04 February 2008

Life in Norway I - Step away from the Scaletrics!

When we were young there was always one kid who was rich enough to have a scaletrics set. You could build a race track and drive round and round to your hearts content. But for every scaletrics set there was a domineering father who insisted on repeatedly ripping up the track and trying to improve things. They would then tell you how to drive and wrench the controls from you. They would then show-off to the other equally tedious fathers and you would wander off to build a tree house.

Bergen is a small, picturesque city on the west coast of Norway with a population of 250,000. That is, by European standards, pretty small (similar to Nottingham or Derby in the UK). Unfortunately the city is run by the scaletrics fathers who have graduated from making small groups of children unhappy to pissing off an entire city by trying to implement draconian big city traffic solutions.

Bergen has an ever increasing, ring of toll booths to enter, or even pass through the city, which is a bit harsh, given that the only way around it involves going half way to Sweden; a one way system that can only be the product of copious volumes of dope and sleep deprivation; half of the dual carriageways are given over to buses and taxis and now, they are tearing up the city centre to put in a tram system that doesn't actually go anywhere useful.

Nobody that I have spoken to thinks this multi-million nok folly will be of any use to anyone, and nobody wants it. If people want to walk for 20 minutes, stand in the rain for another 10, then be cramped into a small space inhaling other peoples cough germs and listening to tinny (c)rap music on someone elses head phones before getting off and walking another 15 minutes in the rain - then they can catch a bus.

So why are the scaletrics fathers ripping up the track again? Why are they wasting all that money and generating traffic chaos, I can only speculate, but I would guess it’s because Birmingham and Manchester got one, so it must be a good idea. Well I have got news for you - they are big cities with huge traffic problems, Bergen is a small town where the longest traffic queues are less than 10 minutes for half an hour either side of 8am and 3 pm. And even they have only become and issue because they have dug up half the roads in the town centre and turned the other half into bus lanes. The entire traffic problem could be solved by scrapping the taxi lanes, changing everyones desire/need to be moving at exactly the same time and maybe building a few better roads.

The victorian land owners in Britian built castles, because building a thing of the past is a statement that says something like "I have got shed loads of money to waste and I'd rather build a monument to my own stupidity than give it to the peasants." History does indeed repeat itself.

So, step away from scaletrics and go and do something useful, like mowing the lawn or playing golf...

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