Obesity crisis in Norwich? Now even our cars are getting fat as well!
PUBLISHED: 20:26 04 October 2018 | UPDATED: 20:26 04 October 2018
Paul Barnes can't be doing with cars that look like Kim Kardashian's bum
I once went to the Paris Motor Show. I can’t remember when or why, but a small party of us flew from Norwich in a private aircraft. What I do recall is the reek of Gauloises and the elegant women draped about the bonnets of the cars, especially the French ones. (Maigret’s Citroen was one of the sexiest cars ever.) I guess both girls and Gauloises are gone this year. Smoking is outlawed and the cars have become stars in their own right.
The one the motoring writers have been drooling over in advance of the show is the BMW Series 3. Their knees are weak at the thought of actually seeing, touching and smelling it, eyes moist with adoration. It’s going to be difficult to muster the same adulation for some other exhibits, such as the Peugeot e-Legende Concepte which looks to me like a flying potato peeler, or the Hyundai i30 N Option with its name seriously lacking romance.
Le Mondial de l’Auto: been there, done that. One was enough for me.
I thought about this the other day on the A140.
The lights ahead were at red. I’ve never seen any point in racing to a red light, nor a green one for that matter. So I eased off the accelerator, changed down and was rolling gently towards the white stop line when Jack-the-Lad suddenly nipped past me and slid in front: a clear case of me-first-itis. What he was really doing was jumping the queue to reach the bit of road where the lanes merge into one. While the lights remained at red I had a chance to study his car, new and expensive, metallic grey, low and sporty, curvaceous and wide, very wide, the body stylist having evidently been inspired by the voluptuous contours of Kim Kardashian’s bum.
These days we can hardly open a paper or turn on the radio or television without coming across items about the galloping epidemic of obesity. Multiple chins abound, belts are strained, Lycra stretches and the seats of buses, trains and aeroplanes are crammed with the ever-broadening beams of the passengers.
And now the obesity epidemic has spread to our roads and parking spaces. Designers of cars bearing different badges have clearly been mesmerised by the generous Kardashian derriere with emphasis on the width. In the land of hope and glory cars become wider still and wider. At about six foot five the so-called Mini is now a foot wider than my old Toyota RAV4. The man from the AA says gravely, “In the 1970s two Minis would easily fit down a country lane, but if you put two modern-style Minis down there now they won’t fit.”
A chap I know lives just outside Norwich in countryside threaded with winding narrow lanes just like the one the AA fellow mentioned. About a year ago - I remember it well - we discussed the invasion of corpulent cars on these ancient little roads. Stimulated by a couple of glasses of elderflower cordial our indignation grew. His was more justified than mine; he had to face it almost every day, driving his slim 50-year-old Morris Minor Countryman, half-timbered like Ann Hathaway’s cottage on wheels. And there were the buses as well, too long to take the bends comfortably, and wider than ever. “More suited to continental roads,” said my friend, which is hardly surprising as most of them seem to have been built abroad.
It’s not just country roads that are affected. One man griped about being given a ticket because his offside wheel was beyond the white line limiting the width of the on-street parking space.
Other cars had done the same and the traffic warden said he was going to clobber the lot; trespass beyond the legal entitlement at your peril. Griping man whined that it was a licence to print money.
Who decided to inflate cars to make them fatter, and who’s been allowing them to colonise our roads from side to side? But could the end be in sight? Apparently, the insurance companies are becoming clamorous with the sound of roosting chickens as more and more claims for dents and scratches are being filed, the consequence of the battle for limited road and parking space. Perhaps one way to curb the advance of these road-hungry blobs is to apply a sort of gastric band by loading the premiums; the wider the vehicle the more it pays. Could they be taxed according to width?
Where will it end? Will car showrooms become so congested that a prospective customer can’t open the door to test drive the latest two-litre, drop-head Kardashian automatic? And will the manager be left with nowhere to park his bike?