I’d known about it for years, even used it occasionally, but for the most part, I’d stuck to the multi-laned arterials that are there for a reason – to funnel large volumes of traffic to their destinations.
But this year, the flood of vehicles, the snail-paced progression through the gauntlet of traffic lights and sometimes the mix of claustrophobia and terror of being stuck in a river of traffic populated by trucks and buses got too much.
In Canberra, there are times when everybody seems to want to go somewhere at once, and that just seemed to happen again and again.
So I yielded to temptation and tried a well-worn rat run that flowed at a constant 50 to 60 km/h with less traffic and even a scenic view or two.
At first it worked like a dream, and then, as if my great idea had mysteriously migrated among a collective consciousness, cars came from everywhere, feeding into the route from surrounding main roads and, of course, from suburban streets where the inhabitants were simply exercising their right of access.
Gridlocked among suburban homes, I felt a mixture of guilt and regret and vowed to return to my usual route.
The COVID-19 pandemic appears to have coincided with the arrival of new development across Canberra, diverting public transport users, particularly bus travellers, to their cars, and many simply haven’t returned.
It has exacerbated the clog on Canberra’s roads at peak times, particularly morning flows as people try to get out of their suburbs to work.
The run out of Molonglo is a perfect example, and the government has endeavoured to ease the journey by strategically tweaking traffic lights.
Many have commented that letting a new area fill up and letting it rely on one route out is just bad planning, something Gungahlin had to live with for years.
Another road is planned out of Molonglo to the Tuggeranong Parkway that will relieve some of the pressure, but it will be years away.
There must be many instances across the ACT where congestion beaters like me are just clogging up suburban streets and secondary roads, inviting government to respond with pacifying measures such as speed bumps and chicanes.
I won’t be catching a bus because an hour-long, two-leg journey to my workplace doesn’t stack up against my 15 to 20 minutes in the car if the run is reasonably clear and no one initiates a head-to-tail chain reaction as the Parkway regularly endures.
But somehow, the government has got to get previously regular commuters out of their cars and back on the buses, deter rat runners and start frontloading infrastructure instead of just thinking about it and retrofitting when demand is overwhelming.
Residents should not see their normally quiet streets choked with vehicles driven by the hopeful, the desperate and the curious.
My message is: drive if you must but stick to the straight and not so narrow, the road most travelled, the route that was really made for you.
A strategy that might work is to stagger your departure times or leave a little earlier. Of course, some days we will all have the same idea at the same time.
Think of that as a community.