Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Squeaky Wheels

It's a simple reality of political science--once you get passed the rich, the powerful, the influential, and the squeaky wheels.....

......there just aren't that many backyards left.

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!” 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Rumble - The Problem

Bourdeilles is old. It’s castle is old. The buildings nestled under the castle are old. The passageways weaving through the village homes are old.
These passageways were sized for humans and an occasional goat, horse or oxen cart.  Sometime between the two World Wars these paths were widened right up against the village homes to make room for the few cars going through town. For years there were only one or two cars in Bourdeilles and all the old timers can still tell you who bought the first, second, third........... 

Bourdeilles has always had two roads. The one with restaurants, hotels and shops goes up through the center of the village.  The other hugs the opposite river bank, snaking through neighborhoods on its way to countryside.

Even after they had pushed the roads right up against the homes along these routes they are still only wide enough for one and a half cars at a time. They made the roads as wide as they could. They even cut off one corner of a house. The width seemed quite reasonable with so little traffic, and so few half cars. But nowadays, god forbid you step out of the house without listening and looking.

The car traffic is bad. The trucks are worse. Enormous trucks laden with rocks from the local quarries. Fuel trucks. Logging trucks that seem to carry an entire forest. You get the picture. There are enormous, heavy, scary trucks rumbling, jangling, thumping through town from 5 in the morning to 7 or 8 at night. Woe be to any  innocent pedestrian as these monsters just about scrape your ears if you happen to be trying to walk along the tight-wire sidewalk through town. 

Wine glasses dance on the cafe tables as great hulking shadows pass by at disrespectful speeds. It’s become a village sport to watch how two behemoths will decide who has the right of way. The loser has to back down the sliver of road and Hail Mary through a blind curve while trying to avoid the tiny grandmothers running errands. Cheers go up from the watching crowd as two great diesel beasts inch past each other and avoid the village dogs and randomly parked cars.

The village has struggled with this problem for years. Depending on whom you speak to there has been talk of constructing a by-pass of the village for 40 years, 20 years. Lately it seems as if a final decision is really about to be made and construction started.

But wait, the village is not all in agreement about this..........

------more to come------

Wednesday, October 8, 2014