On Roads

This is the side of the road directly outside my office in England:

This is instead of some sort of covered sewer or drain; the reason it amuses me is that people parallel park along this road as there are several restaurants just up the street. So on any given day, I walk by and witness clueless drivers whose wheels fall into the trench during an attempt at entering or leaving a parking space that may or may not suit the size of their car. I’ve never seen someone truly stuck, so I assume if one wheel goes down the trench the other three can compensate.

This is, of course, the same road where I’ve seen another real parking crime that I still can’t quite get used to: that of nose-to-nose parking, where someone had to be driving on the wrong side of the street in order to enter the space. Of course, I was coming home from a work dinner last night and my taxi encountered a car coming at us and thus driving down a one-way street in the wrong direction. And people wonder why I’ve hesitated to get a British driving license?

It’s a fact, the roads here are too narrow to accommodate all of the car travel and car parking that take place on them, and thus a bit of anarchy plays out on a regular basis. Cars driving in reverse to make way for oncoming traffic. Cars pulling in to strange driveways to make way for oncoming traffic. That sort of thing.

In order to protect a few narrow roads from regular traffic (and parking, I’d guess), the local council has installed “rising bollards” on one of the streets in town, in both directions. In brief, a bus or taxi who is allowed access through the barrier has to pull up to a card reader and wait for the bollards to descend into the road. I was walking home one night recently when I saw police cars, lights on and sirens going, pull up to the access points in both directions and then have to stop and sit there waiting for the bollards to descend into the road. I don’t know why they had to stop–surely the technology is available to signal the bollards from emergency vehicles from afar. I seem to recall that in the US emergency vehicles can often make stop lights change in order to allow them to pass more quickly. But I digress–availability and deployment of technology not being the same thing, my local council has a situation where police cars have to stop in order to prevent the hoi polloi from driving on a road.

In a final note about my continuing refusal to join the cars on the roads of Britain, I watched the movie “Happy-Go-Lucky” last weekend. If Britain’s road rules weren’t enough to scare me off driving here, the driving instructor in that movie most certainly was.

I’m off to walk to work, and during my work day to book my next flight to the US, where I will happily rent a car and drive along freely on roads that are big enough for cars to drive and park and where the rules of the road make complete sense to me!!!

10 responses to “On Roads

  1. 3theperfectnumber

    my dear, if you think you have a road problem in England, as well as drivers…it’s NOTHING compared to Italy..in fact I avoid using my car around town and opt for my bike!! I agree that the States have SUPER ROADS, was in WV last year…..a dream driving along the wide spacious roads-

  2. You don’t need a car in London, for definite, so don’t bother. However, driving in Europe is worse! In Paris, there is not enough parking for all the cars on the road apparently, so if they all decided they needed to park at the same time, there would be chaos (more than usual).
    I lived in Majorca for a while, where it is perfectly acceptable for another person to literally bump your parked car along a bit, using their car, in order to fit in to a parking space. I was horrified at first but soon got used to the bump ‘n’ park technique myself (this is not allowed in the UK, just in case you decide to try it).

  3. I love that movie. If you enjoyed it, you’d maybe like “Made in Dagenham” which stars Sally Hawkins too.

  4. My husband wanted to rent a car (considering a potential trip) based on memories of happily tootling around in the U.K. 40 years ago. I keep telling him it’s not anything like that now! I also couldn’t get over the nose-to-nose parking even in small East Midlands towns.

  5. Ah nose -to-nose parking. I stopped after I kept setting off people’s alarms!! We have that here in Chicago too, only it tends to be because people haven’t a CLUE how to parallel park so they just dump it as soon as they get vaguely into the space.

  6. I loved the wide empty roads in the USA. Not so keen on all the flipping traffic lights though – at every intersection you had to wait – very boring and very wasteful of fuel. Do you like British roundabouts??

    • I love roundabouts–in theory–for car safety reasons. My grandparents were killed at a type of intersection in the US that is well-known for being a poor alternative to roundabouts and thus for safety reasons I love them. As a pedestrian living in the UK, however, I despise them. There is often no safe place to cross them and there are cars moving through too quickly to notice conscientious pedestrians struggling to get to the other side of the road!

    • I also miss the American right-turn-on-red-if-clear rule, that has no equivalent when one is stuck at a British stop-light!

      • AnotherBritishAmerican

        As a pedestrian I love the no turn on red rule, and as a driver at least the lights aren’t too long to wait. My experience in America is drivers will check for cars before turning, but not pedestrians or cyclists.

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