Author Topic: Motorway Exit Syndrome  (Read 8365 times)

Lyle Brotherton

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Motorway Exit Syndrome
« on: January 25, 2013, 03:59:53 PM »
A posting about GR (Grand Rondonees) by Richnan4 http://micronavigation.com/forum/index.php?topic=461.msg3142;topicseen#msg3142  brings to my mind a common navigational mistake I have witnessed working, independently, with two MRT’s, firstly in Canada and more recently in France.

Unlikely as it may seem, France has more public footpaths than Britain! In fact more than eight times the kilometres of public foot paths than in England.

The most spectacular of these are called the Sentiers de Grand Rondonees (GR) and they are all numbered GR1, GR2 and so forth. Some are incredibly long, such as the GR5 which runs from the Luxembourg border, through the Vosges, Jura and Alp mountain ranges to the Mediterranean.

The organisation that established and maintains the trail system is called the Féderation Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP) and although headquartered in Paris they have around 2000 local clubs who maintain the route markings and signs along these tracks.




The tracks are marked with white over red blazes and these signs are invariably, yet not always, prominent and frequent. Turns are always marked and there are even signs informing you if you have made a wrong turning.

I was assisting a Pelotons de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne (PGHM), professional mountain rescue teams made up of police and some military personnel, in the Alps, to integrate satnav (GNSS/GPS) and digital mapping (GIS) into their standard operating procedures.



A key component in building the system is creating a bespoke base map for the team area.

Team members record information commonly missing from conventional mapping, such as new areas of scree, stream caused by flash floods, permanent pools of water, potholes etc.

In addition to this, the search managers compile the records of past incidents, the exact location of each one, where precise positions are marked on the map of all their previous callouts: the Incident Record Overlay (IRO).

From the IRO accident hot spots can be identified from this, safe routes determined both for walking in and for stretcher carry outs, possible kit stashes that are positioned for ease of access, and so forth.

Compiling this information with the team, an accident hotspot, already well known to them, revealed some interesting information.

It was coming out of a valley, where hikers frequently got lost. By plotting the tracks the casualties had reported that they had taken into the valley before becoming lost it became apparent that there was one track in particular, part of GR5, a wide and made up track, was the most often taken by the people who subsequently got into difficulties.

Many of the hikers were competent navigators and they maintained that they had been on the GR5 all the time and could not understand how they had subsequently become lost.

The weather conditions varied from summer to winter but in both there were regularly poor visibility conditions: in summer usually fog created by the formation of Stratus clouds in the valley towards the end of the day; this is also when the available daylight is starting to fail.

Stratus clouds are flat, hazy, featureless clouds of low altitude varying in colour from dark gray to nearly white and may produce a light drizzle or snow. They frequently form in mountain valleys and during the day rise with the warmth of the sunshine and late in the day settle back down in the valleys.



In winter the forest floor has a permanent covering of snow and in either heavy snowfall, or high winds creating spindrift and blowing the powder snow from the trees, whiteouts were a frequent occurrence and common event to many of the people who had become lost.

Studying the map it became apparent that wrong turns had been taken along GR5 repeatedly at one junction where many people incorrectly forked left.

We flew out to visit the area and surprisingly this junction had a very well marked sign. There was a remote weather monitor and to the immediate right of the track was a steel stanchion on top of which was an anemometer (wind speed measurer), in faded yet very clear acrylic paint was the unmistakable sign that this was the correct fork to follow.

It was an almost identical pattern of events that I had encountered with the Canadian MRT a few years earlier and I instantly recognised it as the phenomenon I have named Motorway Exit Syndrome - we are all susceptible to it.



In poor visibility, or at night when using a head torch, if following the edge of a track it is easy to veer off onto the wrong track if it forks, especially where the angle of the deviation is relatively low.

To avoid this error I recommend four simple actions:
1.   Walk in the centre of the track.
2.   When the track turns sharply walk to the other side of it to confirm that it is not an exit.
3.   At frequent intervals, say every 100m pace count, stop and check the bearing you are on compared to the bearing of the track on your map where you should be.
4.   If you are in a group, use out-riggers.
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

boogyman

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2013, 09:58:12 PM »
That mistake (taking an exit when you shouldn't) seems easily made indeed.

However, most of the marked trails have that simple mechanism to help hikers avoiding to make this mistake: every wrong "exit" is effectively marked as being wrong (in Belgium as well as in France they do, I don't know for other countries).

Hugh Westacott

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2013, 06:43:29 AM »
I've always been impressed with the European system of waymarking. Here, in the UK, we waymark our seventeen designated national trails but have no system of indicating when you have taken a wrong turn. We also have several hundred other long-distance routes. Those that are supported by local authorities are normally waymarked with a distinctive symbol, but there are many more, created by walking clubs and individuals, that have no distinctive waymarks so it is essential to use a guidebook to follow them. One of our most popular of long-distance routes is the Coast to Coast Walk devised by the late A. Wainwright which is almost completely lacking any waymarking or signposting.

Hugh

boogyman

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2013, 08:53:45 AM »
Thanks Hugh -- I did not realize that. We frequently hike in Belgium and in France, and the few times that we went hiking in the UK, we were impressed with the "infrastructure" that you have on public footpaths. But we also remarked that hillwalking in the UK, on the other hand, is different because you just don't follow any paths whatsoever. In Belgium, leaving the paths is just not allowed. In France, it depends on the region. In the Parc National des Cévennes for example, it is allowed (it is one of our favorite destinations  ;) ).

@ Lyle: what do you mean by out-riggers? I assume you mean that, when you are not alone, one person can walk at the left side of the track and another at the right side of the track, so that a fork cannot be taken accidently?

Jester

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2013, 10:26:37 AM »
While in Spain I found this method of waymarking really useful:



Where the track turns:


At points where it was likely you would take a wrong exit you would find this:


My trip report is HERE:
http://airdrierambler.wordpress.com/beyond-airdrie/south-of-airdrie/benidorm-sun-sea-and-hills/
Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others.
Groucho Marx

Hugh Westacott

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #5 on: January 26, 2013, 11:30:54 AM »
Lyle wrote

< Unlikely as it may seem, France has more public footpaths than Britain! In fact more than eight times the kilometres of public footpaths than in England.>

Are you quite sure? France certainly has many more of the equivalent of our national trails but, I'd be interested to know from where you got the figure for all public paths.

It is generally agreed that there are approximately 217,000 kilometres of public rights of way in England and Wales (I don't have the figure for England alone but it is likely to be in the region 180,000 kilometres). France is a much larger country than England but, even so, nearly 1.5 million kilometres of public paths seems, on the face of it, a bit unlikely.

Can anyone throw some light on this?

Hugh

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2013, 04:24:02 PM »
Hugh you have to be careful as you are talking about rights or way, these are different to public footpaths.

I estimated Britain’s total public footpaths at 178,000 km based upon:

Natural England’s estimate that 78% of rights of way in England are footpaths = 146,000 km. Scotland’s National Catalogue CROW (figures compiled from Scotways, Scottish Natural Heritage and local Authorities) estimate that there are 15,000 km of rights of way of which 60% are footpaths = 9,000km
Countryside Council for Wales calculate 33,000 km rights of way with no differentiation for public footpaths, so assuming it’s mid-way between that of Scotland and England = 23,000 km.

According to the French FFRP (Fédération Française de Randonnée Pédestre) there are 800,000 km of public footpaths. But we are not comparing like for like, as in France there are no customary rights of way, instead permissive paths. The FFRP estimate that there are probably another 500,000 km of unofficial paths that are used by the public in France forests, which occupies some 30% of their land area. Giving a total of 1,400,000 km

Either way, France has more paths than Britain.

Interesting as this may be I am keen not to stray into the esoteric nuances of path descriptions and length in this topic and instead stick to the navigation component, which is why I started this topic in the first place.
 
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2013, 04:25:45 PM »
Boogman wrote "Lyle: what do you mean by out-riggers? I assume you mean that, when you are not alone, one person can walk at the left side of the track and another at the right side of the track, so that a fork cannot be taken accidently?"

Chris, this technique is usually performed at night or at other times of poor visibility. In poor visibility, having an understanding of changes in the local terrain is important.

At night time, slope – the gradient of the land around you, can easily be misinterpreted viewing it using a head torch, where it appears steeper than it is. In the likes of mist and fog or heavy snow just seeing the lay of the land can be problematic.

Three people, including the navigator, are required for this technique.

1.   The navigator agrees with the two individuals who are going to act as the outriggers the command ‘Hold the line’.
2.   The outriggers then walk either side of the navigator and near enough to be seen, whatever the visibility.
3.   The outriggers walk in the same direction as the navigator and in line with him/her; it is their responsibility to do this and allow the navigator to travel at their own pace. At any time, any of the individuals can stop the group moving by shouting ‘Hold the line’.
4.   The navigator uses the outriggers to assess whether the land to each side is above or below them, plus estimate by how high/low it is in metres so that this can be related to the contours on their map.

The navigator needs to be confident that there is no danger presented to the outriggers by features such as cliffs or bodies of water – if there is, rope up!
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Hugh Westacott

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2013, 05:08:02 PM »
Lyle

<Either way, France has more paths than Britain.>

I stand corrected!

Hugh

Lyle Brotherton

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #9 on: January 26, 2013, 05:25:58 PM »
Forgive me Hugh, I sounded like a school teacher  ;)
“Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance” - Plato

Hugh Westacott

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #10 on: January 26, 2013, 05:32:35 PM »
Lyle

It's me who should apologize! I jumped in with both feet without really thinking. I'm genuinely astonished that France should have so many paths and I'm grateful for the source of the information.

Hugh

Callum

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2013, 09:01:02 AM »
Really interesting post Lyle and I know mountain bikers can have a similar difficulty. Near us there are a lot of well-marked bike trails, the problem arises if a turning is not clearly marked and the rider is relying on the trail signs only and no other navigational techniques. On one occaision that mountain biker was me - lesson learned ;)

Skills4Survival

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2013, 01:28:22 PM »

Funny, I never used the GR path, although I often seem to be on it. Just select the small, interesting/challenging paths..and voilà (nicest thing..you never loose your path, since you follow your own map :-).

Sorry, could not help myself in this post.
Ivo

Pete McK

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Re: Motorway Exit Syndrome
« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2013, 04:12:14 PM »
Fantastic post Lyle, thank you for sharing. When explained it seems so obvious, I guess that the obvious is not always obvious, if you get my drift ;)