I’m really not surprised that there are now some calls to do a safety review of the “Smart Motorways” concept. It’s a particular source of interest as I travel on the M1 on a regular basis, and that’s one of the roads that will be looked at.
The concept of Smart Motorways ( flexible speed limits, the ability to make the hard shoulder into a running lane at peak times ) is a decent one, but it also missed out a couple of key factors.
The first – and most important – of those is that a huge number of drivers are fucking idiots, and have no idea how to handle the flexibility of the hard shoulder. I’ve lost count of the number of times I can see the hard shoulder being in use – with signs saying so every quarter-mile or so – and no-one using it. (Admittedly, I tend to then use it and make progress past idiots, but I’d rather see the lane being used correctly) And of course there’s also a significant number of drivers who won’t even use the inside lane, preferring to stay in the middle one, overtaking fuck-all for mile after mile, which also screws things up.
The second factor is that they didn’t seem to think about what happens when someone does have a breakdown or an accident, it necessitates at least a full lane closure (because there’s no hard shoulder to get in to) which screws the traffic up worse than it used to. Yes, there are refuge areas off the main running lanes, but there was a stat (which I can’t find in a story right now) that only something like 30-35% of breakdowns manage to get to the refuge areas rather than stopping in the live lane.
So yes, I’m not surprised that they’ll probably be getting reviewed – I do think they’re a good idea in general, but at the same time I don’t think they’re all that suitable for UK drivers, primarily because of some of their apparently unique behavioural traits.
As usual, my September is looking like it’ll be my normal levels of silliness, with lots of travel and so on.
And also as usual, it started with Meatopia, a festival of various barbecued meats. It’s one of my favourite events of the year – and this time I was at all three sessions. Because I’m a complete lunatic.
I had intended to be more sensible – going down for the Friday was still silly, but I’d intended to then park up at Barbican on Saturday, have a hotel on the Saturday night (being able to collect my bag from the car at Barbican on the way, and deposit it on the way back before Sunday) and then come home.
But then I checked the football schedule – and it turned out that Arsenal were playing at home on the Sunday. Not usually relevant, but when driving back on the Sunday, it would’ve shoved me right through all the traffic and people at Highbury, which would add at least an hour to the drive. And frankly, sod that.
So it meant a change to plans, and instead doing my usual thing, parking in Very North London, Tube to Euston/Angel, and walk to Tobacco Dock. Yes, I *could* have still used the hotel, but it meant that all the travel to and from the car to drop off clothes/bag etc. would’ve made it a lot more hassle and a lot less fun. So it was ‘easier’ to travel further, but on my terms and with less general fucking about.
All told, as well as a ridiculous amount of food, it meant I did six walks of 6km, as well as further walking on-site and so on, so all told over Friday, Saturday and Sunday I covered no less than 44km (27 miles)
Meatopia was totally worth it again, and I’ll be there next year.
At the moment, my daily drive is on the M1, which has roadworks on it through ’til mid-2022. (Yes, it’s a joy) Throughout those roadworks there’s a speed limit of 50mph, which is monitored by average-speed cameras. And as I’ve been going through them, I come more and more to the conclusion that the average speed stuff isn’t actually all that safe.
More accurately, I don’t think they’re that safe when it comes to British drivers, and the habits that a lot of them have – which don’t appear to be the same as those of drivers in other countries.
The main problem with averaged 50mph limits is that it means everyone is driving at the same speed – cars, vans, HGVs, all at 50mph (or close to it) That means that the British-normal of last-minute lane changes for junctions are nigh-on impossible (although that doesn’t actually stop people from trying it) Instead, you need to be aware of the other lanes, and plan to be ready for the junction far further in advance.
Additionally, British drivers being what they are, turn off their brains completely when in average-speed areas, and will just stick to a particular lane with no regard or understanding of anyone around them, or of moving over into empty space to allow others past. On any given day, it’s terrifying to see just how many drivers are there, zoned out, sat in the outside lane and overtaking two lanes of fuck-all.
All told, it adds up to a whole bundle of unsafe situations at any given time of day. I can see (and have seen) people doing this shit at 6am, at 4pm, at 10pm, and at 2am. It just seems to be the way things are in these situations.
Fun and games, fun and games.
It seems at the moment like there’s a massive conspiracy going on that makes access from my area to Milton Keynes into an absolute nightmare.
Last month, the Highways Agency started work on the M1 from J13 to 16, installing “smart motorways” stuff, and shoving in a dirty long 50mph speed limit, enforced by average speed cameras. (And there’ll be a post on those some other time) That work is going on ’til March 2022.
Next month, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes councils are starting the second phase of their joint project to make the A421 dual-carriageway between J13 of the M1 and Milton Keynes. That’s going to have a 40mph limit on it, and will be in place ’til the end of 2020.
So for the next 18 months minimum, the two primary routes into Milton Keynes will be speed-limited and being worked on at the same time.
And then just to top things off, one half of the other primary route (on the other side of Milton Keynes) is undergoing resurfacing work for the next couple of months – which means that my only other primary route is going to be handling all the traffic that should be on that one.
Like I said, it’s all just seeming like either a sinister plot, or a massive organisational clusterfuck. Both of which have the same results, when all’s said and done.
While driving down to London yesterday (of which more in another post) my car started to make an odd noise. Primarily a whining noise when under acceleration, and generally not all that well.
I called my usual garage, told them what was happening, and got told “Oh, first time we can look at it will be September 3rd”. (The usual “fob off the customer” approach that they’ve excelled at so many times) So instead I contacted the other dealership in the area – part of the same group, but run as a separate entity – and the person there made noises of “Oooh, that’s not good”, and asked if I could bring it in the next day (today)
I did so, and as I’d suspected, the turbo is on its way out. Bollocks.
So the car’s booked in for the work – not cheap, but less than getting a replacement vehicle – and I’ve got a replacement vehicle while they do it.
So far, the new dealership looks really promising – the service department have been great so far, and the deal I’ve got from them has been positive. It may be that they turn out to be shite – but if not, I’ve got other options.
It’s surprising to see the difference between the two dealerships – the previous/main one (as I’ve mentioned before) consists of a patronising bunch of fuckknuckles. They seem so complacent about everything, and their idea of customer service appears to be to make the customer feel like a fuckwit.
What they’ve never understood – and the new place appears to – is that the service department is just as much of a sales tool as the actual cars in the showroom. If I’m being treated like crap by the service department with the current vehicle, what on earth would make me buy another car of the same make, and lock myself into further years of being treated like crap?
That’s what the new one seems to understand – that this is the way to keep people coming back. It’s what the Saab garage I used with the previous car understood – and so did the Ford one before that.
We’ll see what happens now, and how things go after the repair. I’m hoping that this time won’t have the same knock-on after-effects that it did when the same thing happened on the Saab. (Although this time it’ll also help that the turbo was just on the way out, rather than having gone pop when travelling at speed, as the Saab one did!)
I slacked off from writing posts last week – primarily just because I was ridiculously busy, and didn’t get round to it.
The week before had already been daftly busy, including travel to Newcastle for a couple of days, and then social and busy bits on both weekend days.
I can’t even remember now what I did on the Monday – I know I was out, I just can’t recall where/why. That can’t be a good sign.
Then Tuesday evening I was seeing The The at the Royal Albert Hall, and on Wednesday evening seeing them at Brixton Academy, as I may have mentioned before (on more than one occasion) Both nights were great, but on neither occasion was I home before 1am, nor in bed before 3am. And also working during the day.
Thursday was no better, although at least it was more local, by going to the local Geek Night for a bundle of presentations and connections.
And then Friday was supposed to be quieter, “just popping out” for food at a local event, that then meeting friends and chatting, meaning I didn’t actually leave ’til gone 11pm.
Saturday was a day in London, starting with cocktails and lunch at one of my favourite places, The Alchemist in Bevis Marks (near the base of the Gherkin) followed by a play called “Sancho – An Act of Remembrance” at Wilton’s Theatre.
And today was another food event in Milton Keynes, and this evening I’ve finally stopped and been able to relax a bit.
So. That’s my reasons for not updating over the last week. I think it’s a pretty good list, but other opinions may differ. 🙂
As a corollary to the whole “You Had One Job” post from earlier in the month, it’s only fair for me to also admit my own errors (on occasion)
I left for the airport last Saturday at Ungodly-O’Clock – an 08:30 flight required arriving at Heathrow by 05:30, so I left the house at 03:30 for an hour’s drive. However, what I didn’t do was check Google Maps or whatever before I left, to check the traffic. “Half-three in the morning?“, I thought, “There won’t be any issues“. What a fucking idiot.
So I got to Junction 13 (Southbound) of the M1, and – with no warning – the junction’s closed. Bugger. But if it’s only the junction, that’ll be fine. Up the few miles to J14 (Northbound), go round the roundabout there, and come back down the M1 Southbound, past the closed junction.
Except. Except. It turns out that it’s not just J13 that’s closed. It’s the whole stretch from 14 down to 11. So that’s helpful.
And then it also turns out that – completely unannounced or warned, even on the matrix signs in the run-up – J14 Northbound is also shut.
So I ended up driving up to J15 at Northampton in order to come round that roundabout, down to J14, across to the diversion route, and down to J11 of the M1 where everything re-opened.
More galling in all this is that if I’d just looked at the map and seen that the M1 was closed, I could’ve done my own diversion that would’ve cut out all the hassle, and cut right through to the diversion route without anywhere near the hassle.
On the other hand, because I’m still also pathologically early on these things, I still managed to get to the airport on schedule. A little bit more stressed than I could’ve been, but still in plenty of time and all good.
So yeah, I do make mistakes. And admit to them. So there. 🙂