9.5. Discussion points.
What do you know about the transport system in Britain?
Britain has a massive, busy, transport system, with an enormous amount of roads, railway lines, and services. So why is it so difficult to get around? Countless new roads are built, but they seldom seem to improve the situation. There are several reasons for this. One is that the actual road systems are built, not on an organised grid system like American cities (the avenues going up and down, the streets going across), but on antiquated city paths.
These would have been perfect for walking and riding a few centuries ago, but don’t particularly suit the modern car. In fact, it has been observed that traffic in modern London moves so slowly that the average speed of getting from one side of the city to the other is the same as it was over 100 years ago on a horse and cart!
You might consider leaving your car at home. The other principal problem is the enormous weight of traffic moving around in the cities. In London, taking a bus is the cheapest, but also the slowest way of getting around. The metro – known as the underground or the tube – is the quickest, but is also the most expensive. If you go to work, study or live in the capital, you will have to consider that transport costs could take 10-20% of your income. The underground works on a zone system; the more zones you travel, the more expensive it is. You will need a special ticket called an oyster card (before a travelcard), if you are going to travel to work every day (to commute).
If you want to live in cheap accommodation, you will probably have to live further away from the centre, where you will probably be working, and consequently have to travel more. You will need to consider this when looking for a flat or a job.
Is it worth living in a cheaper area away from the centre, when you have to spend many hours travelling and much money on travel? Or would it be better to live nearer the centre with a higher rent, but few travelling expenses and more time to yourself?
Remember that most people in the capital spend between one and four hours a day travelling to and from work. In other cities the bus may be the only option. How does it compare to the system in your country or other countries that you have visited.
What are the differences in attitude between your country and others, regarding waiting in line or queuing? What is ‘road rage’? Does you country suffer from problems like this? What is the public transport system like in your city?
People commuting to work in Britain seem perfectly comfortable in comparison to the Japanese who push as many people into the tube trains as possible. The British seem to suffer from hypocritical ‘double standards’; we queue up in a more civilised manner than the people of virtually any other country, when we are in the street, but we kill each other on the roads. In fact, it is considered very rude to push in, that is to try and get ahead of another person in a queue. Someone might say ‘Excuse me, there is a queue here!’ We are not so polite in our cars. The number of violent crimes committed over minor traffic infractions is frightening. This is known as road rage and is a fairly recent phenomenon. There have been many cases of killings, stabbings and violent assaults after arguments on public highways. Be careful! Push in at the grocer’s shop, but don’t try pushing in when in a traffic jam.
What are the main problems that people have with moving around? Which, in your opinion, are the quickest ways of getting from one side of the city to another? And most economical? How could the transport system in your city be improved?
Bad parking must feature high on anybody’s list. This blocks the street, makes life difficult for pedestrians and puts cyclist’s lives at risk as they have to drive around the illegally parked vehicle and into the path of the oncoming traffic. The lack of parking space is also a negative factor. 20% of the people driving around in central London are not going anywhere; they are actually looking for a place to park. Let’s face it, the main problem is too many cars.
Motorbikes and scooters are almost certainly the quickest way to get around, but that is if you don’t mind dying.
Cyclists are, of course, the most environmentally friendly, healthiest, best looking, and the obvious solution to the transport problem in all big cities, but in very few countries are they treated with any type of respect. The bicycle isn’t exactly practical for taking your five children to school in a dangerous part of town, in the rain either. Car drivers will complain that cyclists pay no road tax; cyclists will complain that they don’t cause any damage to the streets like car drivers do; car drivers will complain that cyclists use the roads and then slow down the traffic; cyclists will lose patience with the irritated car drivers and call them insulting names; car drivers will attempt to run over the cyclists; cyclists will fight them and probably win; meanwhile the fifty people at the bus stop will think that it’s the most exciting thing that they have seen in the two hours that they’ve been waiting for the bus…