Drinking Ban on Public Transport

As an American, I take for granted that it’s pretty much illegal to drink alcohol in public places. Most cities will make exceptions: at outdoor festivals, movies and concerts they tend to turn a blind eye to it but you still need to be subtle about it. Here in the UK (and much of the world, for that matter), such rules don’t exist. In London, pick a day and pick a time and you’ll probably see someone with a beer in their hand. Now, Britain certainly has it’s issues with drinking. I don’t know if it’s any worse than the US or if it’s just more out in the open, but there’s a big concern about it and it’s a source of debate.

So, with that as background, our idiot of a new mayor (he only won because the previous one was Labour and people hate the Labour party here almost as much as people in the US hate the Republicans — please please please say they get trounced in November) decided he would attack the scourge of drinking on public transport. I can honestly say I have NEVER seen a single person on public transport making problems while drinking. The assholes are the ones who are way too drunk before they get on that train or bus. I’m sure you could pull out a host of other people with their evidence of people with beers in their hands on the tube harassing people or doing various illegal activities. I know this is not a political blog, but it’s mine so forgive me the occasional rant. And spare me the “well, one time I was on the NXXX bus and saw two people drinking and harassing some other people”. Go to Hoxton on a Friday and count the number of morons who have had too much and tell me if they are still drinking. Or is the problem that they had too much to drink and THEN went out into the public space. This is politics, pure and simple and Boris Johnson wanted to score points. As a result, in the name of some sort of crap along the lines of “making your journey more pleasant” drinking was banned on 1 June 2008.

So, what happened at 11pm on 31st May? Well, a whole lot of chaos. Here are various BBC reports about what happened. Basically, the interwebs allow people to organize way to easily. So they decided to meet on the circle line, which goes in a big circle meaning you could hang out on the train and drink drink drink without reaching the end of any line. Alas, it was a little too successful and became a massive fiasco. Some people had waaaaay too much to drink, property was damaged, transport employees were assaulted, the police overreacted and stations were shut down. But, now that people got that out of their system, drinking is banned on the trains and buses of London.

The real thing that annoys me is that people seemed shocked that this would be a normal reaction to a silly policy going into effect. AND, people seem to point to this as evidence that drinking should have been banned on trains and that supporters of this rule were correct. It was a reaction to the ban, not a reason to ban it. If you don’t ban drinking on trains, it happens in small, easily managable batches. Even worse, now some people are howling to ban drinking in public entirely. I know this doesn’t matter to most people, but I very much enjoy the lack of puritanism in the UK compared to the stuff that seems to pervade the US (at least in this aspect — there’s plenty of silly things in the UK that smack of puritanism). People drink here and, most of the time, no one cares if it’s in a pub, in a park on a nice day, whenever. Yes some people abuse it, but you deal with them, you don’t enact blanket laws and demonize something that many people do whether it’s between 4 walls or in public.

Sorry for the rant. This blog is supposed to be more about mine and Carolyn’s life abroad. Since the worst I normally do is have some beer on my way to a Radiohead concert or in a park, how does this affect me? Not a whole lot. I heard about the whole party happening and decided it was a bad idea. But I had a meek little send off of my own. That night, we’d gone out with Dina and Adrian after seeing the Psycho Buildings exhibit. When it was time to go our separate ways, we picked up some beers and, for the first time, did a little drinking on the public transport. Here would be the evidence:


Boy, aren’t I the rebel? 🙂 I must say, it was the most public drinking on a bus I’d ever seen. There were probably almost 10 whole people with a beer in their hands. And I’ve been on buses at all hours of the day and night on some of the sillier lines out there. Anyway, thus ends my rant and tribute to public drinking.

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