Empty roads

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On the Sunday and Monday of August Bank Holiday we had occasion to undertake journeys totalling 180 miles in a two-cylinder, two-speed “Aero” Morgan. The experience was unique. Never before had we seen the road to the West out of London so devoid of traffic. The Government has certainly achieved its objective in getting pleasure motorists off the roads, and it may be significant that the very few cars encountered were mostly large American saloons. This is not to suggest that non-military motoring has practically ceased to be a feature of British roads. A great many cars, plenty of sports models amongst them, are in use on journeys of national importance, especially on week-days, in some cases having to cover long distances in the shortest possible time. The fact remains that on the occasion of this national holiday the main roads were startlingly empty. How dearly the private motorist clings to his right to unmolested travel seemed nicely emphasised by the three-wheelers that were out and about – on the first day, from our own car of this type, we counted four four-cylinder Ford-engined Morgans, a “Family” Morgan, a “Super Sports” Morgan and four B.S.A.s, two of the latter each carrying a man and two girls on the front seat. Otherwise the roads were mainly inhabited by cyclists and pedestrians; already the monopoly of the highways and by-ways they displayed suggests that, not only will some nasty accidents occur when normal conditions return, but that those drivers now motoring fast in the national interest have some nasty moments coming to them. Other disturbing thoughts arise from this contemplation of empty roads. Some overheard remarks, distinctly hostile to civilian motorists, made by a countrywoman who had probably never ridden in a car in her life, made us wonder whether there isn’t something amiss with certain of our radio and newspaper propaganda. We wonder what is to happen to those persons who are expected to complete important journeys to schedule, if any and every policeman has a right to stop their cars and question why they get their petrol. We wonder how long we shall go on seeing Army vehicles taking portly officers to public houses and pretty girls to country dance halls. We wonder whether it isn’t a reflection on our national railway system that Government officials have been instructed that on no account must they employ private cars for a duty journey which can be accomplished sufficiently quickly by train, but that, if this is not the case, they must restrict the maximum speed of their cars to 40 m.p.h. We wonder how young men, on leave from Service life, will fare when using their cars for pleasure and wearing civilian clothes…. There is no doubt that the ordinary motorist is making a great, if compulsory, sacrifice in giving up his car – as witness a full cinema car park in a country town seen late in the evening of July 31st, since when we have not seen a single private car so parked. It is to be hoped that, if he still gets a minute ration of petrol for some special purpose, or stops for a meal a mile or so off the direct route on a long-distance official journey, or takes the car to a garage for adjustment or out on a brief test – it is to be hoped that police and public will forgo petty comment and obstructionism; if they must take action, let them concentrate on the unlawful use of Army vehicles (without easy means of recognition) aforementioned. We are fighting in a World war. Surely we can credit our fellow men and women with the good common sense and decency to put the national effort before their own gain? One gets a thought tired of being critically watched and commented upon because one uses a motor vehicle to that end, by folk who still visit cinemas, theatres, dance halls, who can still cycle, hike, swim, play golf and tennis and follow their normal relaxations, whereas ours are barred. Let such persons remember, if ever they find themselves joining the ranks of those who can only be described as “anti-supplementary busybodies,” that Brooklands, Donington and the Crystal Palace are closed to racing cars for their benefit as well as ours. Incidentally, all praise to the tricar manufacturers, who probably never realised that one day their products would give such especial pleasure to their owners.

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