Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Solution - maybe....

If I were behind the wheel of a ten-ton, fifty-foot long, monster 18-wheeler, I would try to avoid village roads that were designed for 12th century ox cart traffic.  Like the quaint roads of Bourdeilles. I certainly wouldn’t dare these roads for the measly 4 to 5 minutes that this route saves me as I traverse the region. But then I am not an independent gravel hauler or log hauler looking to save every minute so that I might squeeze in an additional run. So many trips in fact that in a day our little village is rumbled, bumbled, thudded through by at least 300 trucks-- close to 500 on busy days.

Yet as bad as the noise, the vibrations, the traffic jams and the pedestrian dangers are, the villagers’ opinions are divided on how the truck problem should be resolved.

The mayor has been pushing an idea that has been pushed around for nearly fifty years-- build a ring road. 
Some villagers simply don't want change. They don't want to spend the money that the village will have to contribute to the project. NIMBYs don’t want the traffic noise to be relocated to their currently bucolic backyards. Shopkeepers, restaurateurs, and hoteliers don't want the tourist circumnavigating around the village, unaware of the various ways they can spend their euro dollars. (We all know how small cities in the US look like ghost towns after the interstates went through.) Frustrated folks living on the main street have just about come to the point of throwing themselves in front of the trucks if that is what it takes to have some peace and quiet in their homes. (even I’ve thought of jumping out at the blind curve when I hear them approaching way too fast - just to give them a scare - unfortunately I’m pretty sure who would win that game of chicken…..)

As far as I can tell there have been three proposals put forth. Only one can be implemented. Not one of them is going to please every one. The solution that is selected will be perceived as political and fuel the fire for new grumpiness among the locals.

One proposal is that the trucks should simply be prohibited from going through the village. Think posted roads or weight limits in the States. This solution seems simple and obvious enough but it is a state road and the limit cannot be changed unless the village takes ownership-- and the cost of maintenance-- of the road.. Too bad because we know that this would work and that at least 80% of the trucks could use alternative routes because the main street was closed for an entire winter and trucks were forced to use the somewhat longer larger routes. That was a quiet winter in Bourdeilles.

A second proposal was a longer bypass. The new road would take off from a small hamlet outside of the village and would cross the ridge that passes along the farm fields above Bourdeilles. (obliterating our beloved ridge walk - needless to say, it was hard for us to get behind that idea.) For better or for worse, this alternative was deemed way too expensive to construct and has been thrown out. (at least for now - nothing is for sure until we see the construction start.)

The third option put forth seems to be the one that we will soon see put into action - official and unofficial word on the street is that ground breaking for this route will start in December. This route will tuck into a small valley just as you enter the village, wind its way through the yards of homes now surrounded by sunflower fields, cut farmers fields in two, and come rumbling out just below the village cemetery. All this and still the trucks will have to get through a underpass that is only a car and a half wide. This is a  less than perfect resolution to the problem but it seems to be the one that we are going to have to accept.

I’ll close with reflections on the term NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard). There is no easy word for “yard” in French.  “Jardin” is one option.  So we get the irate villager saying, “A new road? Not in my garden!” (That sounds a little too bourgeois.) “Arriere court” (back courtyard) is another.  As in, “A new road? Good luck getting through the three-foot thick old fortress walls of my back courtyard!” 

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