It was almost a pleasure driving to work today. I say almost because my drive to work, which usually involves driving along the Avon Ring Road (older readers may need to ask their parents why it is called the Avon Ring Road since these days the only Avon is a river), can get monotonous because it’s the same day in day out. But today’s repetitive journey was far less dull. The schools are shut this week.
So it was not a coincidence that the roads were far less busy this morning. Many parents have taken the week off work to be with their children, many more, I suspect are not driving their children to school. It is true that some children have always been dragged halfway across town to attend the school of their parents’ choosing, but these days it’s worse than ever. Not only are there more “faith” schools, more religions have cottoned on to the recruitment potential of “faith-based” schooling. They are not in every neighbourhood so children have to be driven or bussed to schools that are miles away. There are specialist schools too and, most damaging of all, there are schools which are judged by league tables. Rather than making a considered judgement on which school to send their children, they read league tables and imagine that a school that, for one reason of another, comes higher in the league table will instantly provide better results. Whether or it does or not is immaterial. If people are making round trips across town or through the burbs, traffic levels will increase.
I don’t know what you can do about this awful and worsening problem. People will need to think out of the box. For instance, if we can convince people of madness of sending their children to schools miles from home when perfectly good ones are on the doorstep, that will help. And then we come to the use of technology. You would think that we were still in the stone age in terms of positive thinking when it comes to organising our lives but think about this one. An awful lot of people spend an awful lot of time working on computers and they spend an awful lot more time travelling to work. Here’s a novel idea: allow more people to work from home.
Neither of these suggestions represent rocket science levels of intellect, otherwise I wouldn’t have come up with them. Add to the mix – and here comes some highly controversial stuff – publicly owned public transport systems as opposed to the run for profit systems we now have, running buses and trains (and trams: sod that stupid MetroBus) that don’t all travel to the city centre and cost a bleeding fortune to use. I don’t know whether it is because public transport isn’t really public transport exists only to make money but mostly travelling on it is a miserable experience.
Kids using their local schools, adults working more often from home and affordable public transport run for people not shareholders. That’s not much to ask, is it? Put me in charge of transport here and now. It could be so easy to make it better if we really wanted it to be.
At least I thought of these things when I got home much earlier than usual, and not whilst sitting in an endless traffic jam on the Ring Road. If a relative halfwit like me can think of some simple solutions for improving our roads, can’t those highly paid bureaucrats and politicians try just a little bit harder?