June 20, 2011

Back to my favourite subject; roundabouts in Livingston. They’re bad enough with the non-standard Highway Code direction arrows marked on the road… but how to make them even more ludicrous? After all, the whole purpose of a roundabout junction is to ease traffic flow and keep all the vehicles on the go. Isn’t it? If the wheels are turning the traffic is moving.

That being the case, what was in the minds of the road planning and traffic management geniuses that made them think it would ease traffic flow if they put a series of stop-go traffic lights on a roundabout?  It defies logic; and it defies common sense.

Take the Almondvale Roundabout on Alderstone Road. The forest of traffic lights on that junction certainly doesn’t aid traffic flow. By my precise calculations, an arthritic granny on a Space Hopper could make it through that particular junction in less time than a boy racer in his Subaru.

I found a satellite photograph taken of that roundabout. It was obviously taken on a quiet morning, but even so, it shows a far higher percentage of cars sitting at the traffic lights in comparison to cars actually going anywhere – 12 to 2 in fact. Even by a rough calculation, during rush hour that means for every 100 cars there will only be about 17 actually going anywhere at any one point in time! The other 83 are just queued there, pumping out exhaust fumes.

And even when you do eventually get to move, you have to stop halfway round becausethere is another queue. Stopping on a roundabout – how could the designers ever possibly even consider that a good idea?

Mind you, if they think traffic lights on a roundabout helps promote traffic flow, you have to ask yourself what they’ll come up with next. Speed bumps on the exit slip? A wild, curving maze of traffic cones? No, wait – concrete bollards at random points and in random lanes. That would do the trick.

Remember, you saw it here first.

Drew McAdam



June 13, 2011


The online version of this column gets a regular number of Internet “hits”. But one gets more than its fair share. So, I thought I would offer the updated version this week, with a follow-up next week. Here goes…

You could be forgiven for thinking that the plans for some of the roundabouts in Livingston were drawn up by a committee of toddlers on a sugar-high with only a stack of cheap paper and a few coloured crayons to keep them busy. What other possible explanation could there be for the directional marking being laid out in such a way that you are expected to break with the long-accepted rules of the Highway Code?

(Note to all officials on the highway planning committee: Just in case you don’t know, a roundabout should be treated as a crossroad. If you are turning left or going straight ahead – queue in the left hand lane. If you are turning right on the roundabout – queue in the right hand lane. What could be simpler?)

The first UK roundabout-style junction was introduced in1910, so the roundabout rule has been in existence for over 100 years until, in their infinite wisdom, our Plonker Planners decided to change them. I guarantee you that a visitor to the town, driving from the A71 along the Alderstone Road to Deans and back, would be in the “wrong” lane at almost every roundabout.

The planners have changed the known and accepted rules on roundabout direction lanes, but they mustered their collective common sense long enough to inform drivers which wrong lane they should be in by – wait for it – painting directional arrows on the road!

Pure genius; except for one tiny detail. If a line of vehicles is waiting to enter the roundabout then you can’t see these arrows because the lead vehicles are parked on top of them. And when it snows… Need I explain further?

I understand that until recently there was even a roundabout where the direction signs and the lane markings were at odds with each other. According to Oor Cooncil’s own web site, this meant that “…drivers are having to change lanes sharply when they hit the hatches. Yeah, or clobber another vehicle.

Perhaps those responsible for deciding to change the rules on roundabouts should be made to take a day out from their nursery, take their lives in their hands, and actually drive up and down the roads they have designed. Let’s see how many collisions they are involved in, thanks to their thinking that changing the rules we all know and love is a bright idea.

Drew McAdam


June 6, 2011

Oh, goody. I just received a Notification of Works from West Lothian Council informing me that there is to be a Topographic Study in my area. Sounds painful.

Every house in the area has received the same letter. And it’s the talk of the steamie.  What, exactly, is a “Topographic Study”? According to the letter, “The purpose of a topographic study is to gather survey data about the natural and man-made features of the land, as well as its elevations”. Which, coincidentally, is word-for-word-how it’s described in Engineering Magazine.

The magazine definition goes on to explain that from this data they can prepare a three-dimensional map.

More to the point, the letter informs us that work will take four weeks, and that “It is inevitable that the above works will cause some disruption to those living in the area”. Just what we need right now – more disruption in our lives. And all so that somebody can have a map.

Now, I can only assume that this four week long surveying malarkey is going to involve a lot of workmen and specialist equipment – to prepare a map. Doesn’t sound cheap.

Is it just me who wonders if, in these times where cutbacks are being made at every level of public life and affecting everybody from the very young to the very old, careful consideration should be given to where each and every pound is spent? I have to ask myself if a survey is something I would be spending my money on if I was all but bankrupt. I don’t think so.

And is it just me who thinks that collecting data over a four week period so that a map can be produced should be pretty low on the list of priorities?

Maybe I should organise a costly survey to find out.

Drew McAdam