Nick’s Blog

Tag: road


by Nick on Nov.15, 2009, under On The Road

Just recently I was driving along a stretch of road near home. It’s one of those pieces of road that the local bureaucrats cannot quite decide the appropriate speed limit for. It has been set at 50 km/h even though it is really out of town and could easily be set at 80km/h. It has no cycle track or pavement and there are no buildings along it. But, having seen that it is a favourite haunt of police officers looking to up there end of year tariff (I used to work for the Police), I tend to keep to around 50-60 km/h.

In the middle of this particular stretch of road there is a roundabout. The roundabout has two lanes divided by raised ridges but the right hand lane is really meant for turning right and the left hand lane for straight on.  It is possible to use the right hand lane to get past slow moving traffic and I’ve done this myself. However once you have passed the traffic you are overtaking (or rather undertaking) you have to merge in and it is that traffic you have overtaken that has priority. So it is possible that you might not be able to get in if you are not far enough ahead.

Well a few days ago I was driving behind a slowish column of traffic but using the left had lane of the roundabout. I noticed that someone behind us had lost patience and tried his luck with the alternate route. He arrive at the merge point at the same time as me and I was not in particularly generous mood and he could not be bothered to indicate so I did not let him in. However the side of his Mercedes (OK there might have been some envy involved) was clearly getting quite close to my little Swift but I made it through much to his disgust. He let me know his feelings using the power of his horn.

Clearly he believed that having overtaken a column of traffic, all stuck behind the same vehicle that he had some right to simply claim a place nearer the front of the queue. To me that is the ultimate arrogance. Sure, if your car is powerful enough and you can overtake then go ahead but don’t expect that roads to open up for you (in some biblical way) just because you hope it will. Those of us at the front of the queue also have places to go so if you cannot complete the manoeuvre then I’d suggest not starting it.

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On the road

by Nick on Nov.15, 2009, under On The Road

This section is dedicated to those little things that happen on the road that irritate or amuse me. Let me start with my opinion on speed cameras. Because of my in built need for equality and justice on the road I am actually quite eager to see safe limits being enforced. That does not mean that I agree that the speed limit as set on each stretch of road is always actually the safest limit. I would have thought that the people who set the limit have tried to choose a compromise that reduces the risk of injury while still allowing people to get where they are going. But that compromise means that there are times when the posted limit is wrong, a stretch of road that is safe on a clear summers day at 80 km/h may not be safe at the same speed during a heavy downpour or in icy conditions. Equally there will be roads that are safe if you drive 100 km/h during rush hour but could still be safe doing 140 km/h in the middle of the night. So a dumb speed camera that does not take these things into account is too blunt an instrument to be effective.

So why not do something about dynamic speed limits. To some extent the French have had this for years. Anyone who has driven in France will know that some roads have different speed limits posted for wet and dry conditions. Major roads around the Netherlands have signs above them warning us of upcoming traffic problems and will slow us down so that we do not suddenly come across stationary traffic, and yet these same systems are not used to raise the limit when that might be safe.

So assuming we can make the speed limit appropriate for the conditions I am actually all in favour of speed cameras. I am certainly in favour of cameras around towns and especially in the regions around schools. When the schools are open I’d be all in favour of reducing the speed limit to 30km/h and enforcing that with a camera.

Only yesterday I was talking to friends who said that apparently the reason speed cameras are now visible is because someone took someone else to court (presumably a pissed off driver took the police or local authority to court) because they could not see the cameras. Well presumably they could read the signs saying what the speed limit was so where is the problem? In the Netherlands they have to mark stretches of roads that are covered by average speed sensors. Why? Surely if you are obeying the speed limit you should feel safe in the knowledge that you will not get a ticket. If you do exceed the limit then receiving a bill in the post a few days later is entirely your own fault.

I am at the moment waiting for a bill myself. They put a sneaky camera built into a van on a stretch of road where 80 is allowed and for the first time in ages I decided to push it a little that day. But I don’t blame the police or even the guy that overtook me and made me feel like going a little faster. No the only person responsible for my exceeding the speed limit was me. And if I get a fine because of it well then that’s my own problem. That said I will say it is a long straight country lane with no houses directly off it so perhaps this is an example of a place where the limit could be raised, but it wasn’t.

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