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Traffic Calming

Round about the start of lock-down one, in dim and distant days of yore, where a Nepal Variant was a take-away option at one of the more adventurous curry-houses and I was about two stone lighter, there appeared on a street near me a row of heavy duty planters which blocked off the traffic.

I paid them no mind, regular readers will know that I'm a confirmed pedestrian and cyclist, so they made little difference to me: if I thought of them at all,it was in abstracted, vaguely approving terms. I certainly walked down that street more often, it became a preferred route, as the chances of being mown down by some dick in an Audi became considerably reduced.

Then, a couple of days ago, a local councillor made great play of the fact that they were being removed, something to do with the final covid restrictions being lifted (so they're not being removed then ho ho, little bit of biting satire for you there). And lo, upon the local facebook groups there was much rejoicing, a perplexing amount, indeed. These planters were, in the words of various commentators "bloody ridiculous", "a disgrace"and, in words suggesting someone has led a very sheltered existence "the stupidest thing I've ever seen".

In the interests of fairness, I could see how they may be a bit awkward if you live on that road. But I'd lay odds that most of the commenters didn't, and were aggrieved at having a little rat run denied them. Because, as I have observed down the years,there is no group of people so touchy, so snowflakey, so thin-skinned as drivers who feel that their right to drive absolutely everywhere is being in any way infringed.

I find this sense of entitlement interesting. Having been under the impression that man-made climate change is a thing, and also under the impression that air pollution is a thing,I would have rather thought it then followed that perhaps measures to reduce traffic might be a laudable thing. Apparently not.

The junction that this road leads into has seen at least three deaths in the last three years, but that's of little matter, it's a handy cut through if you want to nip to Lidl, and that's all that counts. They cited various reasons that the traffic calming had been (in one person,who possibly also doesn't get out enough's words) "a disaster", most of which were along the lines of all the traffic having to go somewhere else.There were the usual digs at cyclists who are either a) non-existent or b) riding three abreast and deliberately slowing the cars down (make your minds up lads, and it is lads.*) But at no point did anyone reflect, hey, how about if we had a bit less traffic?The question is always, where will the traffic go? And not, why is the traffic here?

Because,you see,when you sit there in your car, you're pumping out shit that I have to breathe,that is, by tiny increments, damaging my health. And I'm starting to get a little fed up of it. I think that we've lived in a society built for cars for so long that no one questions their fundamental right to exist.Well,I'm questioning it. They're a deadly,noisy, fume-belching pain in the arse. But they're pandered to at every turn, any attempt to curb their use is met with howls of outrage, but no-one's outraged at they damage they do, the lives they take. We find the gun control argument in America ludicrous, because it's patently obvious that everyone toting firearms is dangerous. But everyone careening in around in one tonne death machines is dandy? Everyone being licensed to pump hydrocarbons into the atmosphere is A-OK? 

I'm being hyperbolic, I know they're a fact of life, and for some people life would be impossible without them.I can hear Mrs Coastalblog asking precisely how she's supposed to get to work from here. What I'm asking for is for people to imagine doing without them for a bit, to reframe the argument so it isn't all about the needs of drivers first. Because not being able to dive down a residential street shouldn't be the single worst thing that's ever happened.It isn't. Put the planters on every street.

*apart from the woman who beeped loudly at me in the car park of the supermarket. She then drove a further ten yards before parking.I congratulated her on the half a second she'd saved herself. Reader, her reply was unsuitable for a family blog. I probably didn't help by tutting and shaking my head sadly. Seriously, drivers,why are you all so angry?

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