YOU DON’T have to venture far for one of Britain’s greatest drives. Blackpool’s Illuminations are big fun in the right car – as long as you’re prepared for it to average about three miles an hour.
I’ve ‘done the lights’ pretty much every year since I earned my licence and loved every minute. You can enjoy it in just about any car but to make the most of it bring a convertible that won’t overheat in prolonged stints of traffic, make sure it’s an auto so your left leg’s still working by the time you reach the Pleasure Beach, and tell your mates to wrap up warm because at no point will the roof be going up. Vauxhall’s Cascada, Mercedes’ E-Class Convertible and BMW’s 4-Series Cabriolet are pretty much perfect for the job.
The cars to cruise up the seafront and bask in the gaudy glitz of the lights and waft in the vinegary smells are better than ever. The only problem – if my last couple of trips up the coast have been anything to go by – the traffic management seems to have got worse.
Go on a busy Friday or Saturday night and you can expect to be queuing as you soon as you emerge from Lytham St Annes, sometimes with your engine off for 10 or 15 minutes at a time. That’s fair enough for one of the North’s most congested tourist hits, but what isn’t are the scary manouveres other impatient motorists pull to try and beat the queues.
On a visit last weekend drivers routinely drove up the wrong side of the road at well above the 30mph speed limit, usually with terrified-looking tourists heading straight at them in the other direction. For the best part of half an hour I watched as headlights flashed, horns blared and tyres screeched as people desperate to see the lights before everyone else caused other cars to career towards the kerb. It wasn’t just cars full of impatient Illuminations-watchers either; the single worst offender was a double decker bus, its driver thinking sticking his hazards on was enough to allow driving up the wrong side of a busy road.
Without wanting to sound like Alastair Stewart on some bad Nineties rerun of Police Camera Action it was some utterly appalling driving – but I reckon the ball’s in Blackpool’s court to sort it out. It’s great the Illuminations are hauling in the sightseers, but I suspect a massive accident caused by an impatient oik driving up the wrong side of the road won’t do the show any favours.
It’s a resounding A+ for the lights themselves – and I’d still recommend seeing them – but a firm ‘must do better’ on the traffic front. Same again next year?