe it – has been taking place for several years, much to the annoyance of local residents, seeking to go about their business in a lawful manner or to get a quiet night’s sleep.

This year, it’s evidently got worse, because the local council is planning to take legal action under what is called a Public Spaces Protection Order.

New legislation would make it an offence for drivers to rev their engines, accelerate rapidly or leave their engines running while the car is stationary.

Drivers would also be prevented from blasting out loud music or blowing their horns without due cause.

Offenders might well find that it’s not only a fine that they face.

Those who break the terms of the proposed legislation may find their cars impounded. That could be a real inconvenience.

In the meantime, visitors and residents in the Knightsbridge area have the pleasure – if that’s what it is – of seeing rich young Arab men behaving badly and without showing any great concern for those around them.

Isn’t it time that they realised that such behaviour not only annoys those who observe it, or who are obliged to listen to it in the small hours, but is also likely to have a negative impact on the views observers and listeners may have on the people of the Gulf states as a whole?

Take your fancy cars, lads– but behave properly, please.

Peter Hellyer is a consultant specialising in the UAE’s history and culture

Published: August 3, 2015 04:00 AM

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