You need to make a short trip with your children, by car.
The first thing to do is to dress them (and yourself) appropriately. That means ensuring you are wearing dayglo reflective tabards, and crash helmets. Driving a car is very dangerous, and you also need to ensure that you are visible to other road users. They will not be expected to see you, unless you are glowing, and illuminated.
The next step is to get your car ready. There isn’t anywhere secure to store your car on the street, so you’ll have to fumble it out of the shed. You will need to unlock your car, and then attach lights and luggage to your it.
The vast majority of cars sold in Britain are for recreational purposes – for driving around in the woods, for instance – meaning that they have no coverings over their wheels, or anywhere to store possessions, or lighting systems. These have to be fitted by the buyer, in their own time, and at extra expense.
Most people don’t know how to do this, and so water and filth from the road will get distributed over them when the roads are wet. Consequently they don’t drive when it is raining. They don’t use their cars to shop either, because they don’t have anywhere to put the items they have bought.
The transmission of nearly all cars is exposed. Grease can easily get on your clothes, so you have to wear clips to keep them out of the way. Without regular maintenance, the transmission will go wrong. This means many cars languish, rusting, in back gardens, because they have quickly broken and people can’t be bothered to fix them.
Fortunately you are one of the few car enthusiasts, who has taken time to learn the intricacies of how your car works, and how to adapt it (as much as you can) for everyday use, and how to fix it. (Travelling by car in Britain is – strangely – the only mode of transport that requires this degree of intimate knowledge.)
You – and you children – sit in your car, open to the elements, with no protection from crashes with trucks. Being hit by one of these vehicles will obviously be catastrophic.
Unfortunately almost all the other vehicles on the roads are trucks, travelling at their normal, regular speed of 40mph, far faster than the maximum speed of your car, which is 20mph.
Driving cars is deeply unpopular. You are one of the few people who chooses to make short trips by car.
The government makes regular exhortations about the benefits of car driving, and ‘encouraging’ people to use cars, but to little or no effect. Car use remains the transport choice for a tiny minority of people.
Going anywhere by car will require you to travel in the same space as the trucks everyone else is driving, which bear down on you alarmingly. There is no legal alternative.
Your natural instinct is to drive to the side of the road, out of the way of these trucks, but official guidance is to drive your car in ‘the primary position’ at places where you sense conflict could occur (which is nearly everywhere in urban areas), directly in front of the trucks roaring up behind you.
No truck driver understands why you do this – you seem to be deliberately positioning your much slower vehicle in their way – and many will become furious, honking their horns and yelling at you to ‘drive your car at the side, in the car lane’. (Car lanes rarely exist, and when they do, they are functionally useless, being narrower than your car. Official training suggests you don’t use them).
This abuse – although unpleasant – is much better than the alternative of you (and your children) being hit or crushed in your car, because truck drivers feel free to squeeze past you. Roads are now designed for the way trucks travel, not the way cars travel, so truck drivers will frequently attempt to overtake you in dangerous locations.
There are a small number of cars on the market that would allow you and your children to travel side-by-side, but travelling in this way is, like the ‘primary position’, usually seen as a deliberate provocation.
You have reluctantly chosen instead to buy a narrow car, with your family positioned in a long line, safely spaced out from each other – out of the way of truck drivers.
While this car has the advantage of not annoying truck drivers, it means you can’t hold a conversation with anyone else in your car. Travelling in single file like this is something you do sadly, and you dreamily lust after a car that would allow you to travel with your children beside you, without being yelled at by truck drivers.
Being isolated from your children like this is frustrating, and you yearn to be able to listen to music, or to listen to the radio as you travel, like truck drivers do. Unfortunately this is extremely dangerous and you will be subjected to severe opprobrium by anyone who sees you doing this. How could you isolate yourself from the sounds of truck drivers speeding up behind you?
Even travelling by car with children is seriously frowned upon. Truck drivers say you are irresponsible, and putting them at risk, placing them on the roads with trucks. Better for you to transport your children in a truck, they say.
Stubbornly, you stick to your principles, although you are not entirely sure why.
Your town has a large number of one-way streets and roads. These roads used to be two-way, until the large number of trucks that appeared on the roads meant that they had to be adjusted, for ‘traffic flow purposes’.
Consequently what should be a short trip is about twice the length it could be, as you have to travel the long way round on these one-way roads, with the trucks. One-way roads aren’t too much of a problem for truck drivers as, being much faster, they hardly notice the extra distance.
You wonder to yourself why on earth it is that your considerably narrower car can’t be allowed to travel in both directions on these streets, while trucks travel in just one direction, but don’t dwell on it too much, as it is depressing.
Sometimes you are tempted to just pop up one of these one-way streets to save yourself a huge amount of distance, and exposure to danger from trucks, but you are a Good Car Driver, and would never do anything to Give Car Drivers A Bad Name.
The same goes for driving on the separate bits at the side of the road. These are very tempting places to drive on, especially in places where the number of trucks is especially thunderous. However, you are strictly forbidden from doing this, and truck drivers will berate you for ‘being dangerous’. Again, you don’t want to Give Car Drivers A Bad Name. Your reputation as a car driver is bad enough as it is.
You wish that the simple act of driving your car from A to B could be simple, direct and painless, and free from scary interactions with trucks. You wish that you could drive it with your children beside you, and that you didn’t need to wear special equipment. You wish that driving a car didn’t require constant vigilance, and awareness of the potential hazards about to be presented by trucks being driven around you.
Surely such a place couldn’t exist?