OPINION: Nobody seems to care about abandoned traffic cones in Norfolk

Works to improve Tombland for pedestrians and cyclists has begun. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Traffic cones galore in Norwich's Tombland during recent works. Reader Ian Williams asks what will happen to the ones that aren't collected - Credit: Denise Bradley

Reader Ian Williams asks why so many traffic cones seem to be left behind on our streets

Some like standing sentinels, some resting their weary heads, their fellows are skeletons, standing or lying face down but all litter our verges, pavements, streets and waterways across the county.

They all mark a past usefulness for the safety of road users and pedestrian alike.

Our countryside, towns and villages are being swamped by abandoned roadwork cones, signs and barriers, which the utilities and road menders leave lying about for vegetation to envelope for 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000 years.

Archaeologists in the future will have an abundance of partially decomposed roadwork metalwork signs and plastic cones to mull over in their finds tray.


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The environment will also take a hit in the long term, something Sir David Attenborough has been warning us of.

It might not affect us in the short term but the long term the consequences are undefined. Plastic microparticles will seep into the ecosystems, which include plants, animals, birds, fish and insects.

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From there, they will ultimately reach the bodies of us and our children, and our children’s children.

So why does this happen? Perhaps there are a number of reasons that could be given. First no one gives a stuff about the missed signs or cone that is failed to be collected.

Companies have thousands more to call upon on the next job, so the one that goes missing is not really missed and, hey, it has been paid for 1,000 times over, in fact every time there are roadworks.

Clearing and collection of roadworks signs and cones is a rush job.

Who cares if one is left? Who is counting?

In fact, that is a great question. Who does count?

A simple hole in the ground spawns an overload of cones, signs and notices warning the public of danger not only around the hole but for metres before and after in both directions.

Back to the rush to clear, does it really matter if a sign or cone is left? Who checks? The Highways Authority? No.

Road signs and cones take a battering. From drivers, the elements (wind especially) and the reveller.

Cones are taken, worn the head, deposited onto a bus stop, over a hedge or into a dyke or river.

The roadwork sign blows over, for weeks it lays face down, advising ants and other smaller insects of the danger ahead of men working.

They remain in their prone state as the vegetation envelopes the sign for all time. Camouflaged from sight.

Danger is ever present. Walking around the city, many road signs present a trip hazard as they lie down on the job.

In fact, more often and not long-term roadworks just sees many signs face down, advising no one of the hazards ahead.

Makes one wonder are they really necessary? Empty frames standing alone on pavements present a hazard particularly to the partially sighted or blind.

Their grey slim metalwork is hard to spot.

Even when signs are reported, it seems that it takes ages for any action.

Repeated reporting of abandoned signs and cones fail to get them cleared. Covid-19 has been cited as a reason, but surely one person in a pick-up truck can start tackling the backlog of roadwork detritus to clear our countryside and towns of these without close contact of other beings.

Inspections of former road workings would soon highlight any errant signs that have failed to have been collected. Inspectors must already inspect the road/pavement network to ensure all is safe to use.

The recent major works in Tombland and Duke Street in Norwich will have some cones and signs left lying about – for how long?

Questions need to be asked to the operators, the Highways Authorities (Norfolk County Council and Highways Agency) about their obligation to clearing up after them and protecting the environment, health and safety of pedestrians and vehicle users.

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