Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

April 1st, 2012 by Tim Grimley

An open letter to the motorists of New Zealand on behalf of the motoring press.

Dear Drivers,
It has come to our attention that some of you may have got the impression that those of us who make up the motoring press in New Zealand are not exactly massive champions of your collective abilities behind the wheel of a car.

Apparently because barely a week goes by without one periodical or another providing a sharp and critical focus on your recurring habits of reversing over children, squashing cyclists, failing to obey the road codes or just turning yourselves into temporary and bloody modifications to the scenery, people are beginning to think that we, in some way, have been seriously hitting the haterade when it comes to your perceived motoring proficiency.

We may have been wrong about you after all. Maybe.

And we accept that it just might have been possible to interpret from these articles that our overriding opinion is that the average Kiwi has vehicular control skills somewhere between that of a rock and a musk ox.

But after the changing of the ‘Give Way’ rules last week failed to bring about auto-Armageddon, we are more than happy to set the record straight. While we may have hinted that the only thing more dangerous than attempting to enforce a revision of the road code on New Zealanders would be giving every sheep on South Island its own nuclear warhead and that the affect on the nations insurers would have had them fondly reminiscing about the Christchurch earthquakes, we are happy to tell the world that this is not true in the slightest. New Zealanders are in fact excellent drivers who have taken to the new rules like a duck to water and have even started to get their heads around the Victoria Park tunnel by way of an afterthought.

We sincerely apologise for any upset or stress that misinterpretation of our comments may have caused to any Kiwi drivers and would like to take this opportunity to invite motorists the world over to come to New Zealand and witness our population of talented wheelsmiths as they display their excellence in such diverse matters as using passing lanes correctly, driving to the conditions and resisting the urge to rubberneck.

Best regards,

The Motoring Press.

P.S. If a couple of you could perhaps be witless enough to cause multiple shunts on SH1 next week and delay our journeys to work, it would cheer us up no end to know that in fact we weren’t wrong about you after all.

A Bridge Too Far (+video)

December 17th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

Despite prodigious temptation to the contrary I have, so far, managed to avoid devoting an entire week’s article to the subject of the Victoria Park Tunnel. Yes, there may have the odd snipe about the intellectual capacity of the average Jafa motorist not being up to the distinctly un-taxing concept of subterranean motoring, but by and large I have left the subject well alone.

One driving factor behind this decision was the sheer volume of work devoted to the matter already. And there are only so many ways the motoring press can articulate their frustrations about the mush-brained, oxygen thieving, wastes of space who navigate a certain section of State Highway 1 without a degree of monotony setting in.

What NZTA says you'll see (NZTA graphic)

But even more importantly, the tunnel really isn’t the big news. Yes, it may be irksome now that every afternoon the main arterial road of the country is slowed to a crawl by people apparently on the lookout for Taniwha, but trust me this will be a drop in the ocean compared to the chaos that will be caused on 9th January.

The more observant amongst you may have noticed that this is the date on which the new dual flyover arrangement taking southbound traffic over Victoria Park opens; splitting traffic going to the CBD, State Highway 16 and continuing on State Highway 1.

The roadway planners must clearly have thought they were onto a good thing. Traffic heading onto the harbour bridge would have plenty of time to position itself correctly, thus ensuring three orderly flows of vehicles can dissolve one of the most problematic bottlenecks in Auckland.

Sadly, the roadway planners were wrong. Anyone travelling south from the North Shore will be all too aware that before their first early morning latté it is a minor miracle if the average Auckland motorist is aware enough to get changed out of their pyjamas before leaving the house, never mind make a conscious decision about which is the correct lane to be in. Even now, when the option is much more limited, there is a constant concertina of braking cars as someone remembers at entirely the wrong moment that their journey plans for the day involve Hamilton and not Queen Street.

What Jafas see

With this choice soon to be multiplied, it wouldn’t surprise me if some become so confused – this is happening on what will be the first hazy day back after Christmas for many – that they simply abandon their cars and start walking. And from what we have learnt from the tunnel, even those who manage to get their heads around the concept of following road signs are likely to slow down to the speed of a tree sloth in particularly uncomfortable shoes in order to really appreciate the new set up. For bloody weeks on end.

Given the contempt Aucklanders are treated with by much of the nation it pains me to admit it but, when it comes to motoring at least, we’re simply too stupid to cope with this level of change.

Although on the upside, it should stop everyone moaning about the tunnel for a while. That is until they open the third lane anyway.

Clearing A Nasty Blockage

December 4th, 2011 by Tim Grimley

The computer clock is showing 22:32; an hour and twenty-eight minutes remain before my – admittedly largely self imposed – deadline of midnight ticks around to complete my weekly insight into the motoring world and I am suffering from the worst case of writer’s block known to man.

For the uninitiated, writer’s block is a terrible and debilitating condition where an otherwise immensely talented wordsmith is deprived of sufficient inspiration to produce a work worthy of their genius. This is a huge perk of being a writer, as someone suffering from a similar lack of impetus in any other career is simply having an off day or is just not very good at their job.

It's not life and death......

The other thing is, as a writer it really doesn’t matter very much either. Of course my ego loves to think that if I provide a particularly pleasing literary perambulation through the automotive world that it will bring joy to the days of all who read it; but should I fail to meet a certain level of expectation then the consequences are not likely to be ones of life and death. While it is now 22:50 and I’m seriously beginning to wonder how this will ever turn into an amusing motoring anecdote, I understand that my situation is a trivial one compared to that of a cardiac surgeon who has suddenly had a mental block as to exactly which tube is the aorta.

But even this only has the scope for limited damage; albeit significant to those directly involved. There are jobs out there that have the potential to leave a scar on the whole of society should someone find themselves a little bereft of spark.

Unfortunately my daily commute now involves the Victoria Park Tunnel and its queue of every idiot in Auckland who cannot grasp that driving at above 30kph in a subterranean environment will not invoke the wrath of God. This meant that in three solid lanes of traffic today I was completely unable to escape the Ssangyong Stavic that some rotten soul was having the effrontery to drive in my vicinity.

There are many deeply, offensively ugly cars in this world – the WiLL Vi springs instantly to mind – but not many of them are as large as the Stavic. And when the designer appears to have been lacking in enough motivation to bother finding out if final brief was to produce a car, fridge or bus shelter, being conspicuous by your enormity is not a good thing.

......it's far more important than that.

As people we place a lot of value on cars. Yes, they are only a mechanical entity, but they have the power to inspire, motivate and elate; they provide us with personal freedom and a way of expressing ourselves. And while this manifests itself in varying degrees of enthusiasm, it takes a special breed of person not to crack a smile and sneak a cheeky sideways look as a Ferrari barrels by.

Yet with what could easily be called ‘designer’s block’, a car can be produced that turns your stomach rather than your head. And thanks to the irritating advances made in corrosion resistance, one mans bad day could be a lingering blight on the aesthetics of the world for decades to come.

Although on the plus side, it does make you angry enough for a really good rant, meaning that at 23:57 – unlike the Victoria Park Tunnel – my blockage seems to have cleared.