You sit there. Trapped. Frustrated. Angry at the car in front of you. Though there is little reason to be. They’re probably angry at the car behind them for looking angry at them. You bang your steering wheel. You swear. To yourself. And then loudly. You check your watch. Another minute has ticked by. Then another five. And you’ve moved 20 yards and to make it worse when the green lights ahead of you turn green, nobody moves, because nobody can move because people creep into yellow boxes and take chances because that’s what you do when you’re caught in traffic.
You get aggressive, you take chances, you develop a feck you attitude to other drivers. And the clock ticks on. And then you realize that you’re not moving. That the guy from the office who’s walking home has passed you out. And the smart lights wink smartly again. Changing colours. Red for when traffic moves. And green for when it comes to a complete stop. And orange just for the craic. To match your reddening complexion.
And you check the time again and you hear AA Roadwatch rhyme off the mantra about the Jack Lynch Tunnel and the Red Cow Roundabout. And how traffic is busy on the road you’re on. But you’re not moving, so busy doesn’t go any way to describing it.
This is the reality for commuters in Galway. It is not the idyllic, happy clapping listening to Tchaikovsky’s Peer Gynt or Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on Lyric fm. It is full on aggression. And you wonder are you the only one who feels this way because everyone else seems calm, but they’re not.
They get bored. They go on their phones. They become worse drivers. They light up. And hot up.
For tens of thousands of commuters every evening in Galway, this is the reality. We wonder who should we blame. Is it a manmade problem or is it just circumstance? Should we blame God, because down Kerry way they blame him/her for the weather? Should we blame the City Council with its Smart Traffic Lights? Should we blame the Government, if we have one? Should we blame the IDA who when they announce 100 new jobs fail to mention that the 100 new workers will spend a full day of their own time every week getting in and out of work? Modern life is very demanding. For those who have to commute to work, the pressures are even more demanding. For almost all, there is a juggling of childcare, of school drops, of familial arrangements. It’s all schedules.There are mums and dads fretting about making pickups. For them every minute is crucial. And then they can send 30 mins moving 500 metres.
At the end of the day, people just want to get home, to enjoy their families and their friends, to enjoy the things that they’re working for. They don’t want their relationship with work to be associated with being stuck in traffic. Traffic congestion only benefits radio listenership figures. For the rest of is, it just slowly drives us around the bend.
It’s bad enough when its a set of roadworks that cause the problem, like in Moycullen, but when the problem is the norm, when the problem is deemed to be the working system, then you know there are issues to be confronted.
I wrote last week about the benefits of thumbing. There are times some evening when you’d be faster thumbing were it not for the fact that those who give you a lift would get stuck themselves. Galway is not the biggest city in the world. It is fantastic place to work and live, but it is about time that it became a place that you can drive around morning and evening. It is time now for the employees representatives, for the employers, for the IDA, the local authorities, to sit down and iron out this problem. Get the city moving. Because when the commuters are clogged in, then everyone is clogged in.
Ironically, as I sat in traffic on Monday evening and shared the frustration of thousands of other commuters, I heard that the City Council meeting had just been dramatically abandoned. Wow, was it after a debate on improving traffic flow or matters of national import? No, it was because of a childish localized spat over the divvying up of seats on local committees.
And then I wonder….