Repolishing the Turd

repolished turd; the newly resurfaced A38 South

I wrote recently about the substandard advisory cycle lanes on the A38 South that have been repainted using LSTF money to make them 20cm wider (measured kerb to the centre of the lane divider, just behind the viewpoint, the lane is now 1.4m wide). The work included resurfacing a long a long strip where the cycle lane climbs the hill to Selly Oak. Almost unbelievably, just a few months later the entire carriageway on which the lane dividers had been repainted has been ripped up and replaced. The lanes have of course been repainted, and it should be no surprise that the opportunity was not taken to come up with something better. The carriageway was in a dreadful state (to the point of making controlling a car tricky in places), but the fact that the carriageway was in such an obvious state of disrepair just amplifies the equally obvious mismanagement that has happened here.

So these substandard lanes have now been painted three times in just a few years. Of course if at any time in the future government finally understands that to get the advantages of cycling you have to create infrastructure that isn't frightening and dangerous as far as most people are concerned, then the job will have to be done a fourth time. Wouldn't it have been better all round to do it right once, rather than doing the wrong thing several times over? Of course it would have. To quote a well-known maxim, to get something wrong once is unfortunate. Twice is not good but benefit of doubt can be given. Three and four times is just incompetence.

There are those who will make the excuse that the money came from different pots (indeed I've already heard someone say this), but ultimately it all comes from the taxpayer. We are always told "there's no money", but the reality is that money is just being frittered away.

I have been told that the reason why all this happened was because the first repainting overran its scheduled time slot. However, it only overran by a few months, and something as major as resurfacing a trunk road should be planned out far more than just a few months in advance. Planned maintenance is a formal engineering technique that means you plan to refurbish something before it reaches its expected end-of-life, and then you perform that maintenance, even if it looks like the thing being maintained might last a bit longer. Since the work is planned, it can be budgeted for years in advance. You do every job that needs doing, including upgrading to the latest best practice, and ensuring that what you build is fit for purpose today, not fit for purpose forty years ago. This is recognised by professional engineers as being less costly than patching and patching something that is long past its prime, and then, when the patches are falling off faster than you can apply them, doing the bare minimum in a panic, and then patching that because you haven't fixed all that needed to be fixed. Planned maintenance is the reason why so much infrastructure on the continent looks like it was designed and built yesterday. Here in Birmingham we are sending crews out to replace obsolete incandescent bulbs in traffic light boxes one bulb at a time (I know this because I was reporting them on fixmystreet.com until I got fed up playing that game), even though they all inevitably fail within a few weeks of each other. This strongly suggests a lack of planned maintenance. So we shouldn't be surprised that larger tasks are so poorly planned.

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Repolished Turd

repolished turd; the newly resurfaced A38 South
The substandard advisory cycle lanes were re-painted in September 2015, which necessitated moving the divider between the general traffic lanes. Then in February 2016 the carriageway was resurfaced, so they had to paint all the lane dividers again. This was done on both sides of the dual carriageway. The green is supposed to warn drivers about cyclists crossing the mouth of Cob Lane (behind the viewpoint), but for some reason this was not felt necessary for the far busier Bournville Lane (on the right, immediately ahead). The SLOW warnings were originally on a red background, and were repainted recently, almost certainly just after a serious collision at the Cob Lane junction (prior to that they had been very worn - see https://goo.gl/maps/Lh3SLRju3p32). The red background was not added back in after the resurfacing work, making the SLOW warnings not very noticeable. Note that the photo was taken on a Sunday morning so the lane width could be checked; at other times this road is busy with very fast moving cars, trucks, and buses. A high proportion of these vehicles are driven dangerously, and some are driven exceptionally dangerously.

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