Free to Choose

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February 2010 Blog Posts (9)

A portable wind-up

Waiting at portable traffic signals on a straight stretch of road for unmanned roadworks, gaudy orange plastic fencing fanning off in each direction, I wondered again at the arrogance of traffic managers to assume inability or presume guilt without a shred of evidence, and to usurp our responsibility and judgement. The "works" occupied less space than a parked car.

Added by Martin Cassini on February 22, 2010 at 12:30 — No Comments

Crash Blossoms

From Simon Hoggart in The Guardian 13.2.10. "Crash blossoms" are headlines which mean something ridiculously different from the intention, e.g. Eighth Army Push Bottles Up Germans, or Red Tape Holds Up New Bridge, or Doctor Helps Dog Bite Victim. They arise because English nouns, adjectives and verbs are uninflected. The phrase "crash blossoms" comes from a headline in Japan Today about a musician whose career had flourished even after her father had died…


Added by Martin Cassini on February 16, 2010 at 16:30 — No Comments

Blossoms in the Dust

This 1941 Mervyn Leroy film stars the impeccable Greer Garson as Edna Gladney, an early campaigner for children's rights. Gladney successfully lobbied the Texas legislature to remove the stigma of illegitimacy from birth…


Added by Martin Cassini on February 16, 2010 at 15:30 — No Comments

Are you a sheep?

Today I received an email from a traffic engineer who wrote: "You simply cannot present a case against signals as you are not a signals expert and do not address all the reasons for them; you generalise and choose to ignore any evidence that they might be suitable at certain locations". Actually, I've always said that signals might be needed at major junctions at peak times, although I add, "but how do we know until we've tried it"? If traffic "experts"…


Added by Martin Cassini on February 16, 2010 at 8:00 — No Comments

Education parallels

Professor Dylan Wiliam thinks the calls for a new education debate could delay change. "We don't need one because we know what we need to do" [improve the quality of teaching]. Is the same true of traffic system reform? In the wake of Portishead, Bristol is planning a couple of minor lights-off trials of its own. The elected councillor gets the ideas and wants action on a large scale, but he is trammelled by unelected officers whose raison d'être is to…


Added by Martin Cassini on February 16, 2010 at 8:00 — No Comments

Killing fields - roads governed by priority

Below is a classic (appalling) case of closing the stable door. A signal-controlled junction in East Boldon near Sunderland has claimed another life (12 personal injury "accidents" in the last decade). Instead of removing the source of the danger - traffic lights based on directional…


Added by Martin Cassini on February 10, 2010 at 14:30 — No Comments

The evidence of your own eyes. Irrelevant?

There is a tendency among traffic engineers to dismiss eye witness accounts as anecdotal evidence, and direct experience as irrelevant. If it can't be counted, it doesn't count. If it can't be weighed or measured, it doesn't exist. A remark overheard at a traffic management meeting seems to sum it up. "Our traffic systems would work fine if it weren't for the problem of pedestrians."

Added by Martin Cassini on February 4, 2010 at 22:00 — No Comments

Adversarial culture

Have we got the roads we deserve? Are they a reflection of the selfish side of the English character? The culture of the road is like the culture of Parliament or English law: adversarial, competitive. Instead, to make Roads FiT for People, we need coalition, co-operation, consensus.

Added by Martin Cassini on February 3, 2010 at 21:30 — No Comments

Bristol lights-off trials

In the wake of our Portishead proof (cuts in journey time of over 50% and no incidents since the lights went out on 14 September last year), Bristol is committing to a couple of trials. Too few and too small in my view, and deregulation is not enough on its own. Among other essentials is a shift in public awareness. Story here.

Added by Martin Cassini on February 2, 2010 at 11:00 — No Comments

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