It seems that few people have complained about the piles of loose chippings with which Oxfordshire County Council’s Highways Department have resurfaced many of the roads in Oxford and the county. That is what a council spokesman says, anyway, according to this article in thisisoxfordshire.
That may be because some of the victims, like one known to us, are still undergoing hospital treatment to have the stones removed from their legs, where they lie deeply buried after a skid on the loose surface. The John Radcliffe Hospital has apparently seen several such injuries. I do not approve of ambulance-chasing lawyers, but there should be work for them as the pain subsides and thoughts turn to compensation.
It is not clear whether the county’s “spokesman” is a member of the Highways Department and, if so, whether he is any brighter than the rest of them. For the 30 years or so of my time in Oxford, that department is where the less clever of the council officers collect. Stupidity has been a kind of hereditary badge, passed from generation to generation, suggesting either that they mate to produce exaggerated versions of themselves or (more likely) that they never recruit people likely to challenge them intellectually, leading to an ever-downward spiral.
The article implies that scattering loose stones on the road surface is a cheap way to repair it. This is not a department which generally seems to care very much about how much it spends. All those unnecessary schemes of recent years – Cowley Road, the High, Summertown, the biennial works in Longwall – seemed driven by a desire to waste as much money as possible, with no concept of the difference between those which are “essential” and those which are merely “nice to have”. I suspect, in fact, that these were funded from different budgets, with kindly Uncle Gordon pouring gold into the pockets of anyone who came up with a scheme which ticked the right boxes. I wonder sometimes if it might have been cheaper for Brown to shovel the gold straight onto the road in molten form. Mere repairs, however, are a different matter – small budgets and nothing to show for it on the CV, so a cheapskate job will do.
What is really puzzling about the approach which just scatters stones onto the road is that it is so obviously going to cause damage and injury. WhinyRunts (this slang term combines the status of a certain kind of council officer with the ghastly noise which they make when they speak) are generally very nervous of anything which might conceivably cause harm, and they impose restrictions and penalties on anyone whose activities bring them within the wide remit of the armies of health and safety officials which infest every corner of life. Yet they happily throw down stones where vehicles will inevitably kick them up, and in a way which both brings cyclists down and guarantees serious injury when they fall.
Although, as a rate-payer, I will pay my share of the cost, I very much hope that people will claim, and sue if necessary, for injury and damage caused by this cavalier approach to safety. If the county council rebuffs your claim, be persistent and keep up the pressure. I don’t want to know about your every scratch, but I would be pleased to hear from anyone whose claim is successful. I am not at all in favour of claims for mere accident or for the outcome of your own foolishness, but where there is an obvious nexus between the conduct of the council’s dimwits and an otherwise avoidable injury, the council should pay.