If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 4 March 2011

Hey Diddle Diddle

I was alerted by an email from Brian (tyvm) to this story from the Daily Mail:
A road safety body's failure to read a map means no speeding drivers have been caught on the UK's deadliest road despite £1.3million of taxpayers' money being spent.

In a bid to cut the number of fatal motorbike crashes road on the notoriously windy 'Cat and Fiddle' road between Cheshire and Derbyshire, safety chiefs came up with a scheme to place cameras along the route to make sure drivers' average speeds remained within the 50mph limit.
However, they had reckoned without the existence (clearly visible on a road map) of a short-cut, freely available to all who use the road, which would have rendered any average-speed calculations meaningless.
But despite the huge amount of money spent on the project, catching drivers breaking the law has proved impossible as safety chiefs forgot that motorists can avoid the hi-tech camera system by moving to a side road and and rejoining the Cat and Fiddle about a mile further down the road.
Ah, but spending all that lovely free money was worth it, wasn't it? I mean, you have caught lots of speeding bikers and saved loads of lives, right?
Now it has emerged that with cash for the scheme in danger of being scrapped, not a single motorist has been prosecuted for speeding on a stretch of road that last July was again named as the UK's most deadly route.
I'll take that as a 'no', then.

Part of me is delighted that such a gnat-brained scheme has failed, and failed so humiliatingly, and part of me grieves for the things that could have been done with the £1.3m, such as schools and hospitals. But there is a more general point to be made.

For one thing, there is no such thing as a dangerous road; only a dangerous driver/rider. OK, I will allow that this road in Bolivia:

given the vertical drops, lack of protection and heavy traffic use is objectively dangerous, but not this one:

Barriers, signage, smooth tarmac - it's as safe as houses if you treat it properly. You could kill yourself on it, but it's unlikely you would do so unwittingly.

But it seems to me that the Cheshire Safer Roads Partnership have got their strategy entirely wrong.
The bill for the cameras is £800,000 but road safety measure including reducing the speed limit, installing high-friction surfacing, barriers and signs, widening the carriageway, and using mobile speed cameras means £500,000 had already been spent on the route.
Reducing the speed limit is pointless, believe me. If riders are going to challenge themselves to ride the Cat and Fiddle, a number on a stick, however low, isn't going to make the slightest difference. And the theory of risk homeostasis tells us that any measure to make a road 'safer' will only encourage people to go faster. Road straightening, good surfaces, clear sight-lines all make a road easier to ride fast. And people will. I am no arse-in-the-air racer, but if I see a corner coated with that nice Shellgrip, I will take advantage. All their 'measures' are doing is making it easier for riders to go stupidly fast, and when they have their accidents they will be that bit more serious.

If they really want to slow riders down on the Cat and Fiddle, the answer is a simple one: rip up the tarmac and replace it with cobblestones, and then tear down the barriers and line the corners with barbed wire. Just don't tell them I said so.


  1. Cor Richard, the Daily Fail are really on the ball.

    MCN reported that story 2 weeks ago.

    I wonder if their editorial policy is to delay publication of stories they've pinched, hoping readers will have forgotten the original source?

  2. With MCN, I sometimes wait a while to see if a story appears in other media, you know, to see if it's true :)

  3. High friction surfacing? Whoopheeeeeeeee - I can now corner at a constant 50mph without losing traction.

    What a complete fiasco those cameras are - I could not believe my eyes when I drove back home from Buxton last Easter and saw those eye sores sitting there like Aldous Huxley memorials.

  4. Like wind turbines with added greed.


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