Thursday, 4 June 2015

Bad driving and rubbish fiends

I think this might be one of the new cameras, though I may well be wrong
Much is being made of this morning's launch of an "automated red light" traffic camera - apparently the first of its kind in this part of Ireland - at the junction of Benburb Street and Blackhall Place in Stoneybatter.

The camera is trained on a yellow box. In Ireland a yellow box isn't "a junction that your car must not enter unless you can clear it without stopping". It's a sort of gladiatorial arena or dodgem funfair where cars crash into other cars, or into cyclists and into pedestrian flesh and bone.

In recent years, with the return of the tram to the captial on the new Luas system, cars now have arguments with a new breed of contestant: the trams, particularly the ones on Benburb Street. The tram usually wins.

These jousts are captured on the trams' cameras and other CCTV. I wrote about the situation exactly a year ago to the day. The video at the end of that post shows the madness of it all.

* * *

A Luas tram comes up to the junction
I don't know what it's like in other countries, but you can tell a damn good deal about a nation from its attitudes to traffic lights and yellow boxes.

In Ireland an amber light (rarely called an orange light, presumably for political reasons) means "Time to speed up, lads."

A red light means "Accelerate, accelerate." A red light means "Ah go on, might as well chance it, sure everything'll be grand."

Note how this sounds uncannily like a huckster election slogan rather than a system for properly regulating anything. Our powers that be treated the Irish economy in exactly the same way for years.

A yellow box at a traffic junction means somewhere to plonk your car because you've jumped the lights and are now about to hit a "bumper-to-bumper tailback" (and you can't reverse either because there's another car up your backside; and besides, reversing only admits defeat).

But from this morning the drivers who break the red light at the Benburb Street / Blackhall Place junction will incur penalty points and fines.

Good.

Cue Department of Transport press release:
"An Garda Sioch├ína’s PULSE [computer] system is now linked to the new red light cameras at this junction, automating the process of issuing fixed charge notices for this particularly dangerous road traffic offence.
"Breaking red lights incurs three penalty points and a fine of up to €120 on payment of the fixed charge."
In the past you might see a young garda making a fleeting appearance at a dangerous junction once in a while. Or a poor sod from the traffic division would get posted at the junction of Pearse Street and Westmoreland Street for months on end.

He - it usually is a he - would be standing there, to enforce the "bus gate" (buses, taxis and cyclists only, no other traffic towards Trinity and on up to Nassau Street).

Standing there, possibly bored sick.

Standing there in wind, rain and more rain - even though since the day the College Green Bus Corridor opened back in 2009 there have been huge electronic signs staring you in the face telling private motorists not to go there.

* * *

And don't get me started about the rubbish.

In Dublin, a litter bin on the street means either (a) something to ignore as people abandon tins, bottles, coffee cups, half-eaten curries and so on at random along same street or (b) something to stuff to the gills with your household waste in order to avoid the domestic bin charges.

* * *

I don't know what you think about such anti-social behaviour. Maybe you indulge in it too. Maybe you detest it. Maybe you hate cyclists. Or blame taxi drivers. Or say it's all down to eight hundred years of Perfidious Albion that has generated this lackadaisical postcolonial attitude.

Me? I have my writer's hat on now. I'm not thinking about the bruises and scares I've had down the years as a pedestrian victim of the red light jumpers.

I'm thinking: CCTV cameras = alibis or evidence.

I'm thinking "rubbish detectives".

As in detectives who trawl through rubbish, I mean, not cops and private eyes who are rubbish.

A view of the camera from Blackhall Place