Saturday, 6 February 2010

A Tale Of Two Bridges

Within a couple of miles of here, there are two Victorian railway bridges.

One is only wide enough for one car to pass under at any time, the other is passable by two vehicles travelling in opposite directions, though perhaps not if one is a van or lorry, but is askew by about 30° giving a small kink to the road.

The first is always negotiated very comfortably with drivers exercising common sense and courtesy. I have been under this bridge thousands of times in my 40+ years and have never witnessed any misunderstanding, angry gestures, road rage. Nothing. Ever.

Same with the second bridge ... until, about a year ago, the council decided to install one of these signs for those approaching from just one direction.

Since then, the incidences of angry exchanges, flashing lights, horns and even near (deliberate) collisions have been regular. And that's just from my personal experience.

It's the same bridge, the same width of road, nothing has changed. Except that the placement of that sign has given a feeling of superiority to those approaching from the south, whilst also at times intimidating those coming from the north into stopping where there is no rational need.

As Raedwald has mentioned before, and I have also commented on previously, authoritative road directions always lead to the same outcomes - they remove the requirement of thought to some drivers and hinder progress whilst arguably increasing risk.

There are other 'chicanes' in our area (not involving bridges) where these signs are not erected, and again traffic passes smoothly and malice free compared with others where the prescribed priority encourages bossy, and sometimes dangerous, behaviour.

I believe there's a metaphor here for the reduction of authoritarian local, and national, government.

People, left to their own cognisance, weigh up choices better, think more, and are less confrontational to others in their community than if given ever more petty, and largely unnecessary, rules.

Sometimes, it would be better that public sector rubber band flickers carry on doing just that, rather than feeling that they should 'do something'.


Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

Hi DP!

I think this is the essence of the ideology of Libertarianism vs. Authoritarianism: state control, or rely on the innate social cooperation of human beings working and living together more efficiently than a state dictatorial approach.

Look at this from the Dutch town of Drachten that is now being taken up by other towns: abolition of traffic control systems has lead to reduced incidence of accidents and a massive improvement of traffic.

An anathema to Socialists: let the power and trust reside with the people.

JohnRS said...

If you want people to behave responsibly, make them responsible.

It's an old, old idea and works well. Another simple example, think of a road junction when the lights fail. Is the traffic better or worse? It doesnt matter if its road bridges, junctions or anything else, it works.

It works for non-road things as well. Letting the people involved in doing something decide how to sort out how to do it generally is faster, fairer, cheaper etc. It could be the lunch rota at work, or which engineer goes to fix which washing machine or almost anything else.

But our lords and masters really dont like any of this, they want to impose control - rules. guidelines, laws, regulations. If we get the idea they and their controls are not needed we'll start to wonder why we pay them.

Anonymous said...

Years ago, I lived in Reading (on the outskirts- Calcott) and, in 1977, when I move in, there was a straight road between where we lived and the M4 motorway. Then, some "numpty" decided that what we needed was "roundabouts" - lots of them - so, no less than 5 sprung up between us and the motorway, one at a junction that had a noted history of accident (just the one), which, oddly was noted in the local museum. It was sometime in the early 1800s,where a hay cart coming down the hill had collided with someone coming along on a horse and had resulted in an injury to the horse rider. Other than that- there had been nothing.
Then. along came Mr "Road Safety" and, within 2 weeks of them placing a roundabout on the junction, there was a dual fatality -because "someone else has the right of way and the priorities at the junction had been reversed". So - two people were dead and the council stated "we accept that it may take some time for people to get to grips with the new 'road safety' initiative" and "although we regret these deaths, people must understand that our actions are for their safety".
These deaths (and there were many more over the next few years at this junction) were, even all those years ago, "worth it" (in the name of safety) and the fact that the priorities at the junction made no sense (the priority used to be for the people coming down the hill - not those on the flat) - were deemed worth these deaths - in the name of safety. If people did not blindly believe they had the right of way - probably over 10 people would be alive today.

Anonymous said...

I'd bet that much street furniture just comes from leftover budget which has to be spent to claim max budget for the following year.


Jim said...

They have to be seen to be doing SOMETHING, otherwise even the council beancounters might notice and suggest less budget next year. Classic C Northecote Parkinson stuff I'm afraid.

No bureaucrat ever takes a course of action that endangers his own existence. If the head of road signage decided that his area had enough road signs, what is the outcome? Less budget for him year on year, possibly even merged into another dept, job losses, his own even.

Far better to keep spending the taxpayers hard earned on pointless new signs and be guaranteed an expanding dept, a big salary, and fat pension at the end of it.

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