Reading has by far the worst traffic of any town I have ever lived in. And I used to live in Leeds.
The reason is simple: they are not enough roads. Like London, Reading is divided by the River Thames. On the north side, there are only two roads in/out, both of which feed onto the same bridge (there’s a grand total of two). To the south, three roads feed onto what passes for a town centre ring road. And only one road crosses town from east to west.
There isn’t enough capacity for the traffic coming into and leaving Reading, never mind that driving within town.
Despite the fact my commute from the centre of town to the outskirts doesn’t take in any of the major routes, it is still heavily trafficked. To the extent that those 11 miles often take 40 minutes or more. But not this week.
I write this during the first week of Easter holidays. And my commute is completely traffic-free. I’m getting from home to the office in half the time I normally do. What on earth is going on?
The only answer I can come up with is that all the traffic I encounter is on the school run. I pass three schools (and Reading University) on my route, all within about three miles of each other. Between them, they reduce the area to virtual gridlock every morning. But now the kids are on holiday, the traffic has evaporated.
Here’s the thing that really annoys me, though. Only one of those schools is a primary. So hundreds of parents are driving kids who should be responsible enough to walk to school. Few of them are travelling any great distance, so why? Mollycoddling? Laziness?
Personally, I started walking a good two miles to school at nine years old. And that was in the mid-Nineties, hardly a care-free time. But my mum was happy I was responsible enough to get there and back safely, and she had to get to work, anyway.
If you live within walking distance of your kids’ school, I really can’t think any reason to drive them. Even on safety grounds, since mobile phones mean you can be in constant contact.
More importantly, if every kid walked to school, I could spend an extra 20 minutes in bed every morning.