If only people in powerful positions explained themselves a little better to the public, maybe we wouldn’t feel in such a confusing mess all the time.
Who can forget Nicola Sturgeon squirming in front of TV cameras while attempting – and failing abysmally – to clarify the gender identity definition of the difference between men and women?
During momentous disasters from the past, we might ponder how many times the course of history would have been different with a little pause for calm contemplation to allow further clarification or explanation.
Around this time next year, it will be the 170th anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade (it has a better ring to it than the 169th). Such tales of military derring-do shaped the British psyche.
It was all a big mistake, of course; orders from on high became muddled as they passed down the line. Why would 600 lightly-equipped cavalrymen make a suicidal direct charge at massed ranks of Russian rifles and artillery with heavy guns pointing at them?
Orders were orders, and they galloped into the pages of glorious military disasters because no one had the stomach to challenge them. “It was magnificent, but mad,” a French commander observed, which summed it up in a nutshell. The Russians thought the British were drunk.
Tennyson created his famous poem about the charge shortly afterwards, with its immortal line: “Into the valley of death, rode the 600”.
Bitter public backlash over bus gates
Drivers entering Aberdeen city centre also feel like they are riding into the valley of death these days; fearful of a labyrinth of new bus gates lying in wait. But I fear there will be more than 600 poor souls falling into them, as £60 fines start to bite like artillery shells from now on, after a fine-free grace period ended.
They probably feel someone was mad or drunk to dream this stuff up.
Just to explain and clarify, that remark was merely intended as a humorous figure of speech, not to be taken literally in this hypersensitive world.
There has been a bitter public backlash about bus gates, which many thought were more like camouflaged traps. They ban cars in these designated streets and stop free movement of drivers to go about their business by threatening £60 fines. Now, the roads are eerily quiet – reserved for half-empty buses and taxis.
Aside from suspicions about whether the bus gates are of any use for anything other than fattening council coffers, much anger was directed at the poor signage around them. Feeble warning signs on approach, and another hotspot where there is a new ban on a popular right turn near His Majesty’s Theatre.
I have to agree that the signs up to now were lost or obscured within all the other roadside distractions which shower drivers. A sea of confusion.
Stung by criticism, council officials rushed through extra signage in some kind of last-minute panic attack before going live.
What struck me was the language the council appeared to be using about agreeing to introduce “further emphasis”, and making things “even clearer” to improve the warning signs for those who still didn’t get it. It seemed to confirm what I and others thought all along – the warnings weren’t good enough in the first place.
No amount of tinsel can hide year-round dissatisfaction
When such monumental changes are forced through with scant prior public consultation, some fairly monumental traffic warnings are required.
I’d prefer towering, gate-like gantries spanning the affected roads, with flashing lights and signs screeching: “No private cars beyond this point – £60 fines”. Something you can’t miss.
The real test – and potential embarrassment – over the effectiveness of these warnings will be to see if a grotesque level of fines mount up. A previous temporary bus gate experiment earned a fortune for the city council, but it always felt as though they were sitting on ill-gotten gains.
Press and Journal reporter Lauren Taylor wrote a few days ago about seeing ‘distress’ on drivers’ faces as they became trapped in the confusion of bus gates
Everyone wants a vibrant and welcoming city, but negative reactions like this undo the good work. Yet, some things just have to be pointed out, or apathy encourages mediocre civic leadership.
I don’t want to be a Grinch when the city’s joyous Christmas Village has only just opened. But they say a puppy isn’t just for Christmas, and no amount of tinsel will cover over the underlying dissatisfaction throughout the rest of the year with certain issues. Issues such as bus gates, and antisocial behaviour by young teens, menacing shoppers with impunity.
Press and Journal reporter Lauren Taylor wrote a few days ago about seeing “distress” on drivers’ faces as they became trapped in the confusion of bus gates; it’s a sorry state of affairs.
I was behind another driver the other night whose indicators were blinking to turn right at HM Theatre. That was despite passing two small signs warning “no right turn”, but easily missed in the dark.
Off he went into the valley of death – another lamb to the slaughter.
David Knight is the long-serving former deputy editor of The Press and Journal