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Blanche Neige in Westminster

June 21, 2009

When we left our home early the other morning to go to work, it was amazing to see all the motorcycle parking signs on our way covered in snow in the middle of June. There was so much snow on them that it was impossible to read through the key information that these signs were supposed to disclose.

white sign

We were concerned that if the signs in our usual parking bay just outside our office were covered in snow, hence making it impossible to see the number to call to pay for our parking, we wouldn’t be able to make our daily contribution to help Westminster City Council recover their £17 million loss from their investments in failed Icelandic banks and £15 million loss in a failed CCTV system. When we arrived, the signs by our usual parking bay were indeed covered in hard and thick snow, so we couldn’t possibly see the number to call to make our payment. We were so concerned that the council might be losing our hard-earned money that day that we went to check other parking bays around in the hope that we would find one with cleared signs to enable us to fill up the council’s coffers. But the trouble was that all the other motorcycle parking signs in the area were covered in the same thick and hard snow. Oh mon Dieu, what could we possibly do given that we were told in the past by CEOs we came across that we should be making every effort to pay the bike parking charge, even if it was not possible! We just thought that Westminster City Council had been so nice to us bikers by reducing the charge from £1.50 to £1 a day, given how much they have lost in failed Icelandic banks and CCTV cameras lately due to their councillors being a little bit incompetent,  that there was no way we could possibly screw them up by not paying the reduced charge on that day. After all, we came to the conclusion that money was so important to them, still after having taken more than £4 million from bikers in the past nine months, that we ended up considering phoning them up to try to find an alternative way of paying.

Because we are from the continent which can be seen in the UK as a slightly different world, although still in the European Union, and English is not our first language, we were not too sure how we were going to explain to the operator at the other end that we saw some snow in the middle of June and how deeply concerned we were about the City Council losing our daily contribution. Before phoning in, we thought we would have a quick look at the council’s website to see if, like other nice and educated local authorities, they would speak a little bit of our own language. After all, we try very hard to make an effort to speak their language on a daily basis so we thought they could, in return, make a little effort to speak our own. How disappointed were we when we found out that there was no help whatsoever available in French but there was some available in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Bengali and Chinese (although we don’t speak Bengali, we were surprised to notice that there was just one word shown in that language (অনুবাদ) and the rest of the page contained no information a part from a window at the bottom of the screen asking if the contents of the page were useful! Is this because Bengali is a very condensed language where all the information contained in the Westminster City Council website can be represented by this অনুবাদ ?). Oh well, we thought we would try in Spanish, as it is close enough to French, so clicked on the Spanish link and got to a very useful page, containing a few grammatical mistakes and no information advising us what to do with regards to paying the bike parking charge.

How many French people live in London? “There seems to be over 300,000 French people living in London – which means that the city has a larger French population than Lille!

In France, we always make the effort to translate everything into English for English speakers, so why are some UK local authorities such as Westminster City Council not returning the favour to us, considering that there are over 300,000 French people in London? We very well know that because the council has a reputation among the public of “do what I tell you to do and shut up”, why would they bother explaining their tactics to a large foreign community? After all, it looks like they have chosen to target smaller foreign communities to look good and internationally minded, which have the reputation of not protesting at every single piece of legislation and not causing much trouble. We thought that democracy was a key element in the European Union, but obviously not in the opinion of Westminster City Council. Well you know, they are Westminster City Council, the weathiest council in the UK because they keep grabbing as much money as they can from the public of all nationalities and, of course, they can’t afford a translator to translate their web pages into French to help one of the largest foreign communities in the UK, who are still taxpayers to them.

After all this fuss, the time we spent looking for other bays to find the number to call to give our well earned money to these angry politicians and exploring their website in all sorts of languages but our own to try to understand what to do, we decided to take advantage of that nice and thick summer snow and not pay the parking tax! Sacre bleu, pour qui se prennent-ils ces politiciens?

Having said that, if we had some assurance that the operator we were going to call was a nice and friendly lady as the one shown in the picture below, we might have made a last effort, but we had no evidence of that.

blanche neige


1st July 2009 – Please join the demonstration and say NO to the bike parking tax in Westminster! For further details, visit

1er Juillet 2009 – Assistez a la manifestation pour protester contre le stationnement payant des deux-roues a Westminster. Pour plus d’informations, consultez


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One Comment
  1. Westminster Council don’t even understand English anyway!

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