Thursday, 26 July 2012

Roads and how to get from Point A to Point B

As I tramp around my suburb, to and from the bus, I reflect on the state of the road system, and modern attitudes to it.

In the olden days, roads were built to enable the traveller to get from Point A to Point B. During my last trip to Italy we learned quite a a lot about the Appian Way, and how the Romans built their roads. They worked out the most direct route, and then they set about building the road. They cut through physical obstacles, such as rocks and mountains, they built a very firm base on which they placed the road, they ensured that there was good drainage, and then they placed the stones stones forming the road, allowing for drainage, rest stops, and all the other necessities of ancient travel. Worked a treat: helped create and maintain an empire, and brought the world the marvels of Roman engineering, water supply and means of communication.

Many of these ancient Roman roads form the basic of our modern road system. We walked along the Appian Way for a kilometre or two, which was bedecked by useful signs giving all the relevant information, and identifying, for example, all the plants along the way. At one point we saw how a huge cliff had been cut through - masses of rocks removed to allow the road to proceed without having to go up hill and down dale. Just cut through it! Those Roman engineers certainly knew what they were doing, and their work persists to this day. Modern roads follow the route of the Appian way and other Roman roads, suitably adapted for modern travel and cars and trains, but the old engineering genius persists today.

I look around me today, and I observe a certain desire to impede rather than to facilitate travel. Sydney is built on what can only be regarded as a difficult topography. Hills, very steep hills, in fact, interspersed by lots of rivers, creeks, harbour and sea. My own suburb is on very steep terrain. The inner city is characterised b y small blocks of lands, terrace houses, and narrow and winding roads. Everybody bemoans the difficulties of public and private transport here. In the couple of hundred metres between my house and the foreshore, the path is so steep that it is impossible to walk down it safely- rather one careers down it in a precipitous and hazardous manner. It is more dangerous to  descend than to ascend.

But what do we do about it? Despite the construction of toll roads, bridges, tunnels and the like, government and local government seem determined to make life as difficult as possible for the traveller.

In my little area, there is an absolute speed limit of 40 km. Notwithstanding this, we are bedecked with signs indicating that there are school crossings and that you may not exceed 40 km. Then the council persists in placing traffic obstacles every few metres. I believe they are known as traffic calming devices. What a misnomer this is. It makes the person seethe and the blood pressure rise. Gentle law abiding persons such as myself never exceed the speed limit anyway, and get rewarded for this by a half-price driving licence, but nothing prevents the young (male) hoons from  vrooming noisily all around the suburb.

And then you cannot simply go around corners. No, a traffic calming device or several is placed on every corner, so as to ensure that you have to go around a corner at an angle as difficult as can be placed in such a limited space. In addition there will be speed humps, just in case you are going faster than 25 km per hour. Then there are the other traffic calming devices, cunningly placed across the road so that one side of your car is higher than the other side. It certainly distracts your attention from the actual traffic.

The latest thing has been for the council to paint stencils of bicycles on the road, every 20 metres or so, to indicate that cyclists are also using the road. Well, I know there are cyclists. I can see them. I do not need distracting and superfluous images of bicycles to remind me of their presence. My eyes are being used to show me what is actually on the road, rather than what might be on the road.

I am wondering whether it has occurred to the council to add to the amount of painted/stencilled visual aids to traffic management.

Perhaps they could come around one dark night (this is when these things get done) and stencil images of CARS on the road? Then the cyclists and the pedestrians might realise that they are not the only users of the roads.

1 comment:

VioletSky said...

There has been an awful of road painting going on in my neighbourhood as well. bikes and arrows and new lines and criss crosses and even colours at the corners (not sure what they mean, these blue and green bits).
I remember when they put speed bumps on the street my mother lived on and she said it was worse than when the cars sped down the road because now they speed and stop to go over the bump, then speed to the next bump and brake...

I, too, find all these distractions to be dangerous and annoying.