Home | About me | Contact | What's new
 

Miscellany
Cable median barriers
Const complaints FAQ
Flashing Yellow Arrows
Fire the idiot engineer
Grammar pet peeves
Merge early or late?
The stop sign page
Traffic signal cameras


Twitter

Facebook

Blog

ADVERTISEMENT

The idiot who designed this road should be fired!

This page last updated January 9, 2017

ADVERTISEMENT

One of the most common remarks I see on social media and in the comments section of news stories about roads is something along the lines of this: 

"The idiot who designed {fill in the name of the road here} should be fired!" 

Besides being cliché and a patently inane and sophomoric statement, it shows that the person who wrote it lacks an understanding of the following realities. 

It's never just one idiot
First of all, it's never just one engineer who designs a road project.  It's always a team of planners, engineers, and specialists that design and review plans.  Those plans are vetted and approved by senior engineers.  This process ensures that designs are sound, address the need, are based on valid assumptions, and adhere to
relevant standards.  Plans for major projects are then usually presented to the public for their review and comments-- this is your chance to gripe if you don't like what you see and/or think you have a better idea.  If you don't participate in the process, you have little justification for complaining later.

You don't know everything
It doesn't cross most people's minds that maybe something is designed the way it is due to constraints or considerations that are not obvious to them.  Before passing judgment on someone or their work, you should consider that you don't know all the reasons for the decisions that were made in that project.  There likely is a good reason for the way something is if you just took the time to find out.  I realize in this day and age that many people are too busy (or lazy) to make the effort to learn the facts about something before shooting their mouths off, and that's a major cause for discord in our society IMO.  I'm sure you make decisions in your job or life that others would initially think to be stupid but that you had a legitimate reason for doing the way you did.  Consider how you would feel if someone without your experience came and criticized your work without knowing the esoteric details, policies, and other requirements of your job.

Nobody likes change
If the road you're complaining about was recently changed, then give it some time before drawing a conclusion.  Whenever a road is modified, it's often troubling to folks who drive it regularly simply because it's different, and in many people's minds, any change is going to be negative. 
But after some time when things settle down and people get familiar with the new layout, the intended benefits of the change are usually realized, even by those who initially hated it.  There's a whole psychology to how people react to change and changing something fundamental to someone (such as a road they frequently use) often evokes a knee-jerk, impassioned bellicose reaction that the person later realizes was unwarranted.  Changing something familiar puts people outside their comfort zone and requires them to have to expend some energy (even unconsciously) to learn and adapt to the change, a process that can manifest itself negatively.

Hindsight is always 20/20
On the other hand, if the road in question is older, then realize that when it was designed, it was designed for the traffic conditions and projections at that time using the standards that were current then. Since then, things have likely changed and now the design is obsolete. You can't fairly judge something designed decades ago based on the situation today.

Engineers are human, too
That said, yes, despite the controls in place, sometimes engineers do make mistakes (they are human beings after all) and sometimes things work better on paper than they do in practice.  Large projects are complex and have many details and moving parts that can sometimes get overlooked.  Everybody has projects
every once in a while that don't work out like they planned.  Traffic engineering is a lot of science, but also part art.  Both require some degree of trial-and-error on occasion.  Expecting engineers to get it perfect the first time everytime is unrealistic and unfair.

Let's fire everyone
I'm always flabbergasted that many people's first reaction is that someone should be fired for making a mistake.  Really??  Very few mistakes warrant being fired.  If an engineer designed a bridge that collapsed due to an error on their part, then that's probably termination-worthy. Otherwise, it's better in the long run to keep people who have made mistakes because they gain experience from them.  If every employee who ever made a mistake on the job was fired, then everyone would be getting fired all the time, including you (yeah, I said it), and we'd have a whole bunch of amateurs making the same mistakes.  People these days seem exceptionally quick to judge and alarmingly bloodthirsty-- what ever happened to tolerance and giving people the benefit of the doubt?  It's amazing how worked-up people can get about roads sometimes... occasionally it's justified, but usually it seems like a First World Problem.

Still have a complaint?
If you still have a legitimate complaint about a roadway and are calm, rational, and reasonable, then certainly contact the agency that's responsible for the roadway in question and express your concern.  Be specific, receptive, and respectful and you'll likely get results.  Sometimes, they may take your advice and make a change, but sometimes you may just get an explanation for why things are the way they are.  Accept that that's okay, even if you don't necessarily agree with it.

Finally, everyone is certainly entitled to their opinion and I don't really expect anyone to have an epiphany after reading this page (please let me know if you do!), but if you're one of the people I've been talking about, I hope the explanations on this page will cause you to take a beat next time before going off about the dolt who designed whatever is irking you at the time and consider that there's probably more to the story. 

A little humor to close on...





If you found this informative, please consider making a small donation to help support it. Thanks!
This page and all its contents are Copyright © 2017 by Brian Purcell

NOTICE
The information provided on this website is provided on an "as-is" basis without warranties of any kind either express or implied.  The author and his agents make no warranties or representations of any kind concerning any information contained in this website.  This website is provided only as general information.  The author expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based upon the information contained herein or with respect to any errors or omissions in such information.  All opinions expressed are strictly those of the author.  This site is not affiliated in any way with any official agency.