I hate traffic.
With approximately 30,000 miles of main roads and motorways, and 36 million registered vehicles, not including Polish lorries, there are well over a thousand vehicles to every mile of main road in Britain. A mile is 1,760 yards. A car is what, four yards long? an articulated lorry maybe 15 yards.
Work it out, there are five times as many vehicles as there is room for them on Britain’s main road network. If it were not for the 200 thousand miles of minor paved roads and city streets, we would be 30 feet deep in cars. Two million new cars are sold every year. Over half the 64 million people in the country have a car, although four fifths of us live in cities.
To put it another way, the land area of the British Isles is 94,000 sq miles, so there are about 380 cars parked on every square mile of beach, fen, town, hill, farm, factory, schoolyard, private garden, football pitch, corner-shop, housetop and river estuary at low tide.
If they all stayed parked, I’d be happy. But they don’t. Starting at 5.30 a.m., they drive past my little house. My watch is broken, I don’t have a clock in the bedroom, but I have learned to tell the time almost to the minute, by the frequency with which vehicles are passing my house in the mornings.
Worse than the incredible increasing volume of traffic pouring into and out of this formerly quiet little seaside town in the middle of Wales, halfway up Cardigan Bay, at the end of some very long and winding supply routes from more populous parts of the country, is the frightening speed at which they travel through this residential zone, with its narrow Welsh pavements.
After 27 years of living in the countryside, always at least a mile from the nearest road, I moved here two years ago so our son could go to Sixth Form. Now I can’t get out again, no-one is buying my house. It has become a nightmare, from which I am frequently woken by the noise of gigantic supermarket lorries and superannuated Hells Angels on shiny Harley-Davidson motorbikes and tossers in Subarus with boom-boxes and articulated cattle trucks and rattling farm trailers and earth-moving equipment thundering past my window.
I have found myself standing in the road, screaming at drivers to slow down and respect the 30 mph limit. But they don’t, they just honk or give me the finger, and accelerate away.
There is nothing and no-one to stop them. The police are useless, I have never seen a marked patrol car in our road, deterring or stopping speeding cars and commercials – even fuel tankers, travelling at speeds dangerously in excess of 50 mph. The mobile Road Safety unit has a radar trap in the back. It’s always somewhere out there on the other main road through town, never on ours.
All there is, to remind motorists that people just like them are trying to live here, is one tiny 30 sign you could miss, at either end of the stretch of road; one obviously fake ‘speed camera’ icon, and a small 30 painted on the road coming in at the country end, that you could miss because you’ve just been under a narrow bridge.
The other main road in and out of town has:
- Frequent, large 30 signs on lamp posts
- Lights flashing to give you your speed over 30
- Lights flashing to tell you, slow down to 30
- Big areas of red tarmac, with big 30 signs written on them
- Pedestrian refuges that narrow the roadway
- Police patrols
- Radar traps.
Our road has almost nothing.
Where my house is, is on a blind bend. Anyone heading out of town cannot see the oncoming traffic or the condition of the road, or me and my dog trying to cross to the other side. There are four vehicle entrances and exits on this bend alone. More housing is being built, which means more pedestrians, more dogs, cats and cars entering and exiting the main road.
The law says drivers must drive at under 30 mph. It is a criminal offence to exceed the limit. The police and the local authority have a responsibility to enforce the law. They don’t. As far as I am concerned, the failure to prevent a crime is itself an offence.
They don’t give a shit. No councillors live along this stretch of road, no MP, no senior policemen, no-one important. The houses aren’t big enough, the people aren’t rich enough for the authorities to want to disturb drivers who are naturally in a hurry to get into and out of town, along our most vital (but frustratingly winding and narrow) arterial route to the English Midlands and the distant motorway network.
Rules laid down by the commercial lobbying organisation ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) regarding average traffic speeds are, according to the surveys, not being sufficiently bent or broken by enough lawbreakers to justify the expense of deterring or catching the irresponsible lunatics hurtling past my door day and night. They turn a blind eye to the obvious fact that the research data are skewed: the average speed is substantially reduced by the twice-daily traffic jams. Between jams (usually caused by expensive works to repair the road surface damaged by speeding 32-ton lorries) the average speed rises to well above 30 mph.
I find myself screaming too, at the committee of discarnate entities who run my life, to get me the hell out of here. It seems they cannot hear me, over the rising roar of the traffic. No-one has even been to view my house in more than a year (detail added 20 November, 2014).
I hate traffic. And here I am, in my car again, just to go to the supermarket, five minutes away…
I am the problem.