Each morning, when driving to work, I‘m confronted with 32 stop lights. That’s right 32. That’s a lot, considering that the distance from my home to the office is a mere 14.5 km!
When I first took this route in 2007 – that’s when my employer moved from the city centre to the bucolic outskirts of Brussels – there were ‘only’ 25 stop lights on my itinerary. Since then, 7 have been added. That’s almost 2 per year. Now, in the hypothesis that I work for another 6 years, that would mean that, by the time that I’m entitled to early retirement, I would have to deal with 45 potential stops each and every morning! Taking into account the total distance, this corresponds to a stop every 320 metres.
'Hand-controlled' stoplight in the Loire Valley - June 2008.
Now let us suppose that every time that I approach a stop light it turns to red, and that the average time before it switches back to green is 30 seconds, this would mean that I need to add 22 minutes to my travel time. According to a route planner the trip takes about 15 minutes – without stop lights. This brings me to the mind shattering conclusion that I would be more at a halt than that I would actually be moving.
And just imagine what would happen if I were to work till the age of 65, currently the legal retirement age in Belgium! Still following the above hypothesis, this would mean 10 extra stop lights, bringing it to a grand total of 55 or one every 260 metres.
Fortunately, I take another itinerary in the evening, which currently has 14 stop lights. You obviously want to know why I don’t take this route in the mornings too. On two locations this route crosses a streetcar or tram trajectory. The crossings are unguarded and extremely dangerous, especially in the dark. Moreover, the trams that run on this line, travel at very high speed and have absolute priority over the other traffic. Taking this route in the evening is less hazardous as a) there is only one crossing and b) it’s guarded.
Of course, it has some inconveniences too, as it runs through several villages where your speed is limited to 50 km or in some places even 30 km per hour. But at least you are moving … As tomorrow is Whitsun Monday, we have the day off ... so no traffic lights to think about for another 24 hours!
(*) remember this fabulous song from 2005 by Katie Melua?