Saturday, 25 April 2009

Black spot for white horse?

Motorist don't just slow down and lose concentration when they see an accident site, they also gawp at landmarks and are advised by motoring authorities to pull off the road and then look, at the landmarks of course, not the accidents. Is the proposed White Horse of Kent going to create a traffic black spot?

Just in case you were wondering where you need to avert your gaze here is the BBC's list

The 10 most distracting landmarks in Britain
1. Stonehenge 2. Angel of the North 3. London Eye 4. Windsor Castle 5. Celtic Chalk Figures in Dorset 6. Wembley Stadium 7. Hadrian's Wall 8. Long Man of Willmington 9. Humber Bridge 10. The Wallace Monument

Friday, 24 April 2009

Bulk of the passengers

There has been a great deal of comment recently about the Ryanair proposal, following a poll of their passengers,to charge very fat people extra for flying if they overlap their seat Unfortunately this is not turning into the public relations disaster they deserve for pandering to their passengers' prejudice. They are getting publicity and not many are criticising them.

However their ploy is doubly cynical because not only are fat people an easy target, but also, as was explained on the BBC this morning, there is a perfectly well known example of how to manage this risk sensitively. South West Airlines in the US indicate that if you think you might not fit into a seat then you should consider buying the one next to you. In the event of the plane not being full then South West refund the cost of the extra ticket.

South West's approach is ethical and compassionate and a good example of thinking about the risks from the point of view of not just the majority but also of those unfortunate not to fit the seat space. They exhibit far better risk management than Ryanair.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Guns are bad news

I have never agreed with the statement from the National Rifle Association that "guns don't kill people, people kill people."

At the age of 11 ,when I edited the school magazine that I had founded, I was made aware by a poem that one of the other boys submitted for publication that guns came with problems. In praise of the benefits of using verse to get a message remembered I quote,

"Never, ever let a gun,
Pointed be at anyone.
Loaded or unloaded be
Matters not the least to me".

When at 18 I attended my first and only shoot, which was in South Africa with guinea fowl as the target, my very accomplished host lent me his over and under Japanese trap gun with no instruction whatsoever. Fortunately I decided that the aim was not to kill the birds, others were far more proficient at that, but to avoid killing the beaters or the other "guns". This I managed to do by only shooting straight up in the air and in that I was successful and the guinea fowl were shot by others in huge numbers.

Even knowing what you are doing around guns does not provide for complete protection from their malign influence. One of my colleagues was on the British Olympic shooting team which did not go to Moscow because Thatcher decreed that no British military personnel should go in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Another, much more tragically, worked as the plant manager for English China Clays in Middle Georgia where hunting is a very popular pastime. During a period of deep depression this delightful, thoughtful family man shot himself because the gun was downstairs in the garage
Guns are bad news.

Furry peril

Here is another example of unintended consequences reported by Kiwi Conservation:-

"Possums are not native to New Zealand. The first possums were brought to New Zealand in 1837 from Australia.Possums are native to Australia and are protected there.Possums are not a problem in Australia. Many trees in Australia have possum defenses such as spines, prickles or poisonous leaves.In New Zealand possums have no natural enemies.That is why possum numbers increased so fast. The possum is not protected in New Zealand, it is a pest.Most native New Zealand trees have yummy leaves and no possum defenses.The possum is doing a lot of damage to the native plants, animals and birds."

There are now 70 million possums in New Zealand.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Installed prematurely - a novel excuse

On April 8th I sent the following complaint

ComplaintsSubject: Road Traffic Safety

On March 8th 2009 I was crossing at 2.30pm Crutched Friars in the City, about 20 metres from where the junction with Lloyd’s Avenue is. Looking left to ensure there was no traffic coming, it being a one way road for vehicles I was almost run over by a bicycle coming from the right. My first reaction and that of the person with me was that the cyclist was in the wrong, but on observing the traffic layout there is an arrow and an island clearly allowing this direction of travel for cyclists. Having worked in the area for 10 years it was the first time that I had paid any attention to this because it never seemed relevant to any crossing decision I would make.

This is a very confusing arrangement for pedestrians, because it is so unusual and there is no reason to assume traffic is going to come from the right. In the event of a serious accident this could result in a corporate manslaughter charge against your planning department. There are far more pedestrians than cyclists in the City. I think you need to re-think this and any other streets with cyclists only access one way.

On April 15th I got this reply ( my italics)

I am sorry to hear of the incident on 8th March 2009. However, the cycling measures in Crutched Friars were installed prematurely by the contractor. Works at this location were stopped so that the issues can be discussed further. 'New' signs are still covered over.
Any cyclist using the street in the opposite direction to the traffic order and signs is currently liable for prosecution.
The Planning & Transportation Committee has resolved to review the introduction of the measures in Crutched Friars when it considers the results of the public consultation exercise on 7 similar schemes throughout the City. A thorough assessment of the proposed schemes has been undertaken using national guidance issued by the Department for Transport. Safety to all members of the public forms an integral part of that assessment. All these proposals will be re-assessed in the light of public and press reaction received and your concerns will be included in the report to the Planning & Transportation Committee.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Winning isn't everything

When a culture becomes too concerned with winning it can do some self destructive things and the damage is most often done by the middle managers or indiscipline amongst the staff.

Here are two examples from the last two weeks:-

* Maclaren Mercedes team telling lies to get an extra point in Formula 1.

* The Labour party apparatchiks cooking up a scheme to smear Conservative politicians in order to weaken their opponents.

The people who set the cultural tone, Ron Dennis at Maclaren for all those years and Gordon Brown, may claim that it was nothing to do with them - but they do not convince.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

A risk by any other name

On April 1st the G20 protestors in London identified my friends at the Institute of Risk Management (IRM) as one of their targets along with the Bank of England, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Climate Exchange. Fortunately in the event, the police kept them penned in for such a long time that they never got round to the the IRM.

Good thing too as the IRM is the training body for all types of risk management, public and private sector, but not the financial risk management the absence of which caused all the problems.

If their offices had been trashed it would have been the greatest case of mistaken identity since the diethylene glycol scandal when the Austrians added anti-freeze to their wines to make them sweeter and when the story leaked the Japanese stopped buying Australian wines.