There are sinister changes afoot at Rondo Babka. Hallelujah!!
This roundabout’s real name is the very catchy, Rondo Zgrupowania AK “Radosław”, which comes from the name of one of the combat groups in the “Home Army” that fought for Poland in WWII (AK meaning Armii Krajowej). It is however always shortened to Rondo Radosława, but I, and most real Warszawians will always know it as Rondo Babka!
Here’s a picture of it, with the Arkadia shopping centre top right. The roads are (starting with the one in the north, LHS of Arkadia and going clockwise) – Jana Pawła II (becomes Popiełuszki – heading for Żoliborz), Słomińskiego (mostly in shadows, because it heads over the river into bandit country!), Jana Pawła II (heading for downtown), Okopowa (heading for airport via outskirts of downtown).
If you think the naming is confusing, you wait ’till you see the traffic management system! But first, a little history:
Once upon a time there was a nice quiet little rondo called Babka. People (like me) used to travel from Żoliborz to the centrum and back home again down Aleja Jana Pawła II, with little delay or stress. Then, the Wicked Witch builds more housing in bandit country (other side of river) and so “going home” traffic down Jana Pawła turning right into Słomińskiego increases, but still not too bad. But, one day in late 2004 the Evil Smelly Queen visits Warsaw and sees that the Wicked Witch has made a terrible job of messing up Rondo Babka and decides to take the job on herself. Firstly she renames the rondo (to cover her tracks), then she builds even more housing in bandit country, then she opens Arkadia shopping centre. Her work complete, the Evil Smelly Queen goes back home and makes herself a nice cup of tea.
The people like Arkadia, they come and go in droves, mostly by tram. The trams stop in the middle of the street and there are handy pedestrian crossings running all the way around the rondo. The people therefore walk across all the entrances and exits of the rondo like cute little titanium ants. They are titanium because they are from the sub-species “Polski pedestrianus ant” who, as we all know, can be hit by cars without fear of injury because the cars just bounce off. These ants are therefore fearless in the face of oncoming traffic and just keep walking, slowing down even as they cross to stare at the car people and give them the finger.
Poor old rondo Babka, what used to be such a peaceful place is now a zoo of cars, pedestrians, noise, queues and stress. The cars keep coming, the trams keep coming, the ants keep walking, the traffic going to bandit country now backs up all the way from the bridge to Babka. The result is massive queues on Okopowa and Jan Pawła II coming from the centre towards rondo Babka and people, like me, who would really appreciate a Jana Pawła II flyover to avoid all this crap just have to sit there and twiddle our thumbs.
One day, for no apparent reason (one assumes someone important finally got stuck in the queues), policemen turned up and started directing traffic. They actually had the power to stop the little ants and to allow the traffic to flow. Unfortunately, they are not able to stop people wanting to get to bandit country but it is an improvement. And that says a lot. When have you ever in your entire life known police intervention in traffic control to actually improve matters – well here it did! And that my friends is where we got up to until this morning. Yes, this morning, THREE YEARS after the problems at Babka started!!!
They have been threatening to install lights on Babka for some months now. They were just teasing us by coming and digging a few holes, then going away. Come back and stick some poles up, then go away again. Come back and fill in the holes, then it’s Christmas. Come back and put some lights up but covered with black plastic bin liners, then go away again. Mess around in electrical cabinets, then go away again. And so on. The lights are still not working but I have hopes that they will be sometime this year.
What has prompted this blogette, yes FINALLY I come to the point, is the lines they have now painted on the road surface of rondo Babka. Must have been done under cover of darkness last night. This looks like an attempt to get people into the right lane. Oh! Hang on, I need to rant off at a tangent a bit first!! Tee Hee. Yes, lane management as it used to be without the new painted lines. here you go:
So. The rule is simple. If you’re in the outside lane (the one furthest away from the centre of the rondo) you are KING KONG! Nobody can stop you, you can poodle all the way round the rondo, 360 deg if you wish, in the outside lane and you HAVE THE RIGHT to just keep going. Anyone who is in either the inside or middle lanes and wants to exit HAD BETTER WATCH OUT. <If I could find a “laughing my arse off” smiley there would be about a hundred of them in this space.> And so it came to pass that all those people who think HAVING THE RIGHT gives them the right to do stupid things – did so. They all poodled around the outside lane and simply added to the general confusion but with them HAVING THE RIGHT an’ all they were able to hold their heads high and be the most righteously outraged people on the rondo at the time!
Right, where was I? Oh yes, painted lines. Seems that we now have three clearly marked lanes on the approach to the rondo with arrows suggesting that if you’re in this lane you really should be going – straight on, left, right, combo, BOGO offer, do not pass Go. These are then cunningly matched up with white markings of all the lanes around the rondo (inside, middle, outside) BUT these markings include a mixture of dotted and solid lines. This suggests that once in a lane you cannot move from it unless you have a dotted line. I’m afraid I broke this rule on the first day because the centre lane that, on approach, suggested it might be the best lane for going straight on (Jana Pawła II one side to Jana Pawła II the other side) turned out to actually be insisting that I turn right (down Okopowa) and was giving me the solid line treatment to force me to do so. Fortunately, my ability to follow any laws at rondo Babka died years ago and so I just went where I wanted to go, but let me tell you, this could be serious fun!
And when they combine the new road markings with the new lights? I don’t want to be there. But I’m not complaining. It might have taken three years to deal with a very serious congestion problem that will have cost peanuts to fix, but…. yes I suppose I am complaining and will continue to. I think this new idea is going to be so confusing as to be unworkable and this whole sorry mess is going to get much worse before it gets better. Then again, perhaps this funky system has been tested by robots in Stuttgart and will work just fine.
I’m off to test it again on the home run. Wish me luck!
EDIT – same old queues on the way home at 19:00, should be light traffic at that time. Lights still a long way from being finished, most of the poles don’t even have lights on yet and are not properly fixed in the ground. The new lane system does, however, now give me the right to do what I’ve been doing for months – going round the inside and then cutting across everyone to take my exit! This is good news. Let’s see what the lights do, if they ever work. Main issue is going to be stopping the bandit country livers from stacking back into the rondo.