Thursday, August 8, 2013

La Cabane Bambou

On the road from my place up to Grenoble, there's a marvelous spot where the road turns around the tip of the Vercors range before the final straight stretch of highway down towards the city. For several minutes, you're still dominated by the cliffs of the Vercors, on the right-hand side of the road, while the first summits of the Chartreuse start to emerge to the left.

Click to enlarge

Local drivers refer to this spot as La Cabane Bambou (bamboo hut) because of the derelict vestiges of a once-popular bar-restaurant, located by the roadside against a splendid background of limestone cliffs.

Old postcards show this place at the height of its glory.

Local drivers moving away from Grenoble are aware that this spot is particularly dangerous, because you have the impression that you've just broken free from the Alpine metropolis, and that the open road to the south lies ahead of you. Here's a Google image, looking to the south, of the short stretch of road that rises up to the blind curve where La Cabane Bambou is located (where the red truck is parked on the roadside).

Many mortal accidents have taken place in this vicinity, where certain drivers are capable of forgetting stupidly that fast traffic in the opposite direction can hurtle around the curve in front of La Cabane Bambou. Even if you slow down deliberately when reaching this spot (as I always do), that in itself can be an encouragement for reckless drivers to hit the accelerator and overtake you, which makes the situation more dangerous than ever.

This morning, therefore, I was saddened but not unduly surprised to learn through the Internet news that yet another terrible accident had just taken place at this spot.

Three vehicles came into frontal collision: a German camping car (whose driver died), a truck and a local automobile.

Over the 20 years during which I've been living in this magnificent region, I've heard so much about the dangers of the road between Grenoble and La Cabane Bambou that I've become almost terrorized by this spot, in spite of (or maybe because of) its rough beauty. A few years ago, imaginative road-safety technocrats felt that it would be a good idea to put up a red-and-black signpost at every spot where a mortal accident had occurred. Their scheme was frighteningly morbid. There were so many wooden "tombstones" alongside the road that you had the impression that you were driving through a cemetery. But the outcome was not necessarily effective from a road-safety viewpoint, because drivers were so distracted by the roadside views that they probably paid less heed than otherwise to behaving correctly. Frankly, I don't know what might be done here to reduce the steady stream of fatalities...

PS My blog post has used information from the website of our prestigious and excellent regional media organization, Le Dauphiné Libéré [display]. I hasten to add, too, that the actual building known as La Cabane Bambou (displayed in the above Google Maps images) no longer exists, as it was demolished a few months ago. That section of the road now houses a battery of electronic radar detectors, powered by solar energy, designed to flash warning signs as soon as wild boars from the slopes of the Vercors start to cross the road, during the night, on their way to the River Isère, to quench their thirst.

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