Exit strategy — the passing of a truly great roundabout

They just couldn’t leave it alone, could they? It was there tempting them for many years. They stopped and stared at it, wondering what a mess it was, how it could be solved. And this week, they went for the jugular.

After testing out the water by doing Briarhill, the Galway City Council has gone for a ‘spectacular’ and decided to signalise the Bodkin Roundabout, aka the one at the Galway Shopping Centre.

There must not be a minute in the day when a driver does not break the rules of the road on that roundabout. Just watch the next time you’re there and see the cars edge out, change lanes midstream, close their eyes and go for broke in a bid to get into the correct lane for the Headford Road, or for the bridge. Although road markings exist for the tracks drivers should follow, these are oft ignored as cars swing from lane to lane, chancin’ it as they try to swing into the little lane towards the shopping centre, swinging the wheel to the left and waiting to hear the crunch.

It is miraculous that there are not more accidents on it. But soon, its lush green mound will be pulled from the earth a la Joni Mitchell’s song “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”

Soon that vast open space will emerge and cars will face each other like Communion recipients back in the day when you went around the Altar for Communion and there was none of this fancy modernist queuing up the aisle in churches with your hands in front of you. The days when a flash of tongue was the nearest to eroticism for us poor deprived altarboys holding our patens lest anything should fall. Now drivers will be able to see the whites in the eyes of the other drivers as they wait for the green light that will invite them out into this vast open space that will emerge once Mount Bodkin is no more.

For most people coming to Galway, the Bodkin roundabout is the one they most fear. For timid drivers pottering in from the surrounding counties, it was their first experience with the word congestion (apart from on the back of the Benylin bottle ). This was the first time that many of them experienced city driving. This was the place many of them discovered that maybe heart stents and adult nappies are not a bad idea after all.

For many, it was the equivalent of the Big Dipper at the amusement park, the one where you entered without truly having a logical exit strategy.

Because for many years the Galway Shopping Centre was the only shopping centre in the city, it was the focal point for all comers to the city. As a kid, a day trip to Galway meant a day going to the Galway Shopping Centre, back in the days when there was a fish and chip shop on the front and when there was not a roof to be seen over its now luxuriously appointed and protected inner walkways.

Work on the Bodkin Roundabout will start in the near future and it is hoped that it the lights will be in place by the time the tips of the sails of the first yachts turn the corner on the edge of the bay in early July.

Briarhill has been a qualified success, with some concerns about the lack of adequate road markings which mean that some drivers in the inner lanes don’t really know what path they should be following as, eyes clenched shut, they swing towards the chosen exit and onto their destination.

And so, farewell Bodkin, our old friend, but do we let your name die with it? How about renaming it Bodkin Plaza? Lights, camera, action.

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