PERHAPS my friends are cynical but, in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games, only one topic of conversation seemed to come up more than disparaging jibes about the "McTorch" and complaints about the number of athletes seemingly shunning the event.
What was it? Despair about "traffic chaos". One friend only started driving in Glasgow for the first time last week after living in Inverness and came home traumatised by road diversions and Games lane signs. My mother has told me she "won't be back" in Glasgow until the Games are over, leaving me bereft of a cleaner. (Only kidding).
As Michael Winner used to say, maybe we should all just "calm down, dear". Earlier this week I was relatively surprised by the measured tones, almost verging on positivity, from representatives of the AA and Institute for Advanced Motorists (IAM). Peter Rodger, head of driving standards at the IAM, said Games lanes had worked well at the London Olympics and would probably do so again in Glasgow.
"If you stay out of the Games lanes when they are in operation, how they are enforced is not going to affect you," he said, referring to police patrols on site that can pull over everyone from motorists and taxi drivers to cyclists if they are caught straying into the lanes, incurring a £50 penalty. This from an organisation normally happy to rail against the "industrial scale" use of bus-lane fines by councils.
Likewise, Luke Bosdet at the AA was confident the sheer fear of traffic chaos was likely to have the reverse effect, scaring people into leaving their cars in the driveway and taking to public transport, cycling or walking.
Apparently, that is what happened during the London Olympics and, for a few weeks, the gridlock and congestion eased rather than increased. Road traffic fell by around 15 per cent. In Mr Bosdet's words "the problem resolved itself".
Glasgow 2014 organisers are hoping for the same effect, frequently advising people that "walking or cycling might be quicker".
That seems fine for those of us who live within an hour's walk to work, but it will not suit everyone. A number of cycle paths across the city are also closed or affected by diversions, which seems to contradict the mantra to get on our bikes. For a lot of people, though (going by my inbox and Twitter feed at least), it is the anti-car stance that grates most. Organisers "assume we're all in the city" was one complaint, while another reader living an hour south of Glasgow insisted that public transport could not meet his travel requirements to and from venues. "I have to use my car," he insisted.
Admittedly, some drivers are public transport phobic: they could use it but don't want to. Many might well have a point. A useful legacy of the Games would be to convert more commuters to walking, cycling and public transport permanently.
Unfortunately, meltdowns like the rush-hour delays and cancellations swamping Glasgow Central station on Tuesday night, caused by a signalling fault, do not help. Perhaps the next 11 days will be luckier.
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