Saturday, February 26, 2011

Round and Round the Square

After a long day in our office, I set off to drive to Sheffield for my roleplay the next day. Because it was scheduled to be a long day - 8am till 6pm - and many of us were travelling from over forty miles away, we were invited to stay at the Novotel the night before.

So far so good. Now then, my memories of Sheffield are that it's a really tricky city to drive round - - but so, perhaps, are many cities, Leeds included.

I have a few dark memories of getting hopelessly lost in Sheffield. But that was all before the invention of the satnav. I did know how to get to the venue where we were working - because I've been there many times - and the Novotel was just 2.4 miles from it. How hard could it be?

I usually print out an exact streetmap of where I'm going but on this occasion I didn't bother - - there was less than two and a half miles that I didn't know and I had a satnav to instruct me.

But I'd reckoned without Park Square Roundabout.

"Take the sixth exit". Well, here's the photo of it.

I came in from the top. The picture on the satnav showed me going right round the roundabout and back on myself. The numbers written on the roads bore no relation to the numbers of the roads the satnav was showing: but I tried it anyway. Huge wide road, lots of lanes, dark, very few signposts. I found a bus lane in front of me so took a guess and took the right- hand lane. It took me round in a huge loop - a mile or two - and back to exactly where I started.

So the sixth exit must be the one to the left of it, even though the satnav said I should go further right.

So I tried that. The satnave took me round in a huge loop - a mile or two - and back to exactly where I started.

I came off at the exit even before that one. What happened next? - -- - You guessed.

I thought it must have been correct the first time. I tried that one again. This time as soon as I reached the end of the photo on the map it told me to turn right, so I did. It took me round in a huge loop - a mile or two - and back to - - well, you know.

This time I went very slowly, looking for signposts, but there weren't any. Even though it was by now about quarter to nine there was still a lot of traffic on the roundabout and so I couldn't go THAT slowly.

So I tried the fifth exit again. The map on the satnav was insisting that it was either the fifth or the sixth - I couldn't tell which.

It took me round in a huge loop and back to where I started. I was getting slightly cross by now. In fact more than slightly. I was quelling a mixture of blind fury and a desire to burst into tears.

So I decided to go off at an exit that was obviously far too early - the one before the bridge with a curved kind of metalwork over the top. My new plan was that if this didn't work, I would drive back to Leeds and go straight to the venue in the morning, since my plan for a restful evening at the Novotel had clearly failed and my blood pressure was soaring above measurable levels.

I went off at that exit. "Continue straight" said the satnav confidently. Yes, well, I've been conned that way before, I thought.

Until suddenly - - there was the Novotel on my right. Amazing.

I told this exciting story of my six circuits of the roundabout to some of my colleagues, expecting that they'd point out that I'd made some simple error.

Instead they just looked at me gloomily. "Yes," they said, "we know. And you won't be able to get back to the venue for tomorrow without following one of us, because they've put in new bus lanes and the satnav just takes you round in circles."

In the morning, the others tried to wait for me to follow them - but the volume of traffic meant that they had to set off.

One of the others came in the car with me. He couldn't really help with navigation, but he was at least able to ring the venue to say that we were lost. They didn't seem at all surprised.

Still, it only took us 55 minutes to complete the two and a half mile journey. The rest of the day was composed of some of the most difficult and prescriptive roleplay that I do, but I am here to tell you that it was a breeze compared to the journeys.

So - - - what do I conclude from this?

It wasn't the fault of the satnav, which had been updated very recently. However, wouldn't it be good if there was a button on the satnav for "This way no longer works. Find me a different way". I know that if I'd time, and a map, and if there was anywhere to stop and work it out, then I could have done this myself. I did have a basic road map - but no time to puzzle it out and nowhere to stop to do it!

So - whose fault was it, then? Whatever department deals with Sheffield traffic. And, especially, whoever redesigned the roads in Sheffield, introducing bus lanes that are forbidden to motorists - and if you drive into one by accident apparently they take a photo of your number plate and fine you! Whoever did the redesign clearly didn't bother to put in any clues as to what he'd done.

So I would like to find him and punish him. His sentence would be to drive round and round and round Park Square Roundabout, all day, every day for a year. Great. And then to put up a big sign renaming it Groundhog Day Roundabout.

I'm back there next week. Same Novotel, same venue. I loved the work. I am already dreading the travel.


Anonymous Ruth said...

Does the map on the hotel website bear any relation to the current road layout?

If not then it may be that, even if you have a map with you, you'll still get lost.

I often talk back to my satnav when she says "you have arrived at your destination" - "No, I haven't". This is not a problem when I'm going home because I know where that is but Sheffield could be more of a mystery, like Leeds or Bradford for me.

Good luck.

4:31 pm  
Blogger Jennytc said...

Horrendous! Keith and I fell foul of their ridiculous ubiquitous, unmarked bus lanes and got fined a couple of years ago. When I am somewhere like that, I thank my lucky stars that I now live in small, quiet little Wrexham. ;)
(Leeds in no better!)

6:16 pm  
Blogger Daphne2 said...

Know that roundabout well, and have also struggled to find the hotel, but many years before Satnav. I found the best way was to just drive round for a bit (I think following signs for Hallam University) until I saw the big sign for the hotel itself, and then aim for that. Satnavs are only as good as the road system you are in - brilliant on the M1 when you don't need it, less good when the raod system gets complicated!

8:22 am  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

Moan! Moan! Moan! Your tale only goes to prove that people from Leeds are born without simple navigation skills. I have absolutely no trouble whatsoever negotiating Sheffield's very logical road system. Didn't they teach geography at your old school?

2:55 pm  
Blogger Daphne said...

Ruth - I have now "driven" the whole thing on Streetview and I THINK I know where I'm going tomorrow when I do it all again - we'll see!
Jenny - yes, it's a total, unmarked nightmare.
Daphne2 - exactly - and thank you for the Hallam University tip.
YP - "Sheffield's very logical road system" - - ahh, you poor thing, a couple of weeks in the tropics and the heat's really got to you. All together now - - "Mad dogs and Englishmen - - "

10:28 pm  
Blogger Unknown said...

I remember getting lost in Sheffield, too, delivering Jo to the University where she and Olli met. They just don't believe in roadsigns to help visitors.

1:22 pm  

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