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Londoners waste 96 hours a year in traffic

25th August 2015

Queueing traffic in London

Londoners wasted an average of 96 hours stuck in traffic in 2014, according to a press release yesterday from a company called Inrix. This outstanding performance makes Londoners the European Congestion Champions, beating silver medallists Brussels by a margin of 22 hours. Nationally, however, the UK could only manage fifth place.

Congestion and economic growth

Inrix relates economic growth to increased congestion. 'The UK economy grew by 2.8% last year, its highest rise since 2006 and faster than any other major developed country and double the European Union average of 1.4%. Levels of unemployment also decreased in 2014 by 21% from 2013. These factors, which are driving up consumer spending as well as spurring roadwork and construction projects nationwide, had a big impact on traffic with an increase of private and commercial vehicles on the road and more people commuting to work by car.' They also point out that London's population grew by 122,100 in 2014, and the UK's by 491,100.

I'm sure they're right that economic growth can cause congestion, but we shouldn't accept that it's inevitable. We should be working our socks off to de-couple economic growth from congestion. Some journeys in cities have to be made with vehicles - for example, deliveries, although even then, a proportion could be replaced by bikes or cargobikes. Longer journeys might have to be made by car. But a huge number of vehicle trips could be replaced by public transport, cycling, or walking - most of them, I would argue. To persuade people to get on their bikes, it's essential that they have somewhere that is and feels safe to ride, away from the traffic so far as possible. That's why it's encouraging that London is building two new segregated cycle superhighways, to proper standards.

Sitting in traffic is desperate

Sitting in traffic is a desperate thing to do. It's so frustrating. Once you're in the traffic, you can't change your mind about how to make your journey, or whether to make it at all - you're stuck. You feel your life slipping away, like a loosely grasped loo roll falling inexorably towards a gaping toilet bowl, while you curse Sir Isaac Newton, his friends, family, and the other members of his six-a-side team.

If you feel the same way, you might want to avoid the A217, between the Rosehill Roundabout in south London, and the junction with New Kings Road after it goes over Wandsworth Bridge. It's the Congestion Champion street in Europe's Congestion Champion city, and it's at its worst at 8am on a Wednesday.

I would prefer to do almost anything, rather than sit in traffic - go to an Ed Sheeran concert, get poked in the eye by the contact lens expert at the opticians, or be forced to start a petition asking Steve Wright in the Afternoon to increase the number of times per week he says 'serious jocking' from 2,857 to double that.

Ninety-six hours though! I dare you to divide it by 24. It's four days.

Three things to do with 96 hours

There are so many more productive things you could do with 96 hours, rather than spend it in traffic jams. Here are some ideas.

1) Learn a skill or talent in 4 days

We can all empathise with the correspondent to Yahoo! Answers, who asked:

Hi , for school i have to preform a talent , but i have no talents . Are there any talents i can learn in less than 4 days ? its really important . Thanks (-:

Yahoo! Answers were thin on the ground, with magic tricks and juggling about the only suggestions. But there must be lots of things you can learn to do in 4 days. What about plastering - can that be learnt in 4 days? 'The answer is YES!' according to the DIY school. You can learn enough in 4 days for home plastering, or even to set up your own successful plastering business.

2) Take a 4-day cruise

P&O vessel

P&O have a whole selection of 4-day cruises, taking in the Netherlands and Belgium, the Norwegian Fjords, and destinations further afield. 

Pros: you get to visit Southampton docks too

Cons: there might be a traffic jam on the way to Southampton docks; not being able to get off the ship might bring back memories of not being able to get off the M4.

3) Do a 4-day bike tour in the Netherlands

Four day bike tours are well-established, popular events in the Netherlands, known as fiets 4 daagses. For example, the Drentse Fiets 4 Daagse takes place in July. There are several possible start points, and you can do 30, 40, or 60km per day. If you do all four days, you get a medal, and CD of songs to sing on a bike. Even the king did 7.5km of the ride this year. No CD for Willem Alexander, then, although we're told he did receive a 'goodiebag'.

An outline of a plan is beginning to emerge. I expect you're there already, and you've started writing it down. Get a bike so you don't waste any more time stuck in traffic, make some cash by plastering walls, book a cruise to the Netherlands, and do a fiets 4 daagse while you're over there. Problem solved.

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