London is brimming with history, we don’t need to tell you that. But some aspects of tradition are just quite amusing, honestly. Let’s consider some of they city’s wacky laws that are technically still part of UK legislation, shall we? For example, you must not, under any circumstances, handle a salmon suspiciously according to the Salmon Act of 1986. Nor should you carry a plank of wood along the pavement, at risk of defying the Metropolitan Act of 1839.
While London is constantly evolving with the help of modern technology, there are some things that haven’t changed in years; centuries even. If it ain’t broke, etc.
But one thing that is in need of repair is Millennium Bridge, the 325-metre-long walkway that offers pedestrians a handy route over the Thames, from St Paul’s to the Tate Modern. The bridge is currently undergoing essential maintenance, meaning its headroom has been temporarily reduced. And they’ve got a very, er, quaint way of warning those who wish to travel underneath it.
According to the Port of London Authority Bylaws 2012 section 5 subsection 36.2: ‘When the headroom of an arch or span of a bridge is reduced from its usual limits but that arch or span is not closed to navigation, the person in control of the bridge must suspend from the centre of that arch or span by day a bundle of straw large enough to be conspicuous and by night a white light.’
The City Bridge Foundation, a 900 year-old charity who own a number of Thames bridges including Tower Bridge, took to X (formerly Twitter) to explain the bizarre goings-on:
“In accordance with ancient tradition (and the Port of London Thames Byelaws) a bundle of straw is dangled from Millennium Bridge to warn shipping of work under the bridge (we’re not making this up, honest). Robert, from our rope access contractor CAN Ltd, does the honours.”
So, yeah, they probably could invent a more modern way of communicating with people on the water, but where’s the fun in that?
Also published on Medium.