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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

So what's new?

Previously posted in January 2007 


People are starting to see congestion charging as inevitable. In Manchester and certainly in Greater Manchester we are nowhere near ready for congestion charging. Yes, there are great queues of traffic entering the city every morning and the same people sitting in the same traffic hell every evening, trying to leave town. And yes the roads do appear to be fairly congested at the peak times. However, I believe the trafic jams are made by bad planning. Speed bumps on ambulance routes as I've mentioned before, bus lanes and cycle routes in the wrong places and worst of all, all those traffic lights. In addition to the above named obstacles there is the added problem of the 'No Left Turn' signals.
One of the things that really annoy me are traffic lights. They always seem to change when you don't need/want them to and they stay red for much too long. The other thing about these often unneeded trafficators (should be spelt traffic haters!) is the stupid system for people wanting to turn left. In England we have to wait till the light turns to green before we can turn left, which means that lots of people behind the left turner, also have to wait and so on, causing unnecessary delays. In some other countries, you can turn left if it's safe to do so. I know that we do have a few filter lights, in some areas, but in general not enough.
Yes, of course we need bus lanes. but most of them are in the wrong places and actually cause congestion! The simple answer to bus lanes is to earmark dedicated streets as 'Buses Only' these busways can easily be made in parellel streets to the main routes, which would keep everybody happy.
YES!!! YES!!! YES!!! We need more cycle lanes. Believe me, I am a cyclist and I can tell you that the cycle lanes on many of our roads in Manchester are about as good as a chocolate fire guard. What a waste of effort, time and money. Lots of cycle lanes run out at crucial places, cars park on them, potholes appear in them. Even on major routes, where parking isn't a problem, the heavy traffic is. In general car drivers don't see bicycles until the last minute. So, the best cycle lanes are the ones that run alongside the road, for example the little stretch that runs through Whitworth Park.
Motorists are already very heavily taxed in this country. Fuel carries a high tax, then there is road tax and insurance and insurance tax. In addition there is VAT added to every purchase, including the sale of cars, servicing and parts. Then on top of that comes the stealth taxes like parking charges, clamping fees, towing away and storage fees if you park in the wrong place or for too long. These days local authorities even have the power to confiscate and crush your vehicle if you do something naughty.
So, what am I saying? Make car parking free? No, far from it. You only have to take a ride down to The Trafford Centre to see what a disaster free parking can be. And I'm not talking about the congestion caused by shoppers at the place at all. No, I think that they should pay a small fee to park, say £1.00 This money would then go to build a rail link and a tram link. How simple a solution is that? I can hear your argument right now, You think that the only people that go to these giant shopping complexes are car drivers. Wrong! The Trafford Centre has a bigger bus station than most towns and this is where the congestion originates as the cars and busses fight for roadspace.
The car parks in Manchester are way too expensive and too difficult in many cases to access. People feel cheated when they arrive in a strange town and are confronted by stupid parking rules. Manchester should be building more car parks and making the developers of all these new buildings to build extra spaces for visitors to the city. Instead we have the crazy situation where the council discourages parking. This is real short term thinking and can only end in tears. A few years back we had this crazy thing where the council didn't believe in sporting competition and sports days etc. in schools were banned or at best frowned upon, a kind of political correctness gone mad. Then, all of a sudden a change of direction. Manchester applied to host The Olympic Games, when that failed a couple of times we went for The Commonwealth Games. So what's all this nonsense got to do with cars, congestion and parking? Well! read on!
I know that global warming is the buzz word these days and anybody and everybody is jumping on the bandwagon and declaring their greenness to the world. Not least political parties and politicians. Local, national and international. In general the view is that we need to reduce harmful emissions from vehicles. Of course we do, but there are green alternatives that all of us can take advantage of right now. Firstly, we can say. 'My next car's going to be electric!' If that is too much of a dream, you can start by offsetting, and I'm not talking about planting a few trees to improve the environment that you've probably just destroyed by driving here in the first place. No, I think that there may be a way to generate a little bit of power as a by-product of your journey. Then to use this little bit of captured power to run a couple of light bulbs in the office or home or a computer or tv, perhaps. Well, maybe I am dreaming a bit but who knows what's round the corner?
I just read that the Madchester band James are reforming and are set to play the Manchester MEN Arena this year. I remember going to see them at G-Mex a few years ago. Sit down next to me!CASINO
Also today, they announced that Manchester is to build the first Super or Las Vegas style casino in Britain. That is of course, subject to the politicians having the final say. The slot machine area alone will be the size of a football pitch. That's a lot of pennies!
While I'm having a moan about transport, I might as well have a dig at the Metrolink trams. Who was it that said: 'What Manchester does today, the world follows!' Well, in England it seems to be true as far as the modern tram goes anyway. Since Manchester started her tram system, many other towns have coppied. The problem for Manchester is that we still only have three lines and a bit of a link across the city centre, when what we really need is a proper, affordable and frequent system that goes to the places where people live and work. what we've got and also for the most part, what is planned for the future, is a system that duplicates or replaces the existing railways. That's no good! Look at the Altrincham and Bury lines, they are overcrowded and expensive and they are running on the old British Railways routes. The Altrincham line is actually worse than when it was a railway track, the trains (now trams) still go to Piccadilly Station but Via G-Mex and a shed full of streets, how mad is that?
There are no simple solutions as far as transport and transportation go. The government says that cities like Manchester will have to accept congestion charging if they want to get funding for public transport. The problem in Manchester is that we already have loads of dismantled railway routes, many of them are overgrown with wild trees and junk. Why can't we re-open these lines as tramways? Well, the cost would be prohibitive, they tell me. So, why can't we just tarmac these routes over and run busses on them? Well, that would be too easy I guess, and we would no longer qualify for government funding. And we wouldn't have to pay the congestion charge, would we?
Some of you may remember me going on about our central heating. Well, guess what? Magic, it's fixed! It took just three minutes to change a faulty valve and bingo! we have a silent heating system that actually works. That's three minutes to fix it and three months waiting time for the boiler man to come.
We're still waiting for the man to come to fix the switch on the lift, we've only had to wait since July so far and I've heard that Electricians are pretty busy these days.
You can check out Nicola Batty's Newsletter (AT)
She's writing a work-in-progress-novel at the moment called The Space Between. I think that she's actually going to make it into a trilogy. Anyway, you can clink the link above and have a butchers hook yourself.
One of the nasty things about cycling is the lack of places to tie your bike to outside shops. In the old days shopkeepers used to have a cycle rack outside their shops and you could park up and lock your bike to it. Some places still have them of course, mainly cycle shops, but surprisingly some supermarkets although I was told by the greeter at my local Asda, that they didn't encourage cyclists for reasons best left alone on this blog. Anyway, there's a dead good shop on Great Western Street, Moss Side called Henson's Hardware, they sell all sorts of ironmongery and diy things and the odd tyre, innertube, brake cable and puncture repair outfit. I go there all the time for any bits and pieces I need. It is also known as The Mop Shop as it does a nice line in mops and buckets. How much better it would be though if they had a cycle rack outside with a sign that read: Cyclists Welcome, Punctures repaired!
You can check out my really bad poetry blog StraightTalkingStreetTalkingSweet it has a poem called Salford Madness which deals with the cycle parking theme, sort of!
Fast forward to 2014 - City are in the final of the Capital One Cup at Wembley after beating West Ham in the semi-final 9-0 on aggregate. Phew!

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