CONSPICUOUS by its absence, the lack of traffic and the resulting peace and quiet in the streets near my flat during lockdown has been significant.

The birdsong, the clearer air, the freedom to duck about on foot and bicycle has given such an insight into how green travel plans will positively affect the city, and other cities like it.

But wait, hold up, what's this? Tuesday morning and the police are out directing traffic on a street that runs perpendicular between two main roads.

READ MORE: Watch: Huge line of cars queue for McDonald's in Glasgow

Traffic is backed up and at a standstill while officers slowly stop and beckon, stop and beckon for drivers to go by. The heavy thrum of idling engines was quite striking after weeks of silence.

First thought is an accident. A Police Scotland van is there, there are officers on bikes and more on foot. The penny drops. This is no accident, this is the reopening of the local McDonald's drive-thru.

Having lived here for nine years, I've never seen anything like it but paradoxically this something out of the norm signalled a return to the norm. The draw, most likely, is not purely a desperate craving for a Big Mac but more a keenness for a little bite of our former reality.

Fast food is, often, comfort food. Chain restaurants hook us in early - apparently, brand loyalty is established as young as the age of two - and hook us in hard so huge queues on opening days after more than two months without were always going to be spectacular.

There's an absolute snobbery about McDonald's.

The overwhelming social media reaction to huge queues at restaurants across the UK was one of hard scorn that people might want to wait in lengthy lines for something as lame as a cheeseburger and fries.

The Crow Road McDonald's is next to an M&S Simply Food, went the cry, grab some patties and buns there and cook them yourself.

If only everyone ate pragmatically. But we are not all pragmatic beasts.

We comfort eat, we like treats, we take refuge in familiar packaging around salt and fat.

The Golden Arches, legend has it, are supposed to subliminally represent mother's mammaries, a Freudian symbol of the ultimate comfort food.

And I wouldn't judge anyone for it. I felt so stressed on Wednesday that I went into a nearby Tesco Extra and bought a family sized bag of crisps and a Terry's Chocolate Orange - neither things I would ever normally touch but they were reduced to £1 - and ate them at the side of the road like an animal.

Like a fox who's torn open a particularly fragrant bin bag or a pigeon who's strutted across some dropped chips.

That sort of energetic emotional eating requires a questionable level of impulse control.

I suppose the difference is that sitting in a queue for an hour for a Happy Meal is far less impulsive and shows a dedicated commitment to the cause.

Still, you judge a person for wanting McDonald's and you're not just judging their taste buds. I love Turkish eggs from my local ultra hipster cafe.

I'd eat them every meal for the rest of my life. But I'd happily take an Egg McMuffin off your hands, and not ironically. I just wouldn't camp out overnight for it.

Everything in moderation, right?

Far more important an issue, given that Maccas plans to have re-opened 1000 drive thrus by this weekend, is the side effects on local communities to hosting such a facility.

Being so near to the drive thru, my neighbours and I routinely have cars stop outside our building, often private hire drivers having their tea or teenagers out for the evening, while the occupants eat their fast food then hurl the wrappers out of the window.

It was but hours before the area was littered with cardboard boxes and drink cups, just as before. We also have a KFC drive thru next door to the McDonald's and, over the back, a new retail park is in the process of blooming into heavily concreted life with a drive thru Costa one of the first to open.

Now, surely, is an excellent time to deal with the issues caused by drive thrus. I will, because I am a busybody, chap on windows and hand people back their discarded fast food cartons. A few of the neighbours go round with pick-up sticks and gather the detritus. This is a hyper local solution to a global problem.

Drive thrus are ideal for socially distanced dining out as they insist on a natural barrier and that diners remain in their household bubbles, so they aren't going anywhere, at least not any time soon. They are, at the same time, environmentally inefficient, causing congestion and causing littering.

To be fair to my local Maccas, it does arrange litter picks with local schools as a way of tidying up and generating a sense of social responsibility in young ones. But those young ones aren't dropping the litter.

A proactive solution is far preferable to a reactive solution. One such that sounds interesting is to have the restaurant print the licence plate of the purchaser's car on the bag of food.

That way the dumper is easy to trace and fine. Dumping fast food rubbish is a peculiar type of littering given you can just shove the packaging in a footwell until you arrive home to a bin - those who indulge in it shouldn't be off the hook.

And look, do we need drive thru coffee shops? Not at a time when we're trying to cut congestion and encourage active travel. Unless restaurants start allowing bikes at the order window, we should use what we have without encouraging more.

There's no point moaning on social media. Check the council website for planning applications - it's easy enough to do - and petition your local councillor about the issues drive thrus cause in communities.

Proactive, not reactive. And have some fries: you'll need the energy for the additional activity.

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