Friday, 26 September 2008

Tales from our travels - part 3

There are a great many things we are told that are not true. Perhaps it’s harsh to label them all as lies. Certainly some are merely the result of unbalanced perspective. As our road trip headed south into Belgium and then Germany I began to realise there were great untruths I had fallen for. Britain’s roads are overcrowded. Britain’s motorways always have road-works. Britain’s M25 is really a car park in disguise. These statements are not, in and of themselves, wrong. They are just blinkered; they lack a broader context.

Britain may wish to lead the world in a great many things but I’m here to burst the bubble on the idea it has the most crowded, congested roads out there. We all know giant centres of population like Delhi get gridlocked but since when did Belgium have so many people! Perhaps it’s just a tribute to the regional bent for bureaucracy that the traffic around Brussels grinds so painfully slowly. Frankfurt was worse. And on through Austria and Slovenia the crowding and road-works continued. However on one thing the UK wins hands down: the use of road cones. Contractors on the M25 will deploy more orange plastic in a hundred metres then we saw in the whole of Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina put together. The frugal Bosnians pursue an opposite philosophy, placing a single cone next to a temporary traffic control as their only concession health and safety during road-works. But the key lesson here: too many cars and too little road capacity is not a peculiarly British phenomenon.

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