Traffic Jams in Australia.

ANZ SeptemberTime for another reprint of one of my Australia and New Zealand magazine articles; this one appeared in their September issue. Available at all good newsagents for just £3.99, it is a bargain, but I still like to let my readers see my article for free.

And this one was about traffic in Australia…

Taffic jams

No matter where you live in the world, somebody there will find something to be unhappy about. Australia is no different. Us Brits are often referred to as “whingeing Pom’s”, but Australians aren’t averse to a bit of a moan either. A lot of the things that people complain about in the UK are often the very same things that give people the hump down under.

It strikes me though, that moaning is relative. Anyone who has lived in both countries is well placed to talk about Australia versus England: moaning compared. And that’s exactly what I am going to do.

The example I am going to use here, and I could have picked any one of a fair selection, is traffic. Here, in Australia, people do complain about the traffic. Let me get quite specific about this by quoting a news headline that appeared in the Courier Mail here in Brisbane in November 2010.

Now, if you have a cup of coffee in your hand, I suggest you put it down before reading any further. Here’s the headline. “Southeast Queensland motorists stuck at 40km/h in peak hour on clogged major roads.” 40 km/h! That link actually goes to who have since reprinted the article, if ever they take that down, here’s a screen grab of the headline… hour!

Horses running in the Grand National at Aintree only average 49 km/h! Other notoriously slow roads mentioned in the report were Wardell St and Jubilee Terrace, which averaged just 19 km/h during the morning peak and Kingsford Smith Drive, where average peak time speeds were 36 km/h, down from 45 km/h in 2008.

Okay, you can pick your coffee up now, as I talk about the day I watched the sunset on the M25. Well, the M25 is a very long road, that’s perfectly feasible, you would think. Not, if like me, you were only travelling from the Enfield turn off to the M11, a distance of just about 12 kilometres. Actually, I didn’t just see the sunset; I saw the day move from light to dark.

Nothing like that has ever happened to me anywhere in Australia and certainly not around Brisbane. Yes, I hear Sydney can get quite congested at times, I’ve heard the same mentioned about Perth. But Adelaide, incidentally, they call “the 20 minute city”. The idea being, you can get from anywhere to anywhere in the city in 20 minutes or less.

Here in Brisbane, I’ve never heard anyone mention the word “gridlock”. Where I used to live in Essex, that word was quite popular. Here in Australia, traffic that grinds to a halt is almost unheard of. Traffic can be slow-moving on some roads, but in England, some people in certain places dream of slow-moving. Anything moving!

But as I have said, moaning is relative.

Thirty odd years ago, only one million people lived in Brisbane. You were probably more likely to have to slow down for a kangaroo than a car. Today, 2 million people live in Brisbane and a much higher proportion of those have cars than they did way back. If you can remember never having to slow down, never being in a traffic jam, never having to queue, then today’s traffic is something to moan about. But not for me; I still remember how it used to be back in England. You won’t catch me whingeing about the traffic in Australia.

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{ 10 comments… add one }
  • BobinOz October 29, 2012, 7:03 pm |

    Well, there’s no doubt that car accidents here are much worse than in the UK, I wrote a post about it called Australia vs England: Road Safety.

    As for traffic jams though, I’ve driven thousands and thousands of miles since I’ve been here, including my road trip from Brisbane all the way round to Warrnambool passing through both Sydney and Melbourne and I’ve never witnessed traffic jams that come anywhere near close to what I used to put up with back in England.

  • Rupert October 28, 2012, 10:29 am |

    I’ll also add that many people in Australia are driving large cars far too early. The best way to learn how to drive properly is to start in a small car and build up experience and ability before ‘graduating’ to larger cars.

    Generally speaking the cars are far too big in Australia. In Sydney nearly everyone drives massive SUVs and despite the excuse of ‘my children are safer on the school run’, they really aren’t necessary (I walked to school or took the bus) – and if you don’t know the dimensions of your car and you are afraid of driving it in case you scratch it, then you really shouldn’t be on the road.

    Maybe all these ‘gym mums’ should have to get a bus licence, because they are incapable of driving or parking their ‘my car’s bigger than your car’ tanks – and they should get lessons.

  • Ilias October 28, 2012, 8:15 am |

    I fully agree with Rupert.

    Coming to Australia, I knew from previous visits that driving would be the one thing that I would moan about.

    I moved here from Germany and I have lived in the UK, the US and other places nothing compares how bad it is here not only in terms of traffice but also of driving behaviours. Now having said that when we first moved here we tried Adelaide and that was not that that bad as it is the 20 min city… …maybe 30 min. Again, we knew it from previous visits that Adelaide would be better but work forced us to Melbourne and that is where it is really bad, the worst I have seen in Australia. Chronic jams, it is not unusual that a 7km drive in the inner Eastern suburbs may take 45min or longer… …not in rush hour that is on a Sat afternoon.

    A lot of those bad behaviors are driven by how driving is regulated here and a lack of drivers Ed.

    To add to that it might be worth looking into stats but last time i checked a couple years ago Australia has a worst road death toll than either the UK or Germany, while avg speeds here (not only in he cities) are actually much lower than at least Germany.

  • Naomi October 21, 2012, 3:17 pm |

    Totally agree with you there, Bob. Just arrived in the 20 minute city last week and its ridiculously easy to drive around… many people don’t seem to realise how good it is here. I did come from London via indonesia (Jakarta is in another world for grid lock!).

    • BobinOz October 22, 2012, 8:40 pm |

      Jakarta or London versus Adelaide for traffic jams; no contest! You must be loving it Naomi?

      • Naomi October 23, 2012, 9:45 am |

        Yeah it’s great, but must not get too used to it because then how do you cope when you have to go elsewhere…

  • Emily October 12, 2012, 7:49 am |

    Houston is known as one of the worst traffic cities in the US. It doesn’t really bother me, but I grew up here. A part of getting places on time is just leaving early. I keep my cool in stand-still traffic by having a variety of music to listen to. The thing that makes me rage is people not… indicating? Here we call it signalling. They just zip between lanes without that signal blinking once.

    • BobinOz October 12, 2012, 9:31 pm |

      Sometimes it’s difficult to indicate when you are also eating a sandwich, for example. Or if it’s morning time rush hour, a waffle. Some women drivers have been known to apply their make up as they drive to work, that also makes indicating difficult.

      I think that’s what’s probably going on here.


  • Rupert October 11, 2012, 5:33 pm |

    I’ll drink to that Bob. Traffic jams are few and far between in Australia it would seem.

    But I will moan about the standard of driving here. Cars coasting along in the outside (overtaking) lane going so slow you have to pass them on the inside – and that’s if you’re lucky enough to be let by anyone after indicating for an eternity. Then you’ll end up following someone who thinks it’s clever to ride the brakes, just a dab here, just a dab there. Try lifting your foot of the accelerator half a centimetre. I’ve driven all over Europe and the US and I have never come across such nervous, incapable and unaware motorists as I have here in Australia.

    It’s also quite funny watching people park in spaces you could fit a tank in, but that’s another topic.

    • BobinOz October 11, 2012, 11:12 pm |

      It’s funny, but somebody else said a similar thing some time ago, but around here in Brisbane I don’t find the drivers to bad at all. I’ve never seen any road rage, drivers aren’t too bad although it seems overtaking and undertaking are the same thing and lanes don’t seem to have any meaning. Maybe a bit of tailgating goes on, but I’d rather drive here than in England for sure.

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