There is an interesting letter on various highways points in this week’s Oxford Times from Keith Mitchell, the Leader of Oxfordshire County Council. His wet rag colleague, Ian Hudspeth, is actually in charge of highways, but I guess that Mitchell has despaired of his ability to get across the council’s views – Hudspeth seems to be the highways officers’ poodle, which is a bit like having the governor of the asylum counter-signing the inmates’ letters.
Amongst Mitchell’s topics is one I wrote about last week – the temporary mini-roundabout at the junction of Worcester Street, Park End Street and New Road. I wrote (Money no object at New Road ) of my original assumption that the new roundabout was to be additional to the lights, as the officers’ belt-and-braces solution to gumming up the traffic-flow completely, but that I had then realised that the roundabout was temporary whilst Castle Mound was being repaired.
It is interesting that the temporary mini-roundabout…. Is working much better than the previous traffic lights and I am urging our highways engineers to keep it in place and to sell on the redundant traffic lights to an emerging nation!
Well, good luck with that one, Keith. You can just picture a highways dummy trying to get his mind round the idea that a stop-start blockage every few yards might not be a good thing. They have devoted years to the expensive invention of artificial jams. The idea that motorists might marshall their own priorities to keep the flow going is going to be hard for them to accept.
And as for giving away traffic lights, I am sure they will find somewhere else in Oxford to put those. When all this nonsense started, in the mid-70s, there was a persistent rumour that someone from the highways authority was getting a kick-back for every set of lights installed. So many new sets of lights went up, with such an obviously deleterious effect on traffic-flow, that we looked for some hidden motive for buying them. Looking back, the reason then was the same as now – dim people imposing their own barely-functioning thought-processes on the rest of us. We see the result when the lights fail at Frideswide Square. Everybody manages, and traffic actually flows properly. If that had been designed as a roundabout, as everyone but the highways people urged, the western approach to Oxford would have been transformed.
Keith Mitchell is rather brighter and more dynamic than the general run of County Councillors, most of whom look as if they are collectively on the run from the waxworks at a Breznev-era mausoleum. Might he be persuaded to run his eye over some of the other deliberate blockages in Oxford’s streets?