Sunday, 20 January 2013

A snarking on winter driving

I'm talking about this kind of thing. Or this...

People, clean the snow of your f*ing car before you drive it!  ALL of it. If you don't think your journey is important enough to warrant the effort, stay at home. If your journey really is necessary, you won't have a problem taking the time to make sure you're keeping yourself as safe as possible. Turn your headlights on, I'd like to see you. I really don't understand why you would drive in bad weather without them. Perhaps you'e a secret agent or you're invincible. Well I'm not, so turn them on for me.

Other top tips:

Prepare - tyres, antifreeze, brakes all checked. Have a winter kit ready - ice-scraper, gloves, de-icer bought well in advance. Have an emergency kit with a blanket, torch, hot drink in a flask and some food. Remember the woman who survived on M&Ms for a week when she got stranded? Imagine you get stuck on the motorway. You can't waste your petrol on heating but you need to keep yourself warm. Stock up.

Take your mobile with you - make sure it is charged and you have credit.

Change the way you drive - lots of people drive like idiots at the best of times and see no need to change in dangerous driving conditions. They're not going to change, so adjust what you're doing to keep as safe as  possible. Don't get stressed. Don't break suddenly to get someone off your tail. You might skid, they are unlikely to be able to stop and they'll get pissy with you. Don't speed up either. If you can pull over and let them past, do it. Better they are out of your way. If you can't pull over, then leave extra room between you and the car in front, so if you have to stop you can do it really gently so the numpty behind you has maximum chance of responding in time. Leave the moral high ground behind, this is about keeping you safe.
Drive slowly, really slowly if you have to. If visibility is 5 metres, then you have to be able to stop in 5 metres because you don't know what's lurking ahead of you. It could be your granny, and you wouldn't want to mow her down, would you? Brake gently. Think ahead. It's easy to overshoot at a juction on black ice. Assume it's there so you don't get caught out.

Adjust your expectations - If you can't leave any earlier, then tell wherever you are going that you will be late. If you're boss gets narky, remind them of the saying 'better late than never/dead'. Don't expect pedestrians to be doing sensible things. They most likely want to get to where they are going as fast as possible. So they might take risks. You probably would too.

And as for all you tail-gating-fast-driving-non-headlight-using folks who just know they are 'safe' drivers. I hope it's just you that gets hurt when you end up spinning off the road. There's no such thing as a 'safe' driver. Stop deluding yourself.

Well, that news wasn't so good after all.

It's been a while, but I wrote back in October that it looked like we were about to get our local supermarket back. Not to be. The former Lidl site on Ballysillan Road is still that, a former Lidl site. Asda have pulled out of yet another site in North Belfast (this time on Shore Road). North Belfast is not awash with investment.

On the other hand, the Crumlin Road Spar has opened up again, taking over the empty shop units on the corner of Bilston Road. This is great news for the older people in the area who relied so much on the Spar for their groceries. And not to be forgotten in the mean time is the Paypoint in Wineflair, for late night pay-as-you-go emergencies. So it's not all doom and gloom.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

(Looks Like) Some Good News

There looks to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon for the Ballysillan area. The old Lidl building has finally been let after years of lying empty. I can only hope that the void left by the recent fire that destroyed the Spar on the Crumlin Road is about to be filled. Sure, it wasn't the best stocked Spar in the world, but was a lifeline for older people in the area and was the only place within walking distance you could get a tin of kidney beans at 7 o'clock in the evening. It's not it's gone that you appreciate what you had.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

More traffic griping... (part 1)

The past week in Belfast has seen the city centre grind to a halt as a new road layout 'beds in'. New bus lanes, roadworks, bad weather and emergencies have all made their mark in the chaos. 60% of this traffic is, we are told, only using the city centre to get to the other side of Belfast and those that run our roads would like that 60% to get on their bikes, the bus or the ring road to get themselves where they are going. Fine. But there are gaping holes in this strategy. This might take more than one post.
First up: public transport. As it goes, public transport in Belfast is rubbish. Sure, over the past 10 years it has made huge strides from the rickety old berry buses to free wifi and modern, more comfortable buses. What I can't understand is why translink still employ a terminus at city hall, where those who have to travel from one side of Belfast to the other have to dash from one side to the other to catch their connection. Aberdeen and Edinburgh run cross-city services., where there's no mad rush to catch a connection, only to find it sits there for 10 minutes before getting you on your way. Like all things, these routes won't suit everyone, but you are offering those that it does a way out of their cars, a way to get from one side of the city to the other without adding delay, or clogging up the road with buses waiting for their return journeys.
Next, pricing, and not in the way you might think. I'm talking about the structure of fares here, where metro services charge you depending upon which zone you travel in - the inner zone, or the wider city zone. An inner zone adult single costs you £1.40, while a city zone ticket is £1.80. Given the small reach of the city zone, I find this disproportionate, and as a lot of people who live in this zone walk to work, seems a bit pointless. Where my real issue lies though, is that the cost of short journeys favours only those who wish to travel within the city centre. There's no incentive to get on the bus for short journeys outside the inner zone, or those which would cross from the edge of the inner zone into the city zone. This means that if I want to go to the library, or do the school run on a rainy day I get in the car and not on the bus. Aberdeen First Group get round this by charging their journeys in stages rather than zones meaning a trip to the supermarket on the bus much more appealing.
My sign off here is about the bus gate on Oxford street. It would be nice to see a bus actually using itJust once. Until next time.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights. Red for stop, green for go. Simple. Well not so much on Clifton Street in Belfast, where it seems that this rule has become a little less clear. The problem is with the filter lane turning onto the Westlink which shows red, while the lanes heading straight into town show nothing. (There are 'straight ahead' arrows, but no actual green light.) I assume this is to stop confusion between two sets of lights which are very close together and make sure no-one gets confused and drives through a red light thinking it's green. Great. Except it has the opposite effect and means drivers regularly stop at what is a 'go ahead'. Now, as I see this at least twice a week I have to draw one of two conclusions; either people are really, really stupid or it's just plain confusing. Whichever it is (and I don't really want to know tbh), it would just be good if the people who deal with these things made it super clear when to stop and when to go before someone gets badly hurt.