30 July 2009

Are you sure the satnav's right, Oates?

Satnav mishaps were in the news again the other day, thanks to the BBC website's story about a Swedish couple who misprogrammed their satnav for the beautiful island of Capri and instead ended up in an industrial town called Carpi.

I like such stories (particularly the Mirror's Top Ten Satnav Disasters) because they make me feel good to be a map-using cyclist. Not that I'm smug. Oh no. I'm just pleased because I'm clearly superior to them.

Anyway, I like maps, and my panniers are full of them: an A to Z, a few London Cycling Maps, a Google map printout of a pub or two, and a few sketchmaps of road layouts where taxis or buses have cut me up. Who needs satnav? If I get stuck I can always stop and ask a passer-by. Usually though, when they see this scruffy and haggard man approaching them saying 'excuse me', said passer-by hurriedly gives me fifty pee and retreats.

In March I did a couple of posts on strange things on maps, including the only place-name in Britain with a capital X in it, the emptiest square in Britain, and two adjacent villages with the same name: Quirky Stuff on Maps 1 and 2. Something to read after the satnav has taken you to the edge of a cliff and you're waiting to be rescued.


  1. My favourite sat-nav story was reported in the Cambridge Evening News a few years ago:


    (For those who don't know Cambridge, the story relates to the rising bollards in Emmanuel Street, which lower to allow taxis and buses through; there's a by-pass lane for bikes. Periodically the drivers of private cars pass through a succession of no-entry signs and warning signs and collide with them.)

    "ENGLAND football hero Gordon Banks escaped injury when the car he was travelling in was impaled on rising bollards in Cambridge city centre.

    "And the chauffeur driving the former international goalie to a book-signing now says he will sue Cambridgeshire County Council for writing off his Mercedes.

    "Andrew Kephalas was driving Mr Banks to Heffers in the Grafton Centre where he was due to sign copies of his autobiography, Banksy.

    "But as the Mercedes swept into Emmanuel Road at 12.30pm on Wednesday, their journey was suddenly and violently cut short.

    "Mr Kephalas said: "I was using maps and my satellite navigation system which took me straight in. We were in Emmanuel Road and I actually said to him 'we are here; there it is over there' and as I said it there was a big smash."

  2. I do like the pub near Elephant and Castle (can't remember the name) which is on a corner of now blocked up junction.
    In the summer you can sit outside with your bike sipping a pint watching cars speed up the blocked road (guided by satnav) only to have to stop and do a 15 point turn to go back the way they came.


  3. Many many years ago I worked for a software company in a village just south of Cambridge. The nearest railway station was at Foxton.

    One day we were expecting someone to arrive for an interview, and... he didn't turn up on time. Eventually we got a phone call. The train journey had taken him much longer than expected, could we please send someone to collect him from Folkestone station. Oh, how we laughed. I don't think he got the job.

    This happened many years before sat-nav.

  4. Also in Cambridge, at one time we had trains to both Liverpool Lime Street and London Liverpool Street. Oh the confusion....