Thinking allowed — 15 May 2012

On a recent trip to Dorset I was obliged to the local authority for erecting a sign which informed me that the adjacent beach was subject to flooding, it’s always good to know what hazards lay ahead.

In London we have to blame King Henry I for the plethora of superfluous signage littering our streets imparting useless information. The good king deemed that a street could not be named as such unless it was paved and was wide enough for sixteen knights to ride abreast, while a lane had only to be the width of a beer barrel rolled by two men.

This Royal Declaration must have started a growth industry in signage that has continued to this day and is now cluttering every road in London.

Beach warning

“Humps for 263 metres”, “New Road Layout Ahead”, “Signal Priorities Changed”. Am I really going to check the distance I’ve travelled to ensure that I won’t encounter another street calming obstacle, or that I’m so bright my memory can clearly remember the timings of every traffic signal in London?

We now employ somebody to type drivel into a gizmo that controls the M25 overhead gantries, they give us such gems as: “Road Ahead Clear” with the approximate time it will take you to reach a destination you have no intention of reaching.

Only last week while driving along the A12 the Olympic Delivery Authority shared – via a matrix board at the side of the road – the priceless information that trials were taking place within the Olympic Park.

Sign not in use

Frequently we’re told, just in case there was any doubt, that “Sign Under Test” rather implying that the upper sixth is taking its finals and we should be quiet lest we disturb the examination.

Each time I pass a sign announcing “Concrete Curing” I have visions of a group of men in high-viz jackets performing a laying on of hands to make the road better.

Once I naïvely thought that they had been put up for the benefit of the public, but of course they are for the benefit of the erectors of the signs. So obsessed are they in our liability culture they put up these signs so when asked they can reply “well, you were warned”.

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