British roads have nearly always featured ‘keep left signs’ which have traditionally consisted of illuminated plastic columns about three feet high and twelve inches wide. They’re generally positioned at wider junctions, especially at points where pedestrians may need to cross the road.
Unfortunately they were vulnerable for two reasons. First, their position on the road meant they had a tendency to get crashed into by careless drivers. In order to avoid more damage than necessary, therefore, these ‘bollards’ were designed to separate easily from their bases, ‘snapping out’ rather than breaking off.
Sadly, while this made sense for safety reasons, it led to the signs’ second vulnerability. They became a tempting target for late-night revellers on their way home, who had a tendency to snap them out of their mounts and re-locate them in such places as somebody’s front garden.
Now I viewed the old signs with a degree of affection, but like all things they’re going the way of the 21st century: yes, we now have bendy ones. They feature a kind of stiff rubber hinge at their foot and are flat rather than square-sectioned, so if a car whacks into them they flip down, then spring back up again.
Their designers have discovered that resilience comes not through rigidity but by building in the ability to flex and self-right.
And maybe what goes for street furniture also applies to emotional strength? When life’s thoughtless drivers try to knock you for six, perhaps it’s more about how you recover rather than how you fail to repel in the first place.
So the next time something untoward happens, you have my permission.
Just think ‘bendy bollards’.