Tag Archives: Bury

Alas Myth and Cones: Counting the Costa traffic jams in a city of red lights

18 Jul

I am lucky enough to have two homes. One is a sunshine villa 30 minutes’ drive from Alicante airport, the other a modest semi 18 miles north of Manchester’s three flight terminals.

An airport trip at the English end is subject to an electrifying hazard in the form of 50 sets of traffic lights. The consolation is that no more than 47 tend to be stuck on red at any given time.

If you are lucky enough to actually catch your flight, you do at least face a delightful evening discussing traffic lights with the Spanish cabbie driving you to Guardamar on the N332.

Mention the super-hazard of every street corner in Britain and the taxi driver’s conversation is likely to consist of a quizzical look and the words ‘Que es trah-fick-lie-eat?’

Odds are he won’t know what you are talking about because, believe it or not, there’s not a single set of the things between Alicante and my Costa Blanca home.

At the Manchester end one can, of course, avoid the red-light menace by heading for the airport via the city’s Park-And-Don’t-Move service, otherwise known as the M60 motorway.

That trip is no fun either, aRoadworks on the A21nd unless you give yourself at least two days to get to the airport, a couple of hours with your head immersed in 50 Shades of Red may well be less stressful than counting traffic cones.

Either way, both routes to the airport provide ideal material for a ‘100 Reasons to Escape Manchester’ publicity blitz.

What sort of voyeur gets a kick out of watching traffic cones breeding on the M60, for heaven’s sake? Last time I used the so-called ring road I counted 428 million giant ice-cream cornets during a six-mile crawl to the Trafford Centre. The 14-hour trip was marginally quicker than taking the car but my knees didn’t half hurt by the time I reached my destination. And I was suffering from orange-and-white colour blindness into the bargain.

One of the few perks of driving to Manchester airport via the city centre is that you can stop off for a coffee and a bacon butty. The down side is the £60 parking fine you’ll inevitably get in addition to burning off eight gallons of unleaded in a desperate attempt to park sideways on the single metre of kerb untainted by double yellow lines.

I appreciate that comparing the Costa del Salford with the Costa del Sol is akin to confusing Bury Market with the London Stock Market. But that’s a bourse-case scenario.

There are, in fact, many leisurely compensations for those who choose not to drive in what must surely be the wettest part of the UK. One is enjoying a morning swim to the office in downtown Mancunia’s high-street ocean, known to the aquatic community as the Sea of Umbrellas. The rush hour is so busy that there’s no choice but to do the crawl, and not only because the breast stroke is illegal and a butterfly as rare as an English Mark Spitz.

Which brings me on to football or, for the gob-fearing amongst us, the mouths of Wayne Rooney and Kompany.

Manchester is of course home to two top football teams, namely Bury and Oldham Athletic. Fortunately I don’t support Man United or Man City either, which is a bit of a relief since I don’t speak German (heaven help whoever puts the names on United players’ shirts) and with my flight back to Spain only 24 hours away, I’m pretty low on Sterling too (boom boom).

Oh, a geeky friend just called to say there are actually 49 sets of traffic lights between my Whitefield home and Manchester Airport. Using the bacon-butty route, that is.

I believe there are also 49 million traffic cones between Anfield in Liverpool and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

All paid for in Sterling, of course.

Justice or greed? The cost of crossing a fine line

5 Jan

My autumn visit to the UK was anything but a road to happiness, thanks to the local council’s road-traffic enforcers. Justice – or pure greed? You decide.
Dashing out  to the runway at Manchester Airport in pouring rain and a furious early-morning gale was a sheer pleasure on my return to Spain last October – because I was about to swop the cold, miserable British weather for the Costa Blanca sunshine I so adore.
Apart from the shivering, soggy climate, my four weeks back in the UK also brought home some of the reasons why living in England today is more of a penance than a joy.

Yes, the beautiful countryside, unique historic buildings and ironic British sense of humour are still intact. But the breakdown of law and order and increasingly large sub-culture of yobbism, alcoholism and drug addiction is frightening.

I won’t go into the most controversial subject of all – the massive over-immigration which is polarising rather than uniting the country. That would be politically incorrect, even if my personal viewpoint is considerably less extreme than that of many native Brits.

However, one subject that really does make my blood boil is the unnecessary traffic chaos – and the incompetence of the faceless bureaucrats responsible for the massive disruption on motorways and trunk roads.

Pay up or else. My fixed-penalty notice

Everywhere I drove, I seemed to be held up – from an enforced 30-mile motorway detour to accommodate a bridge-building exercise, to temporary traffic lights causing hold-ups on virtually every main road. The general philosophy of the transport bureaucrats seemed to be, ‘‘Cause maximum disruption to as many motorists as possible at the time the traffic is heaviest’’.

OK, I don’t tend to drive in busy areas in Spain, but I have never even seen a proper traffic jam in the Costa Blanca. I get the impression that the roads are kept as clear as possible in the daytime with most maintenance work done at night, when fewer vehicles are on the roads.

Yet in England, I rarely go out without being stuck in a queue of crawling cars.

I also had the dubious pleasure of clashing with the council jobsworth who monitors minor traffic offenders in Bury, Lancashire, where my UK home is. I lost the battle, of course, because being fair did not tally with his mission to fill the town coffers with as much cash as possible from the softest touches of all – law-abiding motorists.

I was blissfully unaware that since the my previous visit to the UK last May, Bury Council had decided to prohibited one particular bus lane to other vehicles from 7am to 7pm on weekdays, rather than the normal 7-10am and 4-7pm double slot which operates for every other bus lane in Greater Manchester.

My ‘crime’ was that I went on a lunchtime shopping trip on a quiet weekday and, at 12.38pm, moved my little Kia Picanto into the empty bus lane momentarily to allow the only other car on the road to pass me. It hadn’t crossed my mind to check the hours of prohibition first – I naturally assumed the rules were the same as everywhere else.

Gotcha! The council spiders had set up a camera to trap heinous criminals like myself in their devious web. And three days later I received photographic evidence of my car tootling along in the bus lane at 25mph, plus a demand for £60 – reduced to £30 if I paid within 14 days.

How kind of them to penalise an unknowing  pensioner for merely being courteous to another driver and clearly having no intention of using the bus lane to jump a queue or for any dubious reason.

I duly wrote to the council very sweetly explaining the situation and asking that they reconsider, enclosing a £30 debit-card payment to avoid the possibility of being stung for double that amount while I was awaiting a response.

A few days later I received a written reply from Bury’s Parking Services Manager John Foudy in which good grammar and accuracy were given low priority.

(Sic) ‘’I have noted your comments, however, upon further investigation of your case it is apparent that full payment of the Notice has been made,’’ he wrote, as if that was a reason the fine could not be reversed.

‘‘I can confirm that there is ample signage at the entrance to the bus lane specifying the relevant start and end times. The onus is on the motorist to check the information before making the judgement to enter a bus lane.

”Thank you for your prompt payment, however, I would like to inform you that any further right to appeal is lost and the case is now closed.’’

That’s it, then. Guilty as charged, and no reference whatsoever to my explanation.

I’m not the first person to suffer in this way at the hands of Bury Council, whose greediness for fleecing soft-touch motorists at every chance is regularly highlighted in the local press.

So I’ve decided to repay Mr Dowdy, sorry Foudy, in my own way. I plan to boycott  Bury on my future visits to the area and will do my shopping in Bolton, Rochdale and Oldham.

My thinking is that if disgruntled local motorists hit local traders in the pocket abandoning the town, the business community might just press Bury Council  to stop ostracising decent citizens with greedy forms of entrapment.

Of course, my plan is unlikely to work – and in any case you may believe I did cross the line, both literally and metaphorically. But I bet you 30 quid that councils like Bury are persecuting motorists in order to maximise council funding.

Make your losing cheques payable to John  Foudy at Bury Parking Services signage department.

First published in Female Focus magazine, December 2010