Colourful Gridlock

The day got off to a good start; I signed on to easyJet and booked my expensive but much longed for seat back to Spain on Christmas Eve. You-know-who seemed even more pleased than I was. My luck continued when my neighbour, Paul, said he would take me to Luton at oh-dark-thirty so I avoided the need for a taxi booking. I had, however, investigated car parking at Luton, just so I could compare against taxi fares, should the need arise. For a little over two weeks, I could get nothing below £100. Now, normal advanced booking type easyJet fares are about £50 return to Alicante. It strikes me that there is something distinctly unbalanced if an airline can fly you from Luton to Alicante and back for £50 but it costs twice that to park your darn car. On with the day…

Having spent a couple of hours several days ago picking up more oak leaves than you could shake a green campaigner at, I thought I’d do my bit to save the planet by taking said leaves to the local tidy tip, now badged a “Household Waste Recycling Centre” in modern parlance. (Clearly, “Tidy Tip” was far too simple.) So as to further increase my brownie points with the greens, I also loaded up three boxes full of assorted bottles for the bottle bank.

When I arrived, a space greeted me where the bottle bank used to be. I’m assuming it had been removed to be emptied in readiness for the debris created by the Christmas drinking binge. Unfortunately, there was now no receptacle for those of us who like to maintain our Christmas intake throughout the year. Never mind, I wanted to go to Morrisons anyway to replenish our quaffing wine stocks and they had a bottle bank. I’d use that. Besides, disposing of the empties where one buys replacement fullies has a pleasing symmetry, don’t you think? Unfortunately, the phrase, “… had a bottle bank” turned out to be uncomfortably accurate; Morrisons no longer actually seems to have a bottle bank. Someone seems to be running around Leighton Buzzard stealing bottle banks. Alternatively, maybe the greenies finally have sufficient broken, rainbow-coloured glass for whatever use broken rainbow-coloured glass may be put to? Maybe we’ve actually saved the planet already?

None the wiser, I bought a goodly supply of various coloured wine in various coloured bottles and, still armed with all my empty bottles, began making my way home. RIght, ‘t is the Monday before Christmas. I suspect most of the people that still have jobs may actually not now be at work. At any rate, most of them appeared to be trying to make their way through Leighton Buzzard. Most of them were at a frustrating standstill. As fourth in line to get onto a roundabout, I must have waited about five minutes before actually succeeding. It was, to all intense and purposes, gridlocked. Judging by the almost complete lack of forward progress being made by anyone, the entire main road through and all its feeder roads were gridlocked.

What about our multitude of fancy new traffic-flow-improving Belisha beacons and zebra crossings that replaced the old multitude of traffic lights at considerable expense? Clearly they weren’t working; traffic flow was much worse, to the point of being very nearly non-existent. Nice one!

Here’s my theory, based purely on a flight of fancy: pretty flashing Belisha beacons and zebra crossings give unfettered priority to pedestrians. On the run-up to Christmas, everybody and his dog is tearing about making ready to make merry. I just wonder if the pedestrians are now gridlocking the traffic. Ah ha – Ramblers’ Revenge! At least pedestrian crossing lights give everybody alternate goes and make pedestrians cross in batches rather than in a constant, gridlocking stream.

I guess the cause could have been something else but I certainly witnessed that very situation when I arrived at Luton airport on Friday. It has what at first looks like an excellent new drop off/pick up zone. Unfortunately there’s a pedestrian crossing right across the only traffic exit from said zone. All the passengers recently dropped off and making their way to the terminal, together with all those passengers just arrived and waracing to be picked up, drag their unfeasibly large bags slowly across this one pedestrian crossing. The vehicles are now blocked in the drop-off zone by their own passengers. The traffic problem is exascerbated by the fact that the vehicles are also trying to enter a roundabout blocked by other vehicles, victims of the very same gridlock, queuing to gain access to the drop-off zone. The outbound traffic flow has to cross the inbound traffic flow. Bloody brilliant! Which Nobel prize-winning plonker developed that scheme? The traffic/people flow is designed to tie itself in knots. And very effectively it does it, too!

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Posted in Spain, 2008

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