This question has crossed my mind many times over the last few years, and the frequency is getting shorter. It’s usually prompted by an obtuse decision made by some wonk either associated with local government or some other jobs-worth who decides to intrude in my life. The latest muse came about due to the following:
I have a friend who runs a small retail business in a town near where I live. She has been up and running just under two years and as with other small businesses in the current climate, it aint easy. You would expect that the local council would do their best to encourage small local businesses and help them out anyway they can. Nothing could be further from the truth.
About 3 months ago, after having a small advertisement board outside the shop for nearly 18 months, she received a letter from Highways (part of the county council). In this it stated that they had received a complaint over a similar sign outside an adjacent cafe and that forthwith, all signs must be removed from the path. (The path, incidentally, is part of a non-vehicular access street which is at least 18 feet wide, so not narrow). It quoted the relevant section of the Highways Act and explained that it took the health and safety of those with poor vision, mothers with buggy’s and wheelchair users etc very seriously. It went on to say that failure to comply would result in a fine of up to £2000!!. My friend rang Highways and explained that no-one had ever tripped over or otherwise failed to see her sign, and that removal would have a detrimental affect on her business. She also went on to point out that many other businesses had similar boards and they had not received letters. At this point, wonk on the other end of the phone confirmed that all where regarded as hazards and were illegal but that other officers who cover those areas were probably USING THEIR DISCRETION AS TO WHETHER THEY WERE A HAZARD!. Hang on, you just said it was illegal. It’s either illegal or its subject to discretion, it can’t be both!
What really annoys me is that these people can’t seem to even think for themselves, certainly can’t understand a reasoned logical argument, and appear completely unable to apply common sense to such a situation. Like the assumption that most people take the common sense option to avoid such signs in the same way they avoid lamp posts, litter bins and other such street ‘furniture’ that is around. But also take the personal responsibility route that if by some slim chance they do walk into one, they say, ‘hmmm what an ass, I walked into something and I SHOULD HAVE BEEN LOOKING WHERE I WAS GOING!!’
But no, in this Orwellian world in which we live, everyone has to be protected – “just in case”. To those idiots who think it can all be safe, there is no such thing as a risk-free world. In the end, there’s gonna be a gotcha. It maybe small it maybe big, but it WILL happen, and no amount of perverse legislation is going to change that.
As an aside, apparently in France, they have signs all over the streets along with cafe seating that goes every which way. Perhaps my friend needs to move to France.