Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions.  This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.

From the article…

  • In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
  • The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
  • By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
  • On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.

The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)

From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute)  This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)

As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas.  Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely.  But not this twerd, oh no.  They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey.  (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted)  And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle.   Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.

All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.


Colder Than Necessary

Yesterday, for reasons I’ll write about some other time, I had to drive up to Newark.

It’s not a horrific drive, about 90 minutes usually, and pretty easy. Straight up the A1 , and then down the M1 to come home.

Yesterday though, was bloody vile. About halfway through the drive up, it started to snow – not super-heavy, but enough to make things interesting in the still-quite-dark winter morning.

It was at this point that I discovered that my car’s heating had packed up.  Fuck.

By the time I stopped at Newark, it was snowing fairly heavily, and starting to settle.

When I came out to go home, the car had a good three or four inches of snow all over it, and the roads were full of it as well. The start of the drive home was emphatically Not Fun, although for me that was mainly because it was bloody cold inside the car, and no heating meant it was also steaming up a bit. The real Not Fun was more in the purview of other drivers who couldn’t handle snowy roads and/or hadn’t put lights on, and were generally utter fucksticks.

The M1 was OK – once I got down past Leicester the snow turned to heavy rain, and then it was just a slog through shitty weather and shitty traffic.

All in, the temperature (according to my car) rose by five full degrees (Centigrade) in the hundred miles between Newark and Home.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a drive where I was actually thankful to get out at the end of it. But that was definitely one of them.


Levels of Stupid

At the moment, I get a *lot* of spam about property investment – probably an average of five to ten a day.  I don’t know why it’s suddenly this subject,  but it’s definitely noticeable.

Student flats in Hull, Hotel rooms in Leicester, Apartments in Liverpool and Manchester, and even some overseas stuff.  I don’t pay attention to it, but it does make me think.

Basically, what kind of idiot (or lunatic) is going to decide to invest in a property, based on receiving a spam/junk email? It’s a huge amount of money, however you look at it.

I mean, obviously people do fall for this crap – the spammers/scammers wouldn’t bother sending it out if they didn’t – but I can’t deny, I figure that the people who do so pretty much deserve everything they get.


Meatopian

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.


Poorly Sick (part two)

Last week’s “Poorly Sick” has continued on for the last week – although also not helped by my own general idiocy.

On the Tuesday, while coughing my lungs out (mmm, tasty) I drove up to Manchester to see friends, and then go with them to see Massive Attack at the Manchester Arena. And then drove home afterwards, like a friggin’ lunatic. By the time I got back – Wednesday morning, 2:30am – I’d twatted my ribs with the coughing I’d done, and felt fairly rough.

Wednesday was spent at home feeling ropy (while also getting enough work done to keep people happy) and Thursday I was on-site down in Chesham.  I was feeling shitty enough there (and cold enough, the office being ridiculously cold) that I left at lunchtime and came home to thaw out.

Friday was also quiet, spent mainly at home.

Saturday was a trip to London to meet another friend and see “When we have sufficiently tortured each other” at the National Theatre (Spoiler : Don’t bother, it’s cobblers)

And then Sunday was another daft day-trip, this time down to the edge of Somerset to see other friends. And back home the same day, getting back at midnight on the dot.

So yeah, a week of being comprensively unwell while still being daft.

Hopefully things are back to a more even keel this week, but time will tell.


Subconscious

Recently, I came across a really odd thing.

For the last few months, I’ve been experiencing problems with my car at night, with the lights suddenly failing and me driving in absolute darkness.

One night this week I had a drive home where it felt like the same thing had happened again – cars pulling out right in front of me as if they hadn’t seen me, that kind of thing. It happened on enough occasions in a short time that I ended up checking whether my lights were working, thinking “Fuck sake, not again

And that’s when I realised.

I haven’t been experiencing actual problems with the car. I’ve had dreams that I’ve been experiencing problems – because there’s no way on Earth that I would have not got a problem like that sorted immediately. If I’d had an electrical/lighting failure like that, I’d have taken it to the garage the following morning. But I haven’t – I’ve never even called the garage to make an appointment.

So while my conscious brain has been thinking that there’ve been problems with the car and that I really should get things checked/sorted, my subconscious has been sticking its oar in and stopping that from happening. Somewhere along the line it’s known that these problems have been dreams, and has prevented my conscious from actually calling the garage and getting those things sorted.

All the way through I’d have sworn blind that these problems were happening. And it’s only been when I consciously worried that the same problem had occurred again that I realised the previous occurrences hadn’t actually happened.

And that, with no shadow of a doubt, is really bloody weird.


Dickhead

There are times where (as many people already know) I’m an absolute dickhead. This is the (fairly short) tale of one of those times.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit Toronto (which I finally did earlier this year) was because I’ve been a fan of a band called the Cowboy Junkies (who I’ve written about several times, and saw twice in November) for a very long time – since the first time I heard their “Trinity Sessions” album, in fact.  The Trinity Sessions was an album that was all recorded at the Holy Trinity church in Toronto, with only one ambisonic microphone to pick up all the voices and instruments.  It’s one of my all-time favourite albums.  However, I’d never seen a picture of the church. (This is relevant)

Then, on the anniversary of the recording of Trinity Sessions, they put a photo on their Facebook page of the church

And I thought “I recognise that church“. It turns out we’d gone in and visited it while we were in Toronto, and I hadn’t even realised it was the same place.  Indeed, we only went in because it looked interesting (and was hidden away down a little side-street, so we’d only glimpsed the place and its architecture) and it turned out to be a great little find, because it’s beautiful inside, as well as having an absolutely massive organ. (Fnarr)  And I knew it was called the Holy Trinity church. I just hadn’t connected the two.

So it took me another six months to realise that I’d actually been in the place, despite all the clues that were there.

And that, in this case, is why I’m a dickhead.