Car adverts are careful never to depict the everyday reality of driving, because unless you live on a long road in the middle of nowhere, the ad would just be depressing footage of your new motor idling in commuter traffic, maybe the odd action shot where you scrape some paint off in a car park. Jersey would be an especially grim pitch, as there are few places where the aspirations of vehicle ownership are so completely divorced from the realities of what it’s like to actually use the roads.
A map of our traffic network looks like a diseased lung; a tarmac pentagram of narrow, unlit lanes scattered with blind crossings and unpronounceable signs. The smooth lines of the ad-man’s fantasy autobahn are replaced by muddy squiggles winding towards dead ends, bordered by steep banks made from granite and cow excrement. Jersey driving is like a sadistic video game, where the difficulty swings at random between deadly fog mode and the boredom of the school traffic, and you can’t find the menu that determines whether your opponents will be angry businessmen, tractor-driving psychopaths or doddering grans who’ve left their glasses at the off-licence.
If you’d credit us with enough sense to purchase appropriate vehicles, we should be pootling around in something designed for use in a Japanese city: a cute little two-seater, probably powered by renewable electricity and unicorn farts. It would have a top speed of 30 MPH and come pre-loaded with soothing ocean sounds and an air freshener that smells like kittens. Instead, our roads heave with gigantic 4x4s, chromed executive fantasy wangs and turbocharged rally cars driven by small men with thick necks. Even if you own a vehicle that isn’t actively murderous to other road users, our MOT-free second hand market means there’s a chance it’s a diesel powered rustbucket that coughs up more tar than an 80s darts player. Unlike advert fantasy world, few people drive for pleasure here – and in fact anybody who does is should probably be forced to take the bus to improve public safety for the rest of us.
The re-vengabus is coming
The fact that our morning traffic is terrible is that rare thing that everybody can agree on, whether they are Clarkson cultists in stone-washed denim or quinoa-powered vegan bicyclists. The problem is that none of us can really agree who is to blame, or whether they should personally do anything to make the situation any better. I’m well aware that it isn’t doing the planet any good when I commute to work on my own, but I live so far into St Ouen that walking back from the bus at night threatens to turn into a scene from Deliverance, even assuming I can find a night bus that travels further than the Parish border. By the time I’ve walked to the stop in the morning, dodging green lane death from distracted mums on the school run, I am definitely not in the mood to compress my kneecaps for the benefit of fellow passengers who smell of stewed onions and won’t let me open the window. After I’ve absorbed 45 minutes of their second hand music and inane phone conversations I’ve reached the point where you could power most of St Helier with my barely suppressed loathing for humanity. Consequently I think anybody who lives within safe distance of a bus stop should be forced, at gunpoint, to use them exclusively, whilst I am allowed to carry on driving with special dispensation for being a countryside-dwelling misanthrope. I also propose dealing with school traffic by fitting each bus with a treadmill and fining any parent who doesn’t let the bus company use their offspring as a source of cheap power.
Two wheels good; four wheels bad?
The obvious solution for somebody who loves the planet and hates the company of other humans is to switch to the bicycle, a form of transport which I (theoretically) support 100%. Cycling makes me slightly less fat, costs very little and allows me to look like a continental cool dude by wearing Lycra and waxing. The only air pollution generated from a bicycle comes from my armpits. The downside is that there are stretches of road where the traffic is so dangerous that I’ve had safer journeys going down cliff paths on my mountain bike, in the dark. If you can survive the blind corners and sudden narrowings of the Jersey roads, you’ll still have to deal with the active desire of other road users to murder you. I’ve had people open doors onto me, edge onto the white line so I can’t overtake their stationary vehicle, or just leap out of the car and run after me. I don’t get it. Although I loathe all other drivers (who unlike me are responsible for traffic), I don’t understand directing that rage at somebody who is getting to town slightly quicker because they’ve taken the risk of being rained on. This intolerant attitude is even adopted by some cyclists, those who think that owning a £5000 bike made out of space carbon allows them to treat people on lesser bikes like obstacles. I can see why people want to run those guys over, although as a driver I can honestly say that I’ve never killed a cyclist out of rage or carelessness – only because their magnificent thighs are delicious in a casserole. They have the advantage that most of the hair has already been removed, and unlike meat from the corner shop you can guarantee it’s free range.
Thinning the herd
I’ve considered walking, swimming to work or just moving slightly closer to town, but have come to the conclusion that my problem is not really the mode of transport but Jersey roads, and specifically the other people who are allowed to use them. I think that even if we were all forced to commute to work in hot-pink mobility scooters or the Fort Regent bumper cars, Jersey people would still find a way to be hostile about it. If we must accept this dickery as a fact of life, then I would propose we take a lead from a great little documentary I watched recently, called The Purge. It has some smart ideas about managing society. So, I suggest we deal with aggressive drivers by having an hour in the mornings and one after work where there are no traffic laws and you can drive as fast or dangerously as you like. We can encourage the Jag-driving macho men and vicious mums to stick to those times by dropping the speed limit to 15MPH the rest of the time, and offering TV coverage and a prize to whoever can achieve the highest speed going down Trinity Hill. The idiots would love it, and there would be a lot of spare car parts going around afterwards. It would be a tough, gory couple of months at first, but once we’ve unclogged the viscera from the drains and cleaned the people-jam off the avenue, natural selection would have done its work and Jersey would be a much nicer place. Green lanes = red lanes. You know it makes sense.