There was a time last year that I realized I had perfected the art of driving at a crawl – a relative crawl anyway, 30 in a 50 zone, that type of a crawl. It was after what failed to be the season had finished. Even a failed season had meant traffic, which in turn had meant not crawling unless forced to by volume of traffic, which was rarely if ever the case.
The end of the season brings quietness anyway, but last year’s end of season was like it had been after that fateful fourteenth of March – especially quiet, as few dared to be on the roads except with justified reasons.
There were times when barely another vehicle was on the main coastal road that takes you from Alcudia as far as Arta. Crawling along, you could take in the scenery, such as Playa de Muro in its winter shutdown, and it is shut down, even in normal times. Nothing is open. I could have crawled in previous post-seasons, but crawling now seemed the perfect mode of driving. Why was I or anyone else in any rush? What was there to rush to?
It occurred to me that there would once have been the glorious days of motoring in Mallorca, when cars were rare, the roads were open, and the scenery could have been admired without fear of crashing into the back of another vehicle, or into the front of one for that matter. Both possibilities, it should be pointed out, would have existed.
The glorious days of motoring, let’s call them the 1920s, would have offered some reasonable roads (all things being relative). One such road was between Inca and Lluc. I’ve seen an old photo of a car on that road. The year was 1923. Such was the glorious nature of driving that the car was being driven on the left. Those glorious days were anarchy on the roads. Only in the big cities, such as Madrid and Barcelona, were there rules. In Madrid, they drove on the left until they changed to the right in 1924 and came into line with how things were in Barcelona. Elsewhere? In essence, there were no rules. Left or right, it was up to you. Hence why, if you were admiring the scenery and paying zero attention to the road, you could collide front or back. It wasn’t until the 1930s that a national rule was introduced. Right it was.
But if you did collide, there wouldn’t have been much damage, would there? Didn’t cars just crawl? It depended. The one in the photo, I reckon, was a Hispano-Suiza. The basic model could crack along at a top speed of around 135 kilometers per hour. As it was built like a tank, it would have been capable of some serious damage.
Top speed, but there would have been a speed limit. Would there not? Well no, not as such. In 1934, the first traffic code was introduced (I guess this was when driving on the right became a national rule) and it did have speed limits. But not for cars. Only for trucks transporting goods. As the number of cars was still small, the code didn’t cover them.
It took a further forty years for there to be something like proper regulation of speed, and one that covered all vehicles, not just trucks. And since then, speed regulations have – so to speak – gathered increasing speed. Traffic regulation of all kinds has been life in the fast lane, with most of it now designed to slow everything down. Which brings me back to the crawling of last year, as crawling is now officially demanded, not for a main road like the one on its urban stretch (which is 50), but for the other urban roads – 30 or 20, depending on the nature of the pavements (assuming there are any).
You will no doubt be aware of these new limits. They’ve been in force for a couple of months now. But unfortunately, there are those who are unaware or who simply ignore the limit. For me, it’s no problem, given that I had pre-empted the development by perfecting the art of crawling. For others, alas, it is a problem, and I wonder if 30 (or 20) isn’t just going to lead to more incidents. Not accidents; incidents.
High summer is here, and it is not like last summer. The roads are busier. And high summer is when road tempers can flare; more so than at other times of the year. Crawling may have been mandated, but it’s very doubtful that it will usher in some new era of the glorious days of motoring. Not on urban roads anyway. Crawling, an unfortunate recipe for road rage.