Yesterday, for the second time in a week, I caught the inter-city train from St-Marcellin to Grenoble in order to spend time exploring the archives concerning the history of my property. This excursion is truly luxurious in the sense that the traveler arrives in the center of Grenoble and gets swept up immediately by a tram that takes you to any place whatsoever inside the Alpine city.
At about the same time I was making the return voyage, seven adolescents met their deaths in a level-crossing catastrophe, elsewhere on this regional transport network, up towards the lake of Geneva, when their bus stalled on the rails.
Here's the scene today, as authorities attempt to determine what happened:
In my recent article entitled Doubling the line [display], I evoked the anguishing theme of level crossings, of which there are still some 15 thousand in rural France.
The following specimen, which I use almost daily, is a true death trap:
Normal French Cartesian logic seems to have got screwed up here in a potentially mortal manner. Since it's a dangerous crossing, lying just alongside the busy highway from St Marcellin to Romans, somebody decided that orange lamps should flash here constantly, aimed at warning motorists that they should behave cautiously. But these orange lamps interfere with the more urgent message of a red lamp that goes into action periodically when the barriers are about to descend, because a train is arriving. Motorists who arrive here regularly, like me, day in day out, end up ignoring the constantly-flashing orange lamps, insofar as they do not indicate any kind of imminent danger. Consequently, they're conditioned subconsciously to ignore also the red lamp, whose flashes signal a matter of life or death. To put it bluntly, this place is waiting for a mortal accident to occur.