HIGH Wycombe’s London Road used to be one of the booziest streets on the planet, but it’s now threatening to become notorious as a red light district.
No, not that kind of red light – I’m referring to traffic signals, of course.
When I first arrived in town more than 20 years ago, I was struck by the number of pubs along the A40. But it was hard to spot them all as you drove past at 40mph along a clear fast road in off-peak times.
However, gradually, one set of traffic lights after another has been added.
I don’t actually recall any two short decades ago, but now there are signals slowing you down all the way from the Junction 3 roundabout to the Marsh retail park.
This is fine in rush hour when it helps regulate traffic, but it’s ridiculous at night when you are forced to keep stopping on an empty road.
Meanwhile, as the lights began appearing, the pubs started to close.
Obviously, there’s no connection but there’s a certain poetry to it. Stationary motorists are forced to stare at empty voids where legendary hostelries used to be.
Lost pubs include the White Blackbird at Loudwater, the Halfway House and the Red Lion at the Marsh.
I can’t help feeling that our heritage is disappearing and all that is replacing the pub signs for landmarks are notices to ‘merge in turn’ and bus lane boards.
At least the stretch after Hatters Lane used to be fairly clear of lights, but I see another set is about to be unveiled by Currys.
Ironically, there’s still no sign of action at the place where lights are genuinely needed – the junction of the A40 with Chestnut Avenue. Motorists emerging from The Rye area have to make a dangerous dash for it if they want to turn right.
One day soon, no doubt, every stretch of road will be swamped with lights, whether necessary or not.
Meanwhile, every pub will probably have shut by then as people stay at home on their computers conversing on (anti)-social networks.
And even if people do go out to meet friends, they will spend all their time speaking to someone else on their mobile telephone.
Video killed the radio star, someone sang once.
Now soon it will be a refrain of how Facebook killed the back street boozer.
No live social interaction anymore, just online ‘virtual’ conversations in this brave new digital world where technology takes care of all our needs.
But at least the traffic light sequencing will be efficient, I suppose.