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Comment: Throwing cash at fixing something that ain’t broken
It’s comforting to know Hertfordshire’s roads are in such rude health that highways bosses can now turn their attention to problems that don’t exist.
As it must surely have been this lack of meaningful things to do that led them to decide one of the most pressing concerns in the county was that not enough workers on Watford Business Park are cycling.
And once this scourge was identified, it acted with uncharacteristic decisiveness to implement the urgently-required reforms.
Yet, as someone who works on the business park, I have been fruitlessly trying to decipher the logic behind these expensive bureaucratic exertions.
I won’t bore you with the details, but needless to say the business park has recently been covered in yellow lines and had a one way system imposed. On top of this, its roads have been adorned with cycle lanes with massive bike symbols painted on the tarmac.
Workers were informed this dynamic reorganisation was needed because in 2012 highways officials decided “to investigate the problem of vehicles parking on pavements at Watford Business Park, causing obstructions to pedestrians and damage to the footway.” Which is interesting as this was not a “problem” that seemed to in anyway perturb the people working on it.
This is an isolated business park on the edge of the town. It is hardly Oxford Circus. Nor is it a leg of the Tour de France. You just don’t see many pedestrians and cyclists up here.
Also, as someone who frequently walks around the business park, I had never found my path insurmountably obstructed by a parked car.
However, now the county has bestowed its benevolent reforms on the business park, workers have started noticing problems that were not there before.
While the new system has thankfully further opened up an already very large road no-one was having trouble driving down before, all the cars that used to park there are now cramming into already overflowing car parks.
Meanwhile, the one way system is not being properly enforced so people are ignoring it, thus making the roads around here more dangerous.
All this pointless initiative has done is cause a parking shortage where there was not one to alleviate a problem that only existed in the minds of county officials.
As a taxpayer, you may be wondering what the overarching goal of all this expense was. Well, according to the council, it had “the aim of encouraging modes of transport other than cars”. You may then wonder why the workers of Watford Business Park were singled out for such an expensive programme of encouragement. Possibly because it fulfilled criteria of being a destination that is only really accessible by road with an infrequent and expensive bus service?
But with the county council cutting bus subsidies, they cannot be suggesting that as a credible alternative to cars. So this seems an initiative purely aimed at shoving commuters out of their cars onto their bikes.
Personally, I live too far to cycle (and I live closer than many of my colleagues) and ever-increasing prices on the trains and buses combined are more expensive than running my small, fuel-efficient, low-emission car.
And that’s not even taking into account the unreliability of public transport, as regularly moaned about by our MP.
If politicians are really concerned about reducing car journeys, they need to make public transport effective and affordable instead of indulging in green tokenism.
The upshot of the current ingenious strategy appears to be to leave most of Watford’s main roads in a parlous state for cyclists while turning Watford Business Park into an unused Olympic velodrome.
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