It is only a few months since Oxfordshire County Council did major works in the Cowley Road. Their “improvements”, allegedly on grounds of safety, led a correspondent in the Oxford Times to ask if the highways officers were seeking revenge for some childhood injury at the hands of a cyclist by creating a series of death-traps.
Certainly I find it more dangerous as an occasional driver there, as cyclists negotiate the chicanes and dodge the buses. These used to proceed in a straight line, but now dart in and out of the expensively curved bays and round the obstructions deliberately placed in their way by the unthinking dead-heads of County Highways.
Now they are back again, as I found when I had to go down that way on Sunday and sat with others in fume-generating queues waiting for the lights to change. It is not clear what they are doing. Past form suggests several possible reasons for this second bite.
One possibility is that the original works were poorly executed and inadequately supervised; this may be remedial work. Another is that some bright spark (I speak ironically here – they don’t do bright at Oxfordshire Highways) has realised that an opportunity was missed to bugger up the traffic flow a bit more or to impose an extra loop in your journey.
It may be the opposite – that they have found some gross error requiring that the original work must be undone (anyone else remember the cobbled cycle lanes by the station or the speed bumps up Longwall which they had to remove?).
Perhaps they have just found some unspent budget and need to blow it quickly. Possibly a County councillor has found out that one of his colleagues is about to spend more than he has spent this year and needs to keep up in the profligacy race.
I have no doubt that the budget includes a big sum for all those signs and notices and other street clutter which the dead-heads need like an addict needs a fix.
If Gordon Brown wants to see where the money disappears to, he could start in the Cowley Road. I suspect he would approve, in fact. For him, the spending seems to be the objective; you have a result merely by showing an outlay. Just like the little men of Oxfordshire County Council.