Cars can shorten your life AND lengthen your journey. The irony lies in the latter.
Nowhere has this been more evident to me than here in Edinburgh.
Hurtling round schools and libraries for the Casey & the Surfmen launch events, I’m realising that some places that seemed far away on a road map and felt distant when I was on the bus (or once getting a lift) are in fact ridiculously close.
OK Edinburgh is geographically small. The bus service is a wonder – especially compared to my most recent other experience. In Northumberland you could go into rigor-mortis waiting for the no 35 even if you weren't dead when you arrived at the bus stop. However, having been put off a bus so far from one school that the walk there was longer than the bit of the trip I’d paid for, I decided to take a punt on an away-from-the-road-path on the way back.
These paths augment the public rights of ways – the river paths – the canal paths and the ordinary paved paths. I arrived home more comfortably and in about the same amount of time as the trip there that had been half bus (half by bus you follow? Not on an unfinished bus or one that had been sawn in half...)
So the next school I went to, following the easy road route, took 40 minutes at a very comfortable unhurried pace. On the way back I noticed that there was a public footpath over Corstorphine hill. Now I know that I live on the other side of that hill so off I plodged.
The great thing was no car fumes. Then there was the scenery, then there was the reduction in noise. Then there were the birds and squirrels. Squirrels are really God’s joke. Very funny creatures – skittish and mad looking and totally made for us to laugh at – almost as funny as the golfers who could also be viewed from half way up the hill.
It was the kind of walk I would usually treat myself to only when I had time.
The thing was that taking this beautiful route cut 15 minutes off my getting-there walking time. I estimate that it also then put me in pretty much the time scale of either sitting in traffic or waiting at a bus stop and taking the road route that inevitably means going around things like hills and buildings.
Now translate that into rush hour in a car – not a bus that can go fairly smoothly along the bus lanes and really should be used for those journeys that are impractical by foot or bike. Also buses relieve you of some of your environmental angst because it is multi-occ transport. Though on a bus, you can’t generally get a chuckle at some squirrels. In a car you can’t listen to birds or have a smirk at the golfers unless you want to end up in the boot of the car in front.
But then there is the time con. You jump in the car because you think you’re in a rush and it’ll be quicker. But a journey on a map that claims to take 10 minutes will – predictably – take twice as long if you are driving at those times – school run or work run – and let’s face it – that is when most people are in a hurry. That journey time will at least double. Why? Because everyone else is on the road – in a hurry. While you are at the junction breathing in the car fumes from the vehicle in front, building up your stress levels for your first heart attack or stroke and you kids are getting fat in the back seat, walkers are pootling over the hill on a SHORTER route.
Yes it might rain. But here’s a big secret – you can wear a coat. I know. Radical.
Ok – I can’t afford to run a car so you could dismiss this as trying to make the best of my situation. But I have to tell ya – walking over that hill with the hum of traffic at a nice distance and the squirrels being bonkers – it didn’t feel that way.
N.B sorry to squirrel lovers but one ate the head off my only sunflower this summer so – ya know...
This week’s recommended blog from the archives is
Blog 86. Edinburgh is tram-endous(?)
Also do please check out the website – my favourite quote from a little person so far is now on the homepage.