Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

A question of traffic - Testing out a solution for the British motorsport traffic problems

Published by Bridget Schuil

What’s the best way to get to a motorsport event without spending hours in traffic? The discussion started between my flatmate - henceforth referred to as The Aussie - and I while reading the frustrated tweets of Goodwood Festival of Speed attendees waiting to get through traffic.

We’ve both been to a variety of petrol-head events in our home countries, and spent hours playing games like “I Spy” and Car Cricket to while away the hours spent in traffic jams. Living in Edinburgh – the centre of which has been effectively closed due to tram works for over a year – traffic flow issues are close to our heart.

By the time traffic jam coverage of Silverstone started to surface, we were prepared; we sat a-calculating, convinced that there was an elegantly simple transport solution. Silverstone are seeking help to resolve the issue, and we wanted to add our two cents.

Considering the options

The fastest way to travel, according to Neil Gaiman, is by candlelight, but neither of us knew where to procure Babylon candles in large enough quantities to supply 120,000 race fans. We soon decided that making a three-lane ring road around the circuits and campsites was probably not an economically viable plan, given that each venue only has heavy traffic for a few weekends each year. Installing a monorail seemed like a sensible option, until we worked out that it would cost about the same as building a multi-lane road for a similarly infrequent financial reward. It is possible The Aussie only suggested it because he’s obsessed with monorails, but it raised an important point: if you want to get to the circuit quickly, taking a car or bus is not the way to do it.

I suggested a scooter; this was greeted with a snort of derision, because travelling the 560km/350 miles between Edinburgh and Silverstone at a top speed of 80km.h-1/50mph was deemed a waste of time. Also, scooters are deceptively heavy, so if one gets stuck in the mud, it takes more than one person to pull/push it out. In a valiant attempt to put in a vote for fossil fuels, I suggested taking a motorbike, since motorcycles are faster than scooters. Perhaps if one lived within a few hours’ ride of either venue, a racing bike would be a fun option. However, if you’ve ever done more than a hundred miles on the back of a motorbike - or watched the episode of Top Gear where Richard Hammond rides to Edinburgh - you’ll remember the full-body muscle cramps.

Costing it out

We realised railway travel is the most practical way to get from outside Motorsport Valley to Goodwood or Silverstone without using a car or bus, but both circuits are further than easy walking distance from the nearest train station. Goodwood is closer to Chichester than Silverstone is to Northampton - a measly 5km/3 miles from station to circuit compared to Silverstone’s 29km/18 miles. To confirm our hypothesis that trains and bicycles were the best way to travel, the Silverstone Special Service bus costs £10 each way; it also took about two hours on the Friday morning last year, which is what it would take on a bicycle at an easy pace. Added to that, very few buses will let passengers on with a bicycle, so if you took one for campsite-circuit transfers you would be forced to leave it at the bus station.

The main disadvantage to taking a train is the cost. After credit card charges and booking fees, a general admission ticket to a race is almost £200. Add that to the £60-£150 it costs to get from our obscure, Northern corner of the UK to race venues, and it’s an expensive weekend before one gets to paying for food and accommodation. In these days of pinching pennies, I suggested we google how people travelled to races in previous recessions. Unfortunately, the history of travelling to races is not one of those easily-googlable topics; nobody has thought to write a Wikipedia article about it.

Taking the initiative

Knowing I wanted to go to Goodwood Revival, The Aussie said “I bet you can’t ride your bicycle from here dressed like a fifties housewife and find out about it in person.” Not one to decline a challenge – especially after daring him to do the Outback Trial with jet-lag - I find myself committed to an eight hundred kilometre bicycle ride. I estimate it’ll take two weeks, if I train my body to cover sixty kilometres per day - that’s quite a challenge for a couch potato, but I’m hoping the end will justify the means.

To make it a worthwhile endeavour, we’ve agreed that I’ll do it to raise money for Care International a charity I’ve seen doing relevant work in my home country - in solidarity with the women and girls who are trapped in a poverty cycle by out-dated attitudes about gender roles, the girls who wouldn’t have a chance to go on crazy quests for answers to nerdy questions because they’re expected to do “womens’ work”.

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It will probably cost more in food and accommodation during the journey than the £150 it would have cost to take the train, but I’ll have a few stories to tell by the end of it. So if you see a girl dressed like an I Love Lucy character riding a bicycle down the UK in early September, please give me a glass of water? Mum’s already offered to sponsor my sunscreen stash, but I’ll probably have an unquenchable thirst.