Gridlock

One of the joys of living in Swanage is that most things are in walking distance from St Mary’s Church, beside which we live. But having just driven back from London, I am reminded that most people are faced with some form of transport - car, bus or train - to deal with most days. Yesterday, we found ourselves in a multi-storey car park in Kingston, Surrey, that has short distances across each level between the up and down ramps, meaning that it can become gridlocked easily, as these short areas on the level have to be used by cars coming in and going out. Gridlock occurred when we had reached level two. There were plenty of spaces higher up, but cars coming down couldn’t get past cars going up, and vice versa. So we all stopped. In fact we had no choice.

What happened then restored somewhat my faith in human nature, stripped of mobile phone and sat-nav, computer and earphones. People got out of their cars and started to talk to one another, as to how on earth we were going to manage to shift the situation into one that allowed someone to move their car. Clearly the cars that needed to get out must be freed to do so. Everyone looking for a park was asked to get out of the way however they could, pull tight to the side or go into a blue badge park temporally, and, lo and behold, everyone did what they were asked to do, no one got uptight, and like unblocking a drain, the situation freed itself and within a short while we were all moving.

A little ingenuity, a lot of patience, a bit of common sense, and fortunately the architect who designed the place wasn’t to hand. Though the whole incident took perhaps twenty-five minutes, and more than frustrating for those in a hurry, it was heartening to experience people working together so well to solve a mutual problem.

John Mann