Thursday, September 03, 2009

Public autism

Allan rang yesterday to report that he had been into the central police station to enquire about road closures for sunday morning, as Kidney Wales have a 10k race, on Sunday morning, mainly in Bute Park, but ending outside the Millennium Stadium. This means Westgate Street will be closed to traffic possibly at the very time churchgoers are coming in for services.

The police had no record of road closure this coming Sunday, no inkling. After all, the Kingsway is reduced to half its usual size due to roadworks, already causing massive congestion daily. So naturally this led us to conclude that the end of the race had been re-routed.

Just to double check, I went on the race website, and saw that the map was unchanged, so I emailed the race organiser to flag this up, as a wrong map could be misleading to some. I had a swift reply assuring me that the road would be closed and that the finish would be as planned in Westgate Street. For the first time in the two months since the race route was announced, I was given actual road closure times. Not that I hadn't already asked the race organisers several times and Council officials responsible for traffic management - each time my request for factual information had been ignored. Not even a polite 'I don't know, I'll find out and get back to you.'

So what is going to happen on Sunday morning, if the police are still unaware of the event at this late stage, even though the organisers can name names of police and Council collaborators and claim that all is organised? We're talking of hundreds if not thousands of runners of the street around the castle wall, running through a road works area already constricted.

The least worst scenario is that the police enquiry desk was at the time of Allan's visit staffed by someone who wasn't briefed, or that information about arrangements, whatever they might be had not yet trickled down the chain of command to the front of house. As for the public who are not out there running, but wanting to get into work, go shopping or go to church - evidently there is little concern about them, and what they might do if they got seriously fed up.

The Council's highway department is supposed to work closely with the police, and for the most part it does so reasonably well, but, like the police, it is utterly hopeless when it comes to keeping the public in the picture. You'd think people in public service would be interested in making sure properly that the public knows what is going on, yet so often there is ambiguity and confusion if not contradiction in the information and messages conveyed. And sometimes just silence.

It seems to me they all live in their own world, out of touch with reality. Public autism, I call it. They should all get out from behind their computer screens and on to the streets a bit more, watch listen and discuss things with people from day to day, not just at 'special consultations' and committees. It took a month for me to get an acknowledgement from a senior Council officer with a p.a. and staff team to an email I wrote after spending an afternoon in town analysing the difficulties being reported by bus users during the period of bus stop location changeover, and suggesting a simple solution. Too busy even to set up an email auto-reply?

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