It’s nice to be a table-topper. To be perched there among a group of your peers and looking down at all those ranked below you, committing the sin of pride. Top of the table. Ahead of the rest.
This week Galway sits at the top of a table — but there’s nothing to be proud about in it. We are ranked as the city in Ireland which has the most traffic congestion. Let’s remember, Galway is not Rome or Paris. It should be relatively straightforward to be able to work out what the problem is and to find a solution to it.
The report this week says that we spend 43 hours stuck in “rush hour” traffic every year — the equivalent of a working week, just stuck, stuck there, doing nothing, ‘cos you’re not allowed to do anything. Twisting the radio knobs. Hearing the AA Roadwatchers talking about the “Jock Lunch Tunnnnellll and the “Rid Cowwwww Randabout, and other wonderfully exotic traffic places; and Jonny Richards passes by on his Goldwing listing what’s hot and not on local traffic this evening, and you slap yourself on the other hand and says ‘yes, I avoided College Road this evening.’ A moral victory.
“Then switching back to hearing the death notices and wondering if one day you’ll be on it, having expired here in your car while waiting to get home. Undiscovered for days somewhere on the Tuam Road. And nobody noticed, ‘cos nobody moved. And I’ll be waked there in the car. House private. Donations in lieu of flowers to the traffic management centre, Galway. Staring ahead at the rows of blinking lights, their sequence hypnotising you into forgetting the experience, taking all the little shortcuts you can, gotta get home, gotta get home, gotta get home.
And you lose all sense of yourself. You think of Michael Douglas in Falling Down and you appreciate how he became a victim of traffic. And then the lights change and the person in front of you doesn’t move ‘cos he’s probably expired too. And you roar in your mind “move, willya, were you waiting for some particular shade of green?”
And so it is. We leave the timidness of the office for the jungle of the ride home.
Traffic is the inevitable consequence of the growth of a city, but then traffic management should be the inevitable consequence of increased traffic.
Every evening ten thousand cars are going one way and then the other. All trying to get one up on the others, all trying to improve their position so that they can make the creche or get home to spend time with family.
The men and women who are stuck in Parkmore every evening have no time for all the messing around that has been done with the topic. They text and they email from their cars the very frustration they are feeling at the political footballing of this. They have heard it all before and to be honest, they’re bloody fed up of it all. They’re thinking they might be 43 hours in the car, but the experience is probably aging them by 43 months.
I’m surprised that the 43 hour figure is not a lot higher — tell that to the people who depart Parkmore every evening in rush hour. Tell them that they just spend 43 hours a year stuck in it. It’d be a good evening that they’d be free of the snarl inside two hours. Ten hours a week, 500 hours a year, just so they can get home.
So are people living to work or working to live?
And what is this doing to us? It’s not good to be stuck in confined space. Tense, limited. I’m not saying anything, but I had a full head of hair before I engaged with Galway traffic.
Imagine the blood pressure this contributes to, imagine the lack of productivity there is in the last hour before you leave work, as your shoulders sink down at the thought of all this down time, all this wasted time, as you take your place in the great Galway relay race, where you just want to get bloody home.
We’re good in this city at patting ourselves on the back when things go well. And so it should be. But something concrete has to be done to enable all of our people to get from one place to another in safety, in time and without the pent-up aggression that traffic drags up in people.
This is one of the best places in the country to live. Let’s allow everyone to find this out by enabling their smooth movement from one side to the other. Time to sit down and sort this out, once and for all.