15 May 2016

15th May 2016 Buddy, can you spare a car length?

Sunday 15th 47F, 8C, bright and breezy but showers are forecast for most of the day. We have just been treated to a spectacular aerial display by a Red Kite! The large bird of prey, with striking markings, circled over the field-sized lawn in front of our house. It was obviously hunting for breakfast before the lawn mowers come out. Around and around it flew, twitching occasionally to kill its speed, until it suddenly dived vertically behind our neighbour's neat hedge. To climb back up after a brief disappearance amongst the plastic toys, discarded cycles, play house and trampoline. There was no sign of it having captured any prey, in beak or claw, as it instantly regained its lost height and headed off in a bee line towards the woods. They kill gorgeous birds like these in the endlessly backward UK. Or steal their eggs from the nest. Just to have bragging rights over their equally deluded, drooling, knuckle dragging, fellow morons.

The headlines confirm it yet again: Global warming continues to set new records with April merely adding to the latest month to set its own records by over a degree Celsius. The last week with temperatures in the 70s was very pleasant and no doubt helped nature on its way. Those living elsewhere had to survive temperatures in the 40s C, or well over 105F. All a  far cry from the promised New Ice Age of my youth. That never arrived but the now, very obvious warming, has failed to bring the human race together to change its habits. Millions of new cars join the gridlocks in developing countries as if it was a national rite of passage. Chinese leaders pontificate over the killer smog and wallow in their own corruption as if by birth rite.

The crazy thing is that cars are so poor a means of transport in precisely the places they join the throng. In cities the pedestrian and cyclist are quicker than cars and always have been. In fact cars often slow down the cyclist and pedestrian by blocking their progress. The same was true when I was cycle commuting half a century ago! Cars give their owners the freedom to sit still where they should be paying parking tickets or fines for obstruction.

Imagine if all the cyclists in Denmark or Holland suddenly insisted on car ownership. Both countries would come to a standstill overnight and would need an army of bulldozers to clear away the mess. Yet cyclists are not rewarded for their selfless actions. A few, badly maintained and never [ever] cleaned cycle paths do not undo the terminal damage. That concentrating on the car owner has done to so many cities around the globe over the last, half century or more. The car owner had billions spent on motorways and bridges and eating places and rest stops and enough parking area to be easily visible from the moon.

While the poor cyclist often has no right to a secure place to leave their machine. Almost ironically, the cyclist is often looked down on as a second class citizen by the car-benighted. Supermarkets, even in bike friendly Denmark, routinely block access to their already few cycle racks. Though you never see a single car parking space lost to greed for outdoor display space for their cheap imported tat.

The human race seems to have a ridiculously poor, collective memory about such things. Growth in car ownership can be easily predicted year  on year. Yet the road systems are incredibly poorly designed to provide the hoped-for freedom to travel at greater speed in greater comfort. The promises to build new roads fall routinely from the lying lips of the politic-ooze around the globe. And always with no other desired effect than obtaining their fraudulent place at the musical chairs on the gravy train.

The traffic jams do not change. The pollution increases. Making walking and cycling even more unpleasant. I point all of this out not as a cyclist but as a member of the human race. Is it not ridiculous to deliberately leave home in a car, knowing that the journey will take far longer than if the unhealthy car owner actually walked to work? [Gasp!] Is it not crazy to commute for hours each and every day? While countless others, equally insane, are driving to where you live to do exactly the same job?

The other day I was passed by numerous, smart SUVs dragging equally smart horse boxes. There was obviously a lot of horse-related sporting activity happening on that particular day. So, you ask yourself, what's is remotely odd about that? The fact that so many horse boxes were going in opposite directions! It just seemed so typical of all human activities. Everybody is in the wrong place! People live in the wrong place to be near their work. Or even to be near their regular activities. Cars carrying racing bikes or mountain bikes are just as likely to be travelling in opposite directions! And do!

What about the amateur football grounds where the car park is stuffed to the gills but there are no bicycles? People are endlessly swapping places on the map, by car, to get to exactly the same shopping facilities but in a more distant town. While that town's inhabitants are racing along the same roads and motorways in the opposite direction to shop where the first lot just came from. It's absolutely crackers! Every high street is unrecognizable from any other. The retail chains have pushed out all the independent retailers by making rents far too high for survival of anything but large scale, retail chains. 

Only one aspect of the misery cars can cause is about to change. Not the tyre noise. Not the constant movement. Not the vast global burden of supplying cheap oil and its global security. Nor even the visual ruination of every street and road by parked vehicles. The [remote] promise is of an end to exhaust pollution for only a few.

I am seeing quite a lot of Tesla cars recently. Thanks to tyre noise they might often go unnoticed in the traffic stream except for their smart styling and considerable size. Every day we hear about some new battery technology breakthrough by researchers. Though never today. Always a decade away before the exotic mixtures can be harnessed into a safe and reliable vehicle battery. And what then?

The blight of tyre roar will not go away. The damned things will still have to be parked somewhere. If every car ran on air and was made of cobwebs there would still be traffic jams and busy A&E departments. Somebody famous said much the same thing half a century ago. I was there. Nothing has changed except the headlamp styling to make the indicators harder to see.

I walked along the edge of the marsh and then a loop up though the woods. Breezy but warming steadily. Two Shelducks took off from the marsh pond with their heads bent strangely downwards. The birds, particularly chaffinches, really don't seem to mind dense conifers. I heard many different birds all around me. A very distinctive bird call defied identification but must have been a Nightingale. I sat through an hour of hundreds of identified birds and their songs without coming close to the sound I heard.  The crops are becoming too dense to tip-toe through to reach the spray tracks. Back on the road some drivers seemed to be in a complete daze. One woman driver suddenly swerved away as if I had just been plopped down in her universe. She had literally hundreds of yards of clear warning that I was walking towards her on the edge of the straight road. It was never pleasant in the afternoon as it remained cool with heavy hail showers. Rest day.

Click on any image for an enlargement.


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