Sunday, April 23, 2023


I took the photos above on Friday evening. The giant video display was installed three weeks ago in Queen Street Erith, adjacent to the De Luci Fish Roundabout. The video billboard is operated by Global Media & Entertainment, a company that operates a multitude of UK radio stations and other media outlets. A number of readers have contacted me regarding this digital advertising display with concerns that it may prove a distraction to drivers on what is the second busiest roundabout in the London Borough of Bexley (the busiest is the roundabout by the A2 at Hall Place). Following these messages from readers, I have undertaken some research into the issue, and the results are interesting. On the road, these advertising structures stand far above the ground, rotating through ads approximately every 8–10 seconds and marketing various companies, organisations, and products in a single space. These digital billboards are inventive and visually attractive — so much that they may cause drivers to take their eyes off the road. A team from the U.S New England University Transportation Center & MIT AgeLab recently addressed this concern in a paper published in Accident Analysis and Prevention. The researchers, led by psychological researcher Daniel Belyusar, explained that the flashing lights in ad-rotating digital billboards may be enough to evoke “obligatory shifts of covert visual attention” due to automatic, sensory reactions that take less than 100 milliseconds. “Since drivers might find it difficult to avoid being covertly drawn to a flashing billboard, it is logical that glances to the billboard, may follow,” the researchers write. For this reason, Belyusar and colleagues believe that digital billboards have the potential to be dangerous because more glances and longer glances away from the road are associated with more frequent automobile accidents. To address this concern, the research team analysed video camera footage from two previous field studies of 123 participants driving on a specific section of a highway north of Boston, Massachusetts, where a double-sided, digital billboard stood. Mounted cameras recorded both the driver’s face and a wide-angle view in front of the car. The participants drove in a loop and passed the billboard twice (southbound and northbound). Upon analysing the video footage, the researchers marked each frame with the drivers’ eye positions and found that drivers approaching from both directions made more off-road glances in the direction of the billboard. They also found that drivers made significantly longer glances off the road during the northbound approach, and qualitatively described the same observation in the southbound approach. Notably, drivers glanced at the billboard more during the switch between ads compared to times when the billboard was simply visible and stable as well. The researchers also assessed driving performance and found that northbound drivers used their brakes significantly more while approaching the billboard and made more steering wheel corrections after passing the billboard. Southbound drivers, however, did not show any effects in their braking behaviour and exhibited more steering wheel reversals in the approach period. Lastly, they analysed how long participants spent looking on and off the road before, during, and after the approach, and found that participants overall spent significantly less time visually oriented on the road while approaching the billboard. (This measure is based on the U.S National High Traffic Safety Administration guidelines for assessing in-vehicle device distractions such as mobile phones). Combining these findings with previous research, Belyusar and colleagues conclude that digital billboards do in fact alter driver attention, but the degree to which this alteration impacts safety is unclear. They note that future research could address these concerns by assessing whether roadway geometry (e.g. a curve in the road) or traffic patterns interact with digital billboards to affect our driving in complex ways. “Although these data show a clear change in the distribution of glance behaviour around the billboard, it is unclear at this time what, if any, features are safety-relevant and how the results would extend to nighttime driving,” they write. As digital billboards become more popular, the authors advise that “Actions should be taken today to assess and, if necessary, mitigate the negative impacts of [digital billboards] on driver safety and highway congestion.” What do you think? Email me at

Following my recent article on the unsolved hit and run killing of Gemma Rolfe, nearly 20 years ago, I have been in contact with a representative of her family, who has sent me the following appeal:- "In 2003 an Erith School girl named Gemma Rolfe was travelling to Girl Guides with her stepdad when the car they were in was smashed into by a stolen van, and into the path of another vehicle. Gemma was tragically killed as a result of the injuries caused by the crash. The people in the van fled the scene of the accident, never to be held accountable for their devastating actions. That was 20 years ago. Gemma’s family have now suffered for 20 years without anybody being convicted for her untimely death. To read more about Gemma and for ’newspaper cuttings’, please visit our campaign page If you would like to you can help our appeal for justice by joining the Facebook group dedicated to Gemma by visiting On Twitter @GemmasJusticeOn Instagram @gemmasjustice. 20th Anniversary Vigil - On 19th May 2023, Gemma’s friends and family and everyone that would like to support are welcomed to the crash site to remember Gemma. 

Location details:
Road: Junction of Slade Green Road and Canada Road. 
Coordinates: 51.475133, 0.195259
Post Code: DA8 2JW
What3Words: ///trying.poppy.runner


Official Facebook event page:

The ultimate goal is to get anyone and everyone there to raise awareness because someone somewhere knows who killed Gemma Rolfe. The family need closure, but the Police need evidence to bring a conviction. Please help a local family, who have suffered for too long, to get the justice they deserve". I will be attending the vigil, and will report afterwards. Someone locally knows who killed Gemma. It is time for them to speak up and name the person responsible. 

The photo above was sent to me by a regular reader and contributor Miles. It shows an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging point, located in Brighton. Miles writes:- "Apparently the council decided to install an EV charger on a lamp post. Except you can neither park, nor tether a cable across the pedestrian walkway.'m sure there's a million other better suited locations to retrofit a lamp post. Instead they apparently wasted what I presume was rather a lot of cash to fit a pointless EVSE. You'd have thought they'd have at least visited the proposed site for a sanity check survey before committing public funds to an installation". This highlights some of the problems with operating electric vehicles. Whilst they are a very promising way of reducing air pollution on our roads, they present some new and worrying demands. One major issue is that some companies who operate public electric vehicle charging points are charging outrageous amounts of money to provide electrical charging to motorists. Electric vehicle (EV) drivers are also paying more for electricity because of the war in Ukraine and a price war triggered by Elon Musk, head of the Tesla electric car company. The RAC sent a shockwave through the EV community when their experts recently compared the running costs of diesel cars with electric cars. It turns out that filling up a diesel family car with a 55-litre tank to travel 484 miles costs £96.68. The equivalent for an EV driver using a fast charger is only marginally cheaper at £92.69. Suddenly, it doesn't seem so cost-effective to own an electric vehicle. Simon Williams, the RAC's EV spokesperson, said in an online interview that:- "Those who can charge at home or at work and who don't use the rapid charging network very often get fantastic value. Sadly, the same can't be said for people who either can't charge at home or at work or who regularly make longer journeys beyond the range of their cars. There's no question they have to pay far more and, in some cases, more than petrol or diesel drivers do to fill up on a mile-for-mile basis." The RAC says it now costs just over 70 pence per kw to rapid-charge on a pay-as-you-go basis, a rise of more than 44 pence since last May. Rapid-charging a typical family car now costs £36 for a 188-mile journey - twice the cost of charging the car at home. Both the RAC and the campaign group, FairCharge, want the Government to cut the VAT rate on electricity bought at public EV chargers from 20 percent to five percent so as to encourage more drivers to ditch their polluting vehicles. Motoring journalist and former Top Gear presenter Quentin Willson, founder of FairCharge, says: "While affordable home charging remains a real incentive for British drivers to go electric, we remain concerned that the drivers without access to private parking are doubly disadvantaged by more expensive charging costs and an added tax burden. The archaic VAT policy means that those without home charging pay four times the rate of tax as those charging at home." Evidence is also emerging that car companies are providing misleading information on the range of electric cars. What Car? magazine tests showed the distance electric cars can travel falls by up to a third in cold weather when batteries struggle. For example, a five-door hatchback made by the Chinese company Ora boasted a range of 183 miles. Yet, in tests, it was actually 33 percent less - just 130 miles. Renault's new Megane E Tech, meanwhile, showed a discrepancy of 32 percent in range. EV motorists are also seeing the value of their vehicles tumble, partly due to Tesla slashing its prices because of a slowdown in demand. Several models on sale in the UK have been reduced by around £7,000. The Model 3 now starts at £42,990, while the cheapest Model Y is £44,990. It's good news for new customers but not so good for those who previously bought them at much higher prices. Many are incensed, demanding compensation, but that seems unlikely as Tesla is now focused on a fierce competition war with Ford over its highly praised Mustang Mach-Es. Comments to me as usual to

An announcement from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association:- "A white Mercedes Sprinter van with the registration number PN 66 KHA was stolen from Larner Rd, Erith DA8 3RD on Tuesday. This van is an essential tool for the owner's livelihood, and its loss has caused significant distress. If you have any information about the theft, please contact Erith Police on 101 or 07717782523, or via email at They can also contact Crimestoppers at 0800 555 1111. The owner is appealing to residents to check their CCTV footage or report any suspicious activity related to this incident. Further information can be obtained by contacting Ask the Police. It is disheartening to see this type of criminal activity taking place in our community. However, we believe that by working together and supporting one another, we can help prevent such incidents from happening in the future. Thank you for your cooperation and support in this matter".

Yesterday was Record Store Day 2023. The event is described as follows:- "Record Store Day is the one day of the year when over 260 independent record shops all across the UK come together to celebrate their unique culture. Special vinyl releases are made exclusively for the day and many shops and cities host artist performances and events to mark the occasion. Thousands more shops celebrate the day around the globe in what’s become one of the biggest annual events on the music calendar. The event was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners, as employees wanted a way to celebrate and spread the word about nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. The first Record Store Day took place on April 19, 2008. Today there are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica. This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. While there’s only one Record Store Day a year, the organisation works with both independent and major labels throughout the year to create contests, special releases and promotions in order to spotlight the benefits of supporting these independent, locally owned stores with music purchases throughout the year.   In 2010, Record Store Day coordinated its first RSD Black Friday event, which gives record stores exclusive releases as part of the attempt to redirect the focus of the biggest shopping day of the year to the desirable, special things to be found at local stores" Locally we still have long established independent record dealer Cruisin’ Records in Welling (photo above - click on it for a larger view). I recall visiting the shop in the 1980’s – it held a bewildering variety of stock, from pretty much every musical genre; at the time it leaned towards jazz funk and soul, and I can recall hearing adverts for the shop on several dance themed pirate radio stations at the time. Erith used to have an independent record shop, which was part of a small chain – T.W Records was located on the site of the cab office on the junction of Pier Road and Cross Street. The shop was on split levels, with most chart singles and albums on the lower tier, and the more obscure genres, along with a couple of slot machines, and the cash desk were on the upper tier. What anyone who ever visited the place always recalls is the ceiling, which was remarkable – giant purple plaster stalactites hung down, almost reaching head height when you were on the upper tier – they had been there for as long as I could recall. T.W Records also had a shop in Bexleyheath, near the clock tower, where the Furze Wren is now located, as well as a third in Plumstead High Street, though I never visited that branch. The Bexleyheath shop also housed a small cafe, that constantly seemed busy, though I reckon some of their customers nursed a cup of tea and a bacon sarnie for hours. It was a much more conventional looking shop, but both the Erith and Bexleyheath stores had one thing in common – it was widely known that they were both chart return shops. They had special tills that monitored record sales that fed into the weekly record chart. It was meant to be secret, but pretty much everyone – including the record company sales reps knew which shops were chart return, and always made sure that rarities, picture disks and other items desirable to collectors would make their way to those outlets. I recall that the Erith branch would often have large promotional displays in the window, which were left lit up at night, the glow from these would reflect off the purple stalactites to give an eerie atmosphere – very surreal stuff. A pity that the shops are long gone – but at least Cruisin’ Records are carrying on the tradition.

The end video this week is a short promotional film about Erith Leisure Centre - feedback to me as usual to

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