By David Madeira, ACM CEO and AAT President & CEO
I am really amazed by the quality of roads in Scotland and how much fun they are to drive. They make the U.S. roads look as pathetic as most of them are. If someone wants to have fun driving and not worry about damaging his or her car due to potholes, ruts\ and worse, come to Scotland and kiss America goodbye.
Start with congestion – there is none in Scotland. Except for the occasional sheep straying onto a one lane ‘track’ in the moors, the roads are wide open and people drive quickly. Of course the Scots have the advantage here–something like 5,000,000 people populate the whole of the country – small as it is. There are clearly more sheep and cattle than humans.
Then go to their size. No six, eight or ten lane monstrosities with HOV lanes here. We’re talking two lanes most times without lane dividers, a bit of highway might have four lanes. The vast majority as you move out of the few cities are one lane each direction with NO shoulders. This might seem dangerous as there is no room for error, but in truth, it simply calls for drivers to do what they should do – pay attention to the road ahead and DRIVE. Drive they do. I haven’t seen anyone on a cell phone in the two weeks we have been driving here. They move fast considering the road size as even one lane ‘tracks’ often carry a 60 mph speed limit. Cars literally pass within inches of each other at highway speed but all seem readily willing to ‘give’ the inch or needed to proceed safely. On the one tracks, drivers of small Mini Coopers and big lorries will pull aside to a wide area when seeing other vehicles approach even at a distant. These drivers are courteous and will wait. I’ve seen no road rage and only a few who insist on pushing through rather than giving way. Then it’s back on the pedal and keep moving.
The cars are good too. Obviously, Mini Coopers and Land Rovers are everywhere. They make sense in the rural environment and especially the Minis on the narrow twisting roads. Foreign cars are a mix, mostly European and small perfect for village life. I’ve not seen a Chrysler or GM car and only a smattering of Ford Focuses. The cars out on the highways and byways are nearly all cars made to be driven hard and for enjoyment–BMW and Audi dominate followed distantly by Mercedes Benz. We’re right at home in our Beemers and having a great time. These M Series are quick, responsive, hold the road and just eat up the twisties. When we do drop tires off pavement to make it through a narrow passing the four wheel drive keeps us moving fast. These cars are fun and made for roads like this.
Of course as a motorcyclist, I want to come back and run this country on a proper motorbike as the Scots would say. But that’s another day. For now, I’m glad not to be crawling on I-5 North through Tacoma or worse, Seattle. And I’m delighted not to be bored on a big soulless American highway with one more fast food joint. Jeff’s pulling into a seaside pub that’s advertising fish and chips. I’ll take mine with vinegar please.