Saturday, August 8, 2009

Thrown Stone


We just spent a very pleasant couple of days wandering to & from Troyes.
Taking in the oddly-named Lac du Der & several places from the Michelin guide "Les 100 Plus Beaux D├ętours de France" which I mentioned previously.
We were very impressed by Troyes, particularly to see so many typical & well-preserved half-timbered buildings.
The above picture is from the Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troyes which says I can use it.

I have several similar views of my own, but all with the usual white vans in front.

Lac du Der is actually an artificial reservoir which helps to even out the level of the Marne & the Seine, at the cost of having flooded a lot of land & several villages in the '70s.
I don't want to get into any political arguments between Parisians & Ecologists, but for the vulgar tourist, the result is a very large (10 km long) & attractive piece of water with beaches, birds & boats and plenty of flat cycling opportunities.

From the "Detours" guide, we managed to fit in Toul, Commercy, Bar-le-Duc and Langres, so we shall soon need the guide to the 100 next-best detours.

The only black mark on the trip was a broken windscreen.
A direct result of irresponsible French road repair methods.
All summer, they fix the previous winter's damage by pouring tar on the holes & cracks, then throwing big stone chippings on top.
A large repair will get rolled flat, but they don't bother for small patches.
Then they go away & leave the traffic to flatten it down & to remove the excess chips.
Usually there will be a warning sign & often a 50 km/h speed limit, but not always.
The signs work fairly well for careful owner-drivers, but hardly at all for vans, lorries & commercial travellers.

This time, they had fixed about 10 km of quiet back-road with little patches every few yards & no signs as far as I remember.
I slowed right down every time we met traffic & mostly other people did too.
I was just congratulating myself on having carefully avoided meeting a rather fast lorry on a gritty patch when – bang - the next car threw up just one big chip & the screen had a 20 cm crack.

Back home I was relieved to find that my insurance now covers screen replacement at no cost to me, but of course there is a significant cost to the community.
I don't keep records, but I should think I need screens replaced or resin-repaired about every 4 years.
And always for exactly the same reason.
And I go out of my way to avoid freshly gravelled roads when I can.
And every new car model seems to have a bigger, more sophisticated & more expensive screen than the previous one.

If the road-menders were held responsible for screens broken immediately after their jobs, I think they would soon find a cheap-enough way to set the chips & to remove the excess before leaving their patch to the traffic.
But there is no incentive.
The motorist thinks he has a nice new screen for nothing.
The insurance companies pass on the cost spread over all their customers, so nobody notices.
The government probably thinks it's good for the GDP.

Do other countries handle this better?

Parting thot: "Accidents, and particularly street and highway accidents, do not happen - they are caused." - Ernest Greenwood

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