London is
a city with no shortage of amazing things to see, do and experience,
many of which are unique to our nation’s capital. On the flipside of
that it also has its fair share of problems and annoying features and
again many of these are found only in London. But which is the worst?
What gets further up the nose of those who live and work here than
anything else? Well, to find out I asked a fairly diverse sample of
workers and residents for the three things they hate most about London
and the results ranged from the understandably predictable to the
unfathomably obscure.

Just scraping into the
top ten is the issue of crime which several people mentioned but few
placed in their top three. The general consensus was that although
crime is a problem, it is not an everyday issue for most people and
more importantly for this investigation there are far more annoying
things in London.

A surprise entry at number
nine is those vermin of the skies, pigeons! Described by one
interviewee as “rats with wings” these flocking fiends are despised for
the mess they cause and their erratic flight paths which often take
them on a seemingly unavoidable collision course with
pedestrians.    In at number eight are those
pesky cyclists who seem to annoy everyone except for other cyclists.
Quite surprisingly, traffic in general did not make the top ten and the
reason for this is the hierarchy of the road which split the traffic
vote into its components. Those behind the wheel of a car resent those
on motorcycles, who in turn have no love of vans or HGVs, the drivers
of which have little affection for car owners. There are various other
permutations in the relationships of the road but without exception
everybody, pedestrians included, hates cyclists. The key to the
bicycle’s mass unpopularity stems from the duality displayed by its
riders. When it suits them, cyclists are quite happy to be road users,
zipping along with the rest of the traffic and keeping very much to
themselves. It all goes wrong however, when they encounter a set of
traffic lights for example. When faced with a red light the typical
cyclist will respond in one of two ways. The first is an affected
ignorance to the clear indication that traffic should stop, the cyclist
opting instead to edge out at the first opportunity and continue with
as little delay as possible. The other alternative is to mount the curb
and use the pavement to continue their journey, scattering pedestrians
in their wake until they reach a clear stretch of road at which point
they return to their original incarnation and continue on the road.
It’s this selfishness and arrogance that makes the cyclist so unpopular
with everyone on and off the road.

For a
city with arguably more tourist attractions than any other, it seems
strange that tourists should make it on to this list of loathing but
make it they have, hitting number seven in our poll as well as few
nerves on the way. The common element in this visitor related venting
seems to be a lack of adherence to the commuter code observed by those
who work in London. For example, the average office-bound tube user
does not want to be stuck behind some bemused backpacker at the ticket
desk for five crucial minutes in the morning, nor does the prospect a
rucksack in the retina appeal to those who are just trying to get to
work on time. In defence of the swarms of tourist who visit our city,
it is not easy to get the hang of London especially if you’re only here
for a short time and you’re more interested in standing on Tower Bridge
than in standing on the right side on the escalators. Still, I can see
how their presence can upset the fragile balance of the morning rush to
work, I just thought we might be used to it by now.

six in our chart are a group of people that lack a universal label but
there was no lack of detail when it came to explaining why they are
disliked so much. For the sake of argument they have been recorded here
as scroungers but it is important to distinguish between these
nuisances and those who genuinely are homeless and in need of help. The
scrounger differs from a beggar in several ways. He is dressed in
fairly normal clothes, does not have a dog, blanket or McDonald’s paper
cup and is never found seated in a doorway or outside a tube station.
The scrounger is that bizarre individual who seems perfectly normal
until you get to within about ten yards of him and then he suddenly
realises he desperately needs money or on occasion a cigarette. This
plea for alms is usually preceded by some elaborate yet poorly thought
out tale of hardship intended to arouse sympathy but more often than
not results in little else but confusion. Many of the people I spoke to
gave examples of how they had been approached on more than one occasion
by the same scrounger, quoting an identical story of unbelievable bad
luck or a remarkably unfortunate sequence of coincidences. Annoying as
this is, their often lengthy diatribes are nothing more than stories
and cause little harm beyond irritation but unfortunately it does not
stop there. It is the intimidation tactics employed by the scrounger
that causes the most anguish and discomfort for those unfortunate
enough to be accosted on a London street and it is this that pushes
them well in to our top ten.

In to the top
half of the table and at number five it is the age old complaint that
London is too expensive. Predominantly an afterthought, this was not
given as a top answer by anyone surveyed but scored more third places
than anyone else. Does the London weighting we get on our salary cover
this additional cost? The general opinion is that is does not. London
is truly an international city with a huge portion of the population
coming from overseas and another massive chunk coming from elsewhere in
the UK. The shock these people must experience when they first rent a
flat, go out for a meal, visit the cinema or simply buy a pint in
London must range from moderate surprise to sheer outrage, and
understandably so!

When you consider that
London has a population of over seven million people, its no wonder the
streets are busy most of the time and that leads us to number four on
our list, crowds. Oxford Street was frequently used to highlight this
issue and anybody who has tried to shop there on a Saturday will know
just how congested it can get. Movement grinds to a crawl, there are
queues in every shop and it is generally not a nice experience being in
the thick of a sprawling mass of humanity comprised of innumerable
individuals each operating only in accordance with their own unique
shopping agenda.

Now for the medal winners,
the top three torments of those who frequent London on a regular basis.
The bronze medal goes to the litter, the grime, the filth and the
generally uncleanliness of the capital. It seems those who know this
city best look around and see dirt, lots of dirt. Whether it is a
grotty looking building or coke can in the street, a burnt out car or
bags of rubbish piled up outside a shop, London is a dirty town.

was a huge gap between third place and the top two and of those two it
is the runner-up that is without doubt the most disturbing entry in our
poll. Coming under the banner of Lack of Consideration, our second
place entry refers to all those unkind and selfish acts we all see
every single day in London. This one is for the queue-jumpers, for the
people who walk round without looking where they are going and for the
perfectly healthy twentysomething who will watch an old lady struggle
on to a packed tube carriage and not give up his seat. There are
countless others but it is the underlying absence of human kindness
that is common to all these and which takes the silver medal.

after all that, what came out on top? What is it that irks and
irritates us above everything else in London? Not surprisingly our
clear winner was the tube which was mentioned by almost every
interviewee though the reasons for this obvious choice were actually
remarkably varied. The most frequent comments paint a picture of a
dirty, smelly, stuffy, unreliable, uncomfortable, overcrowded and
overpriced mode of transport that most were reluctant to label a
service. On top of that the issue of running times was raised by many
people who were understandably baffled and annoyed that the tube
stations close so much earlier than the bars and clubs in the centre.
According to London Underground a twenty four hour service is simply
not a possibility due to the fact that that there are only two tunnels
on each line. This means that repairs and maintenance can only be
carried out when the tubes stop running. Cities like New York which do
run a continuous service are able do so thanks to their additional
tunnels which allow easy and non-disruptive rerouting when necessary.
That said, London Underground claim they are looking into ways of
extending the service though they give no indication of how they intend
to do this. It seems many of the complaints people have about the tube
cannot be resolved due to the age and design of the tunnels. More
modern networks in other countries have overcome these problems or
avoided them altogether and yet we in London pay more for a dated and
flawed system. Little wonder then that the tube is the most despised
feature of London life.

Top Ten 

  1. The Tube
  2. Lack of Consideration
  3. Litter & Dirt
  4. Crowds
  5. High cost of living
  6. Scroungers
  7. Tourists
  8. Cyclists
  9. Pigeons
  10. Crime