Not The Right Message

DSC_0567The good wife ruled that we should spend a short break in the Chilterns, and as our luck would have it, she chose the first rain-free weekend since memory. We took the train to Oxford, and followed the national cycling route 5 to Banbury. Too bad that it doesn’t use the Oxford Canal tow path much, but a nice route. A curry and a Bed & Breakfast later, we’re on our way to Stratford-upon-Avon, still along route 5. Signage wasn’t very good and the route was pretty rough in places, but landscape and groomed villages of very affluent “country folk” were nice enough to compensate. I think there were more Jaguar than John Deere vehicles in many of these places.

The most frustrating part were the trains though. The National Rail inquiry service told us that we had to change in Slough on our way out. Luckily, we figured out that the train we were on went straight through to Oxford, changing as advised would have gotten us there five minutes later, with the added hassle of the change.

Given how ill-prepared British trains are for cyclists, we were lucky to find space for our bikes, and nearby seats, so we were glad not to change trains. Almost £20 per person, sold by an unhelpful and unfriendly ticket agent at the station.

The same spiel on our way back from Stratford: the ticket agent didn’t want to talk to us, only hesitantly surrendered information under thread of torture, and definitely though it beneath himself to help us choosing a route into Ealing. Another £20 per person (on a super-saver ticket!) and an amazing 2 hours later on a slow-moving train bound for London Marylebone, we alighted at Wembley Stadium and cycled the remaining 5 miles through suburbia, rather than going all the way into town, cross to London Paddington and come out on a different train (and additional ticket cost).

They really make no detectable effort to promote the use of local trains. Expensive tickets, unappealing schedules, hard-to-come-by and even incorrect time table and connection information, unfriendly and unhelpful staff, slow moving trains – we should emigrate to Germany, were we did similar trips for €20 (covering a group up to five people in a vast area, all day, with amble cycle storage in every train). I get tears in my eyes when I think of it.

Here, we pay £20 per person and journey, are made to block the doors with our bikes due to the absence of any other space, and take over 2 hours from A to B on a journey which would have taken 1 hour 46 minutes by car, according to Google.

Clearly, this isn’t sending quite the right message, is it?

At least the Service Information Board at Oxford station did. Click the image for enlargement.

 

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Dear Lord Give Wisdom

Tram in Lisbon Dear Lord, give wisdom to the men and women of Ealing Council, for they know not what they are doing.

When they don’t spend their time –and our money- on expensive chest-beating self-advertising campaigns around the borough like big ages, they spend their energy on reverting what was done right by the previous council, as it seems.

The latest ingenious idea is to reduce some of the bus lanes around the borough in order to relief traffic congestion. By that, they do of course mean congestion by cars. (Not a new idea though.)

When bus lanes were extended a few years ago, a route was created to support free and swift flow of busses, and to support a comparatively safe heaven for cyclists. Removing some bus lanes now, or reducing the hours of operation of 24/7 bus lanes to standard peak hours, is a very regrettable step back to the dark ages of individual transport.

If the good lord hears my prayers, surely he’d advise the councillors to spend all the above money, and more, on efforts to reduce individual traffic throughout the borough rather than allowing for even more. Attractive offerings of public transport, and optimum support for alternative means of transport, are the obvious first choices.

Falling back to the petrolhead wisdom of the 1950s might suit a conservative council, but it certainly doesn’t suit a congested 21st town in the 21st century.

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The New Suburbia Driving Test

watchOut Did you ever drive around in London‘s suburbia? No? Well… let me just say that some streets are so narrow, with cars parked all over, than cruising Naples in the rush hour seems like a piece of cake in comparison.

You cannot, for example, drive to Waitrose West London through Felix Road without stopping, giving way, backing out. Or take Maunder Road, of many others.

Fascinatingly, some queer brain at the council still chooses Felix Road to be the main access into Hanwell coming from the busy Argyle Road, and some super-whacky planners agree that Maunder Road should serve as one of the two main access paths to the new Cambridge Yard five apartment block development. There is no limit to insanity, but I am drifting off my main subject today…

Well, the point is that many drivers are unwilling, and, presumably, unable, to back out. Some of this might be a genuine inability to be considerate drivers and considerate people(see insanity, above), but I think many simply cannot drive back in a reasonably straight line for more than three inches.

I am proposing that each driver must show the ability to navigate a curved course backwards as a mandatory part of each driving test. I’m serious.

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Cones vs. Mankind

Traffic Cones (not my local ones) Mankind is just unbelievable in its stupidity, stubbornness, and inflexibility – Oh, I don’t know how to describe this adequately, but surely it is unbelievable:

Just outside my house, a road is currently closed due to gas engineering and resurfacing works. The entrance to that one-way road is closed at the junction, using traffic cones and several large signs saying “Road Closed.” (Not the one shown in the picture, though.)

This road is heavily used as a rat run. People ignore the warning signs earlier on, and drive all the way until they cannot go any further. Then, they start by sitting in the car and staring at the cones.

The cones won’t bulge and won’t disappear.

Some bright spark is guaranteed to honk his horn, and other idiots will join.

The traffic cones won’t listen. They show character and stay put.

Eventually, somebody exits a car, removes cones and signs, and traffic enters the road without having the slightest clue as to how far they might get. In particular, at this location, nobody can see whether one can exit the road at the other end, but it being a one-way suburban road in London, it is certain that one cannot turn around. Once you’re in, you’re in for good.

So they get stuck at the top end when reaching the tarmac machine. A queue builds, and some bright spark will soon start honking his horn.

The cones smile, and know they were right in the first place.

If things aren’t getting better soon, the builders have to call for riot police to secure the road works. It’s a war out there, but by simple comparison of intellectual capabilities, the traffic cones have outperformed mankind five nil.