It’s all too easy to forget the simple pleasures of getting behind the wheel: independence, a sense of liberation and the ability to go beyond our everyday confines.
Driving needn’t be about traffic jams, people beeping you and the ‘joys’ of reverse parking with a queue of impatient drivers behind. ‘One of the prime reasons we like driving, rather than catching a bus or a train,’ according to Dr Peter Marsh, a leading psychologist in driving behaviour, ‘is that we are in charge of our own destiny – something that is quite rare in most people’s lives.’
And while cars swarm around the fastest routes and major centres of population, there are many more roads off the beaten track that are left practically deserted. Britain’s 35 million vehicles spend a disproportionate amount of time on the country’s 30,000 or so miles of motorways and main roads, while the 70,000 miles of ‘B’ and ‘C’ roads and the staggering 145,000 miles of unclassified roads remain for the most part fairly quiet.
Of course, some may be more intent on two wheels rather than four, and for them, there are even more scope for exploration. The National Cycle Network, for example, offers 12,600 miles of cycle paths, based around the principle of minimising contact with motor traffic – and although it’s inevitable that some do include sections of minor roads, most are, however, on bridleways, disused railway lines and canal towpaths.
So there’s far more to Britain’s roads than the M25 – or ‘a drive in pursuit of nothing’, as Professor Iain Borden, a commentator on urban culture, calls it. All you’ve got to do is think of a destination and find the path less travelled.