93. School run

London is an ever-changing city that today has a population of 8.2 million people, which is more than the entire UAE.  In the late Victorian era and Edwardian era things were starting to get a bit crowded.  Traffic was a nightmare.  In those days, however, you didn’t have to worry about the diesel fumes, but the horse manure.  You couldn’t cross the road without fear of being run over by a moustachioed man riding a Penny Farthing bicycle.  By the 1930’s it was decided that 100,000’s of new homes were to be built in London’s surrounding fields and within just a few minutes suburbia was born.

Ah the suburbs; the land of opportunity and home to millions.  Suburbia is the ideal location for families as there are acres of space, local shops, decent communication in the form of roads and of course plenty of schools.  Schools were built in strategic places so to form catchment areas so that every house would be within 3 miles to the nearest one.  The schools being spaced out also meant that people weren’t in a mad dash driving all over the place in the morning and so that they could walk to their local school without having to catch 27 buses.

In the 1930’s however, when suburbia was invented, one could be forgiven for not having the foresight to predict just how popular a tool the automobile was to become.  Today cars are used a lot, and as a result the school run has been a major issue ever since global warming was invented and became a taxable entity.  Every morning in the London suburbs, then, is a nightmare: heavy traffic, don’t-know-better kids hurling themselves into the roads and bossy mummies driving ostentatious 4×4’s .  It’s a veritable smorgasbord of obstacles.

The answer to the traffic problem? Make crap cars that never work…

In the olden days when British Leyland was making cars things weren’t so bad.  Most mornings your Austin Allegro or Talbot Alpine wouldn’t start for love nor money so you couldn’t drive even if you wanted to.  These days though, your Citroen C1 or Range Rover is as reliable as a Japanese train.  They’re a damn sight safer too.  Plus it rains more than it used to…

When the UAE came to be in 1971 it had a golden opportunity to do things differently and learn lessons from others.  What Al Ain was before Oilisation I have no idea, but I am fairly sure they had a mass of land and a blank sheet of paper.  Al Ain is like Milton Keynes, which in case you don’t know, is a British overspill town 50 miles north of London famous for concrete cows, grid roads and the callas theft of a once great football team.  Everything in Al Ain is structured.  All the government departments are next to each other in Baladiya and all the traffic related institutions are located in Zakher.  So to are the schools, generally.  Ok, there are schools dotted around all over the place, but the main hive is on Khaled Bin Sultan Street.

Along a 5 kilometre stretch, Khaled Bin Sultan Street is the home of 37 schools and an astonishing 38,000 pupils.  It was reported today that the Al Ain Traffic and Patrol Department has held a meeting with the Al Ain City Municipality to discuss and solve the problem of the chronic traffic jams that plague the road.

The schools, mostly, start teaching at 7:30am which is well before the morning commute for the cities working force.  So it must be the afternoon school run that is the kicker.  Schools finish between 1pm and 2pm, just about the same time that every working person within a 25 kilometre radius decides to leave work for a few hours for the traditional 3 hour siesta.  However it was only the meeting to confirm the problem itself that was reported, the actual action points and possible solutions have not yet been announced, or even determined.

UAE Uncut is all about help, and, well, pee eye ess ess taking.  But mainly help.  So it is clear that the Traffic department needs my help in coming up with a solution.  According to the report the directorate has pledged all its resources.  In my mind, “resources” means money. Excellent, so we have a blank cheque to play with…

One option would be to close the road to everything except school vehicles, but this won’t work as it will just push the problem elsewhere.  It would also cause even bigger jams at each end as the police search each vehicle for children.  Another option would be to change the school times, but if you push it back you are just going to get dragged into the morning rush hour, and that won’t do either.  What about swapping it around so that kids only go to school over the 2 day weekend and have the 5 working days off?  That wouldn’t be a bad deal for the teachers but I fear that the syllabus would be too thin to warrant going to school in the first place.

What about a network of flyovers?  No really.  If money is no object then why not build a suspended road network above the existing one?  It can have ramps down to each school and security barriers at each end so only school buses and pre-approved school run cars can use it.  The suspended road network can trace the existing roads in the congested area so from outer space it won’t look any different.  Plus you won’t have to bother updating the accurate maps…

If there are 38,000 school kids using it twice a day then that is 76,000 acceptable uses plus say 8000 teaching staff.  Each year everyone using the special UAE Uncut-School-Sky-Road can pay AED 200 towards its upkeep.  That works out to over AED 9 million each year.  I reckon that the whole project would only cost about AED 500 million so in the long run, it will be worth it.  Well, it won’t be worth it at all, it would be a massive waste of money, but frankly I don’t think there is a viable alternative.

Unless of course, they do what us British do: shout, stress and swear whilst stuck in school run traffic because nothing can be done about it.

Welcome to the real world.

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