In my most recent trip abroad, I had the opportunity to tour Ireland and Scotland, a trip that shall live long in the memory, but which was marred driving, and in a car that was far too poorly made for the rough roads of the island of St. Patrick. Throughout Ireland, I drove the Peugeot 5008, and experience I would sooner forget, and one that I described here: http://beyondthekm.com/2012/08/26/how-i-ended-up-at-the-chiropractor-the-peugeot-5008/
So poor was my experience with the roads of Ireland that I have created a Top 10 list for road improvements for the country. It is list of priorities for the government, if you will.
1) Better signage – Need to know which road I’m on and how far away the next town is and wherever else the road will take me. Markers to denote each kilometer or mile would also be of great use.
2) Lit street signs – driving at night in Ireland is horrific. It isn’t great in the better lit areas of Dublin, but driving at any more than a snail’s pace outside of the city will leave you squinting to read the road signs after dusk. Lighting and signs are two things that don’t seem to combine in
3) Straight streets – I have traveled through a great many countries outside of America, and it always seems like the idea of city planning eludes them. I challenge you to find a road in Dublin to goes straight through the city, parallel to another road going straight through the city. The lack of straight roads makes finding one’s way around far more challenging, especially without a GPS device at hand. Moreover, if you are a foreigner traveling with your iPhone or other smart phone thinking that it will guide you, prepare to spend a ridiculous sum of money downloading the maps and turn-by-turn instructions to get you from point A to point B.
4) Wider and more lanes – Europe is a place that developed pre-automobile, and thus largely is not up to the task of expanding the roadways, especially in built-up areas. Still, in areas where there is room to widen the roads or put in a road divider, the ministry of transport should do so to reduce the likelihood of a head-on collision.
5) More one-way lanes in towns/cities – This suggestion goes with number 4 a bit. When the lanes cannot be widened further due to buildings being in the way, make them one-way. This will make it easier to navigate the streets and minimize the disruption if there is a delivery vehicle stopped or an accident waiting to be cleaned.
6) Make them smoother off the main highways. Apparently, Ireland has gone to great expense over the last few years putting new modern thoroughfares to shuttle people from one side of the country to the other, but once you leave these, the road gets bumpy – bumpy. More effort needs to go into extending the high quality of these larger highways to the
7) Improve the naming system of the highways – M, N, R, E are just four of the different types of roads found on the Irish map and I’ll be damned if I can comprehend what differentiates them. More conventional naming that denotes the significance of the road as far as quality, grade, and main versus auxiliary would be useful.
8) More safety barriers along the side of roads that border water – traveling on the deteriorating roads that border the country’s many lakes is downright scary. I am a decent driver, and I was unnerved about the car leaving the pavement and going straight into the water. Given how much it rains, and how dark it gets in Ireland, how narrow and windy the roads are, it makes a lot of sense to put up stronger barriers around the lakes to withstand the impact of a car or truck that might be on its way into the lochs.
9) More contrast on street signs – towns and cities are especially bad at putting up street signs on the sides of buildings. Too frequently, these are black and white signs placed at an awkward height on the side of a greyish colored building and thus are difficult to read during the day and impossible at night. Even high beams can do only so much good.
10) Differently colored signs for each language – as a foreigner visiting the country, it is easier on the eye if I can know to look at a sign that is a particular hue to represent my language. I cannot read six different signs with six different languages at once, but I can quickly train my eye to look only at the green signs or only the blue ones (as an example) to denote Gaelic or English.
Whilst in Ireland both Queen Elizabeth and President Obama were in the country on visit, and while this article serves as a harsh critique of Irish roads, I want to emphasize that the Queen’s Scotland and Obama’s America are not without their own road problems, most notably that there are not enough of them.
People of Ireland take note, I loved your lamb, your scenic mountains, your Guinness, and your people (minus the drunkards of Dublin), but the roads, well, they could do with a few changes.