Travelling can be both exciting and inspiring but commuting and other everyday trips can be an excruciating ordeal, writes Alastair Dalton.
Despite writing about it, my job as The Scotsman’s transport correspondent does not involve a huge amount of travel, but when I do go somewhere, I try to sample different ways to get there.
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However, time and cost constraints, along with limited options on some journeys mean I often take the most efficient means of transport.
Alas, I find buses to be overall the most frustrating and least passenger-friendly option, and the one I am most likely to avoid if there are feasible alternatives.
In some areas, the lack of readily available information on times, routes and fares – unless you download an app – along with uncertain journey times on congested streets, can make it a frustrating experience. Despite improvements, Glasgow’s buses are still way behind Edinburgh’s, albeit with signs of improvement.
For my purposes, driving is not much less problematic. In theory, it should be the easiest and most convenient, although also the unhealthiest and likely least green way of travelling.
For me, there’s uncertainty over journey times and parking, but by far the biggest drawback is that it is “dead time”, where it is not safe or legal to do much more than listen to the radio.
I find air travel, unavoidable for the longest trips, the next most tedious. Not the flying experience, which can be amazing, such as unexpected view of the snow-capped coastal mountains of Greenland while crossing the Atlantic last month, but the stop-start nature of the process. It’s all about queues: to drop-off bags, get through security, board the plane – and then the reverse after landing.
Trains are better, with the railways a discrete travel system, so you know exactly where you are going. It is also relatively easy to work en route, although there are limitations on what you can expect from free wi-fi, especially when carriages are busy.
Yes, they can be subject to horrendous disruption, and trains have far fewer diversion options than on the roads. But luckily, with four routes across the Central Belt between Edinburgh and Glasgow, where I do most of my travelling, there is often an alternative when something goes wrong on one.
Taking a taxi is perhaps the most effortless way to travel, if you can afford it, and Uber-style apps even eliminate the uncertainties over waiting times.
Walking, where it’s feasible, I find to be an even better option – getting those steps in as part of the working day. With the right online map, it also provides, uniquely, journey-time certainty – so long as you can be sure of the suitability and desirability of the route being offered by often car-orientated algorithms.
And the best way to travel? Well, I think cycling is the most fun for the freedom it gives. It’s true, there is the hassle of getting kitted up against the rain, there’s a limit to how much you can carry, and the risk of a slightly dishevelled appearance on arrival.
But even if you don’t have your own bike, the growing spread of cycle-hire schemes within towns and cities make this an increasingly viable option.
I just can’t wait for electric bikes to be added to the fleets, which are on their way in Stirling, Edinburgh, Glasgow and elsewhere. They could make it first choice for short trips every time.