Traffic through the village

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Witnessing one of the Audlem "total gridlock" events in the village the other day, I was instantly transported back to our recent Italian holiday and began to compare the different driving behaviours.

In Audlem, there was the usual chaos caused by the combination of a HGV travelling along Shropshire Street towards the Square, at the same time as a bus was coming up Woore Road and a combination of cars, vans and at least one motorcycle feeding in from Cheshire Street trying to thread their ways past the Church and Co-op. Of course, the traffic came to a standstill — at least that made it easy for the pedestrians to cross the road, but everyone waited in line as various vehicles inched, manoeuvred and squeezed themselves through the village. Frustrated — no doubt, but all very low key.

Flashback to Italy, where the rules of the road and what I witnessed of drivers' behaviour was quite different. The first rule seemed to be that road signs are simply suggestions rather than directions. This was particularly apparent when it came to overtaking — which could be done on either side of the vehicle ahead and often irrespective of on-coming traffic.

The second rule seemed to be that if the driver did not look in the direction of any other vehicle — it simply was not there! This meant that it was perfectly permissible to pull out into a line of oncoming moving traffic, whether there was space to do so or not. I witnessed one driver pull out of a side road across the path of an oncoming bus travelling on a main road, but as the lane he wanted to turn into was stationary, he stopped and blocked the bus and the many vehicles behind it.

What was interesting to me was the reaction of the various protagonists to the situation. The bus driver (who could, of course see the offending car and its driver) gave him a long hard stare. The passengers on the bus, on the other hand, launched en-masse into an animated and vocal tirade at the blocking motorist. The vehicles behind the bus (who could see nothing of the problem) remonstrated loudly and at length with a chorus of horns, producing a cacophony of noise, which roused the still stationary motorist from his hitherto blinkered forward gaze.

His reaction — the Italian equivalent of a Gallic shrug as if to say — what I can I do?

Of course, the traffic in the lane he wanted to get into was observing the "I'm not looking, so he's not there" position, so there we sat for what seemed like an age with the passengers shouting, the horns of the vehicles behind blaring and the stationary motorist now satisfied that he had been put in such an impossible position that he was the victim in all of this.

The stale-mate finally came to an end when another motorist coming from a side street on the opposite side of the road performed a near-identical manoeuvre and blocked the traffic sufficiently to allow our hero to nip (with a cheery toot of his horn) into the line and disappear and the bus continued on its way.

My memory closed and I was back on Shropshire Street — the traffic was moving again there too — but it had all happened in a very calm, quiet and civilized way.

I'm not saying that the traffic through Audlem isn't a problem — of course it is and sometimes, it's a complete nuisance. But it's not like Italy, is it?

PS Perhaps the photo demonstrating the Italian attitude to road policing is a partial explanation!