Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Make it so, speed cameras, and stupid conversations

So only yesterday I mentioned that they'd missed a pothole on Bridge Street, I go over it this morning and it's been filled in, damn spooky. In sort of the same spirit a friend's been done by the new speed camera in Minster Road, the notice states it's the Stourport to Kidderminster, Mitton Town one. I presume that's the one next to the traffic lights as I'd expect the other one to be referred to as the New Town one.

Now I have a problem with this camera, not in its existence, but with how it's been set up. You're starting from a dual-carriageway (technically a triple-carriageway) running through a set of lights into another dual-carriageway that narrows with little warning into a single carriageway. The speed camera is set up on that second section of dual-carriageway.

I'll start with the obvious - it's a dual-carriageway, I know the assumption is that in a built-up area (street lights being present) the limit is 30mph, but it's a dual-carriageway and people don't think! So in the interests of keeping the speed down you'd think that the first investment would be in some repeater signs, just as a reminder - nope none present (well one, but I'll get to that in a moment).

The second problem is the placement of the speed camera warning signs, they're at the start of the second stretch of dual-carriageway; fine if you're coming straight up the first stretch, not so fine if you're turning left into it from Worcester Street.

Thirdly is the actual position of the camera, on its own pole about four feet past a bus-stop, which means it's invisible whenever a bus uses that stop-off point, it also obscures the only speed warning sign which is attached to the bus-stop pole.

Finally we come to the sensors in the road, raised strips of reflective white markers a set in each lane. The far lane, no problem; the nearside lane, the strips don't follow the contours of the road (did I mention it's slightly curved?). I'm not sure what that means for the calculations, but if I drive following the road I drive directly over the markers instead of having them pass under me.

Now I'll just deal with the road layout itself, the initial dual-carriageway serves three functions, it allows drivers to overtake those who are filtering off to the left, it allows drivers to turn right, and it allows drivers to overtake stationery queues of traffic. It's the third function that causes difficulties, cars accelerate to overtake slow-moving queues then suddenly find that the lane they're in is about to disappear. Although in theory they should slow down and attempt to merge, this often proves difficult with both the amount of traffic and recalcitrant drivers. The only other option is to accelerate to get to the head of the queue, guess which option people opt for? Put a turning on the left-hand side into a housing estate just before this happens plus a right-hand filter from the other side of the road, a newsagents on the other side of the road, and have oncoming cars broaching the middle 'no-drive' section to overtake legally parked cars; and you've got an accident waiting to happen.

All in all it's a crap job, the official site at SpeedAware indicates that the cameras were positioned due to excess accidents

16 collisions involving personal injury - 3 in killed or serious injury category.
between 2002-2005. Not good, but consider that Minster Road actually extends from the traffic lights up to Kidderminster a distance of approximately 1.5miles. Did all these accidents occur only within the small stretch that the cameras were set up in? Who knows.

Now as I said I have no problems with this camera per se, so long as it's designed to perform its intended function - reduce accidents; it's not. Repeater arrows on the first stretch of dual-carriageway, turning the second lane at the traffic lights into a right-hand turn only, and posting signs warning drivers about the end of the second dual-carriageway; those'll help reduce accidents, but of course they cost money and don't bring any back in.

Just an addendum - stupid conversations. I've just had a phone call from a director of a company regarding electricity bills:
"I've talked to someone down the pub [sigh] and they've just saved a bundle on switching electricity suppliers"
"Well do they have both gas and electricity?"
"Nope just electricity, he says there's a program you can type in"
"USwitch.com, yeah I tried it for you the savings are negligible"
"Oh well can you try it again, he says we should be saving about £400 a year"
"Okay no problem"
"Oh and can you try it for [Director] too?"
"Well no, I don't know who they're with or their fuel consumption"
"Well you don't know ours either"
"Yes I do"
"No I meant ours not the company's"
"Oh. Well no I'll need to see a bill"
"Oh right okay"

I've no idea how he expected me to compare his personal fuel bills when I don't know who he's with, what his rates are, or how much he spends per month/quarter/year? I get similar conversations with this guy every so often all along the same lines - Can you do X (when neither I nor he knows the exact value of X)? I swear that when it comes to computers, particularly things to do with the internet, some people expect it to just know everything.

Tripping other neurons:

"I don't like these user names and passwords on these [telephone/electricity/gas] sites, why can't I just put in my address and have it give me the information?"
"Well what would stop anyone else from just typing in your address and getting your personal information?"
"Oh! Can't it just know when it's me typing?"