Saturday, 14 March 2009

A Bridge Too Near

It's late morning and I'm driving north up the M6 in Cheshire, about to turn off towards Manchester. This particular junction can be challenging at times as it is only half a mile past Knutsford services, meaning that as you pull over into the inside lane to come off you have to contend with traffic pulling on to the motorway from the services.

I'm therefore concentrating on driving and don't notice until the last moment a young Indian couple standing on the hard shoulder just before point where the slip road out of the services joins the motorway. They are casually dressed, mainly in black, and there is no sign of a broken down vehicle near them.

Just as I'm passing them they begin to walk forward, seemingly, astonishingly intent on crossing the busy motorway. The man has his hand on the woman's arm, leading her forwards. Neither of them appear frightened. He looks quietly confident in what he is doing, and the woman in turn seems confident in his leadership.

There is sufficient traffic in every lane that I would not want to attempt even a headlong dash let alone the casual stroll they seem about to embark upon.

I zip past and then look in the mirror, but can't see what has happened to them. There are no sounds of horns being blasted. Maybe they changed their minds at the last moment, or maybe the oncoming, open-mouthed drivers were too busy braking to do anything else.

I continue towards Manchester, trying to think of some improbable circumstance that might justify what they were doing. But the problem with trying to give them the benefit of the doubt is that, less than a hundred yards away, in the direction they were looking, was a footbridge connecting the north and southbound sides of the services. I hope one of them noticed it before they actually stepped out into the carriageway. No-one should unnecessarily risk a death that would be announced to the world first as an item of traffic news.

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