The choices that matter

There was a Clarkson column, from way back in the dark days before New Top Gear, that had His Clarksonness driving along, musing on why explorers do what they do? Why would they set themselves such a ridiculous challenge? What do they gain by it?

At which point, our protagonist realises that he’s taken three minutes too long to reach the A17 junction, and that means he’s got to make that time up before hitting the Banbury bypass if he’s ever going to beat his record office-to-home time. So he was busy doing exactly the same thing, just on a much smaller scale.

I’ll confess, this is something that I find myself doing most days.

But I don’t have the same set route; I have a serious choice to make each evening when leaving the office: head into town, or head out?

satellite photo from somewhere else

The blue route takes me into the town centre, and then out. It features one point of certain bad congestion, and three spots of likely congestion, and a couple of maybes. It is about three miles.

The red route takes me out of town, round the periphery, and back to my dwelling. It features three spots of likely congestion and a couple of maybes, and one spot of possible terrible congestion. It is about eight miles.

Both journeys, on average, take the same time. Red goes wrong less often, but makes up for it in severity when it does go wrong. Blue is dependably bad, but very rarely woeful.

So, dear readers, what would you do? Say you’re not out to beat your all time record1, but want to beat your average. What choice do you make? Take the blue pill, the short but slow route, or take a chance on red, and hope that you get a break?

Most of the time, I’ll confess, I go red. Not just because of the time, but because I’ll happily travel twice the distance rather than sit in stop/start traffic for half a mile…


1 – eight minutes, along blue. If you’re interested.

6 thoughts on “The choices that matter

  1. I haven’t got two possible routes for my commute; instead I have a series of rat-runs that turn my journey into a physical flow-chart. Heavy congestion in Epsom town centre? Round the back, through Ewell Village instead. Murder in Streatham High Road? Up the Vale and through the back streets onto the South Circular. That is the disfigured beauty of driving in South London…

    Once I am out of urban hell I have a glorious bit of seventy-a-mile road lined with trees that are currently shedding their autumnal blaze of leaves. I always try to get to that point as quickly as I can….

  2. Well, it’s not limited to the two routes, but the problem is that there’s both a river and a motorway to be crossed, with a limited number of crossing points. Which always provides bottlenecks.

    There are a large number of rat runs between the crossings, obviously, but it still basically boils down to ‘through town’ or ’round town’ – Blue or red.

  3. I’d take red as well. I Cannot. Stand. Sitting. In. Traffic. Which partially explains why I get up at six and go to work before most people are out of bad: thay way their existence doesn’t annoy me.

  4. Red, always red. My work journey is fine as I live on the edge of town and work in the backside of nowhere. I do, however, have the through-town-or-around-town dilemma when I need to get to one of several places I frequent on the other side of town. I actually briefly get on the motorway heading for Belfast, bypass the entire town, come back on myself, and approach Ballymena from the other side. It is completely ridiculous, but I’ll choose 10 minutes’ extra driving over sitting in slow-moving traffic, every time.

  5. Hails, I have to say that I think Ballymena is a terrible town to drive through at the best of times, so thon bypass is oft-travelled by meself.

    Chez: I’m starting to think that you may be a bit of a sociopath. Not in a bad way, of course…

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