Thursday, October 01, 2009

Getting nowhere fast

"All hope abandon, ye who enter here." Those are the dreadful words emblazoned on the gates of Hell in Dante's epic poem The Divine Comedy. "Through me you pass into the city of woe," wrote Dante. "Through me you pass into eternal pain: Through me among the people lost for aye."

Now it might be dismissed as journalistic licence, but if you're in Bath city centre over the next few months, then you might start thinking very much along the same lines.

In the not too distant future (February, to be exact), there are plans to close North Parade Road for repairs to the pavements, restricting access to the sports centre and car parks.

One can only wonder if, when that set of roadworks starts, bemused drivers of cars, buses, lorries and taxis will still be frantically working out which lane to choose as they approach Southgate (sorry, SouthGate) from St James's Parade.

Drivers, here's a clue: if you want to get ont o the A36, don't follow the lane marked "A36". If you do, you'll end up pointing back west along Green Park Road, or trying to cut into the left-hand lane to get across the river at Broad Quay. Simples.

Here's another queue (sorry, clue): come February, you'd be a fool to try to get on to the A36 in any case. Because of the aforementioned hoopla in North Parade Road, you'll be going nowhere fast round Widcombe. Which may please the people round there who want a traffic-calming scheme, but not for the right reasons.

To return to the classics for a moment, there was once this prophetess called Cassandra. (We're using the word "was" in a mythological sense here.) She rejected the advances of the god Apollo and as a result he placed a curse upon her: in future, no one would believe her prophetic pronouncements, even though they eventually came true.

Harsh, you may think. But fair.

Among the other things that Cassandra foretold was the fall of Troy (that's the ancient city, not the DJ). The Trojans weren't having any of it, and ten years into the siege they forgot to look a gift horse in the mouth. The Greeks burst in and sacked the place.

All right, on a Richter scale of one to ten in terms of general city-wide mayhem, Troy comes in at ten and Bath probably makes it to about 1.5.

But even Cassandra would be believed – if she were alive today, and weren't a mythological character, and all that stuff – if she predicted that February in Bath is going to be a traffic nightmare.

So what's the solution? Well, there isn't one. It won't last for ever, and opening up alternative routes that are usually closed is hardly going to help. Two-way traffic on Pulteney Bridge, anyone? And tons of people already drive through the bus gate (or should that be BusGate?), so opening it up to all and sundry isn't going to make a huge amount of difference really. As usual, we'll just have to grin and bear it.

Back to the classics one final time: King Sisyphus was a nasty piece of work and was punished in the afterlife by having to push a boulder up a hill. Before he got to the top, it would roll back to the bottom, and he would have to start again. An allegory, some say, of the absurdity of human existence.

Now why does that suddenly sound strangely familiar?

No comments:

Post a Comment