Earlier this week I had to drive from Seven Hills to Macquarie Park for an 8.30am meeting. Now this is a journey I've never made in peak hour before. I discarded using the M2 Hills Motorway as it's a parking lot from 7am. I had a mix of main roads and back roads planned which I hoped would get me there in time.
Like many plans of mice and women drivers, it went wrong.
Firstly my car's airconditioning is broken (the compressor has died but that's another story). This wouldn't have been an issue had I been able to continuously move at 60km/hr or more. With the windows down Gisela the Golf gets a decent airflow. It wouldn't have been an issue either if Sydney wasn't suffering its longest continuous heatwave.
By the time I left Seven Hills at 7am it was already nearly 30 degrees. I spent the first 30 minutes of my trip trying to get onto Old Windsor Road from Fitzwilliam Rd, Toongabbie. Maybe the traffic lights were still on a school holiday phasing, I dunno. Whatever the case, I hadn't expected quite such a long holdup there. There were no accidents or breakdowns; just traffic.
Surprisingly traffic flowed pretty well along my chosen route of James Ruse Drive, Kissing Point Road, Marsden Road and Terry Road. Around Eastwood it started getting busy again - really, some drivers leave their brains behind when they are picking up people or dropping them off. Use your bloody wing mirrors! - and I wound my way along the back streets of Ryde until I hit another giant snag on Herring Road. By then it was 8.40, and my meeting had started at 8.30. Thankfully I had a colleague already there and getting things underway.
I didn't get to my destination until 9am. That's two hours of my life I'll never get back, and at least an hour of that was stuck fast in stationary traffic. I was stressed, upset because I truly hate being late, my heart rate was up, I had a sore throat from shouting at other drivers who did daft things, and I was unbearably hot.
This is why I work from home, and ideally plan my meetings for between 10am and 3pm. Sydney peak hour is unconscionable. Some people can cope with it; I'm not so philosophical.
Why didn't I use public transport? Because:
a) the trains from Seven Hills typically aren't airconditioned. My car isn't either but at least in my car I can have a seat; nor do I have a complete stranger squashed sweatily next to me;
b) it would have taken nearly as long to get there, changing at Strathfield and Epping. I had originally allowed 1.5 hours' travel time in my car;
c) I had other meetings to go to after the 9am one, which weren't easily accessible by public transport, especially in a heatwave.
Stuck in the mire of exhaust fumes and the doof-doof from surrounding radios, however, I blessed my good fortune that I don't have to deal with a 2 hour drive to work five days a week. If you, on the other hand, do, tell me about it. What makes your job so enjoyable and rewarding that you put up with the drive rather than seek employment nearer home?
We are all, at some times, pedestrians. I drive a car, I ride a bicycle and I walk. Often all three in the same day.
When I'm in pedestrian mode however I'm mindful of those who aren't, particularly at zebra crossings. If there is only one car approaching, I'll wave it on. Why should this driver be inconvenienced by me when there is no other car in sight?
As a driver and a cyclist I've had to stop for pedestrians who don't even LOOK but simply walk onto the road, trusting blind faith in the ability of drivers to hit the skids. Or pedestrians who see you coming, with no vehicles in sight behind you and nothing approaching in the other direction, and smugly walk out, making you stop. And waste petrol starting off again in first gear. Frankly, I find that rude. Yes, pedestrian, it IS your right of way and those of us in or on vehicles have to stop, but show some consideration and common sense, please.
At Eastwood in Sydney's north there are signs at zebra crossings asking pedestrians to show consideration for motorists and wait to cross in groups. Sadly these signs are all too often ignored. Eastwood is a busy shopping precinct and motorists have to have eyes in the backs of their heads to safely negotiate it.
While I'm on a roll, my next beef is school zones. Because we motorists have to slow down to 40, teenagers at high schools seem to think we motorists are fair game when it comes to playing chicken. I've seen kids run across six lanes of traffic on Lane Cove Road because the cars are going slow enough to make it viable. This is within 300 metres of traffic lights and a pedestrian crossing by the way.
It's worse near my house. The local high school is on a two lane road and the kids mill across it like Brown's Cows at 3pm. There are pedestrian traffic lights and a zebra crossing within 300 metres of each other, with the lights almost at the school gates, but the kids cross anywhere they like. For motorists it's frustrating and frightening. If I hit one of these kids I'm in trouble and at fault despite the kids breaking the law by crossing the road within 100 metres of the traffic lights. Yes, I looked it up on the RTA website. I've written to the school principal but it hasn't made any difference to the students' behaviour.
Am I alone in my frustration at how people leave their brains behind when it comes to pedestrian activity? Let me know!
(coming up... A diatribe on how and why people lose all sense of spatial awareness in shopping centres...)