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17 July 2006

Scottish road politeness

Let me talk about my drive to work. It is wonderful and probably the best commute I have ever had. About 20 miles from house to work it covers some of the best scenery and views in the area. One minute I'm looking at a panorama stretching 40 miles to the west with the mountains marking the start of the Highlands visible in good weather, the next I can see the bridges across the Forth, and Fife and the Ochils in the distance. Finally the road turns and I can see more than 20 miles to the east and south across the City of Edinburgh and Arthur's seat to Berwick Law and the Pentlands. The roads are quiet, generally there's noone either behind or in front of me and I might come across at most a dozon cars coming in the opposite direction. I even saw a deer on the drive to work once. Between my house and my work there is one roundabout and it has the only set of traffic lights on the route. The road itself is interesting with many corners and inclines and varies from views to driving through woods. In winter, parts are impassible due to the steep hills. If only all commutes were this much fun.

Despite all this though, an even more remarkable thing happened on the commute last week. I was behind a van (fairly unusual) which was behind another car. The car in front pulled over and let us past.

That's it. An everyday occurence on single track roads in the Highlands where almost without exception people pull over when there's a car behind them, this common courtesy is a rarity everywhere else. In the Highlands, there are police notices asking people to pull over. If only the same common sense applied on Scotland's A roads which comprise the bulk of major routes north of Stirling.

Rather than politely pulling over, we are left stuck in long queues for 40 miles or more behind people who think that adding a minute to their journey to pull over and let others pass is less preferable to having a long queue of frustrated drivers behind them and taking risks with overtaking.

Thus you can often make a decent speed of about 50mph on a good single track road, but might be stuck at 45mph on a far better A road because the person ahead is too selfish to pull over regularly.

Would it not make sense to have a law that if you are slow moving and have a long queue of traffic behind that you pull over? It works for single track roads, and is probably more relevant for A roads given the greater distances involved.

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