OPINION - If you wear a backpack on the Tube, you should be fined — heavily

 (Nigel Howard / Evening Standard)
(Nigel Howard / Evening Standard)

If you wear a backpack on public transport, then I think you ought to pay a penalty. No, I’m not being funny, not being arch, but I think you deserved to be taxed. And taxed properly. You are not only a public nuisance, but you take up approximately 10 per cent more space than anyone else on the bus or the train, and therefore should be punished. Hashtag not even joking.

And this tax should not just be a token, either, but something properly punitive, a figure that affects your ability to pay your rent or the mortgage on your house. Something you’re not going to forget in a hurry.

Tourists I can forgive as they know no better, and nor should they, especially the Americans. If you’re over here from the Midwest, the Ozarks or the wilds of Oregon, and you’re bumbling along on the Circle line between various London museums, inevitably lost, then I think it’s fine for you to turn around suddenly and whack some poor unsuspecting schoolkid in the face.

Honestly, in the same way I don’t mind you buttonholing me and e-v-e-r-s-o-s-l-o-w-l-y asking the directions to somewhere you can’t pronounce, and then looking deliriously happy when I tell you it’s just round the corner, you can bounce around like a top-heavy Space Hopper wearing a medicine ball all you like. I simply don’t mind. Tourists are the lifeblood of our city and I have an undiluted reservoir of tea and sympathy for them. It’s the locals I’ve got beef with.

In years gone by they were only worn by children, students, “travellers” and terrorists

I’m not sure of the exact moment the relay team first swapped their briefcase for a backpack, but in recent years it’s made travelling on the Tube a more than arduous task. Arriving at Moorgate station at about 6.45 most mornings, it seems everyone has a backpack of sorts.

Men, women, kids, animals, they’ve all got them, proudly brandishing them as though they were a Louis Vuitton hunchback. In years gone by they were only worn by children, students, “travellers” and terrorists, but now everyone’s in on it.

Just last week I saw a little old lady who was never going to see 80 again careering along Chancery Lane wearing a backpack that was so large it looked like a collapsing hot air balloon (and not in a good way). She was oblivious to the fact that she was leaving a trail of severely bruised people behind her, cast aside like skittles on the super sidewalk of life.

In the same way that bags and suitcases as well as all types of clothing now come with a small piece of paper describing their provenance in intricate detail, disguising any dodgy product journeys or shady manufacturing issues, I imagine that they also contain some kind of social disclaimer: “You are the lucky new owner of a Pinky Winky Pleather backpack, which we hope you wear with pride as you go about your daily business. It is inevitable that, probably on an hourly basis, you will turn sharply and whack the person next to you with such force that they then drop their iPhone/sandwich/Maltipoo and swear at you under the breath. This is to be expected.

“You are now a member of a very special tribe, and those without backpacks, who aren’t true believers, will view you with disdain, anger and fear. Do not be intimidated. If in doubt, load your backpack with bricks and then pirouette along an Elizabeth line platform until you’ve knocked over at least six pedestrians as though they were pawns on a chess board. Never forget that you live on a higher social plane.”

So, if the Labour Party really wants to interest me in its new manifesto (and I suggest it has another crack at it as the one I saw last week appeared to be empty) then it needs to promise to tax anyone wearing a backpack in a built-up area. Especially in London. Backpacks should only be used by those benign souls who go walking at the weekend and who want somewhere to shove their Fruit & Nut, their tent and their socially responsible water bottle.

Anyone else should be conscripted with immediate effect.

Dylan Jones is editor-in-chief of the Evening Standard