Road cones and Christchurch. It’s a thing. Not so much a symbiotic relationship as a grudging one. We need them more than they need us, I think.
They’ve also become something of a symbol of the rebuild and there’s no surer sign that an item has wormed its way into the collective psyche than when it turns up in our art. So it’s no great surprise that the humble road cone has once again provided inspiration for CPIT Certificate in Design students in the exhibition ‘Road Worthy’ that is currently on in the Christchurch City Council foyer.
I happened upon the exhibition earlier in the week and it is filled with whimsy and humour. It is intended to acknowledge road workers and show appreciation to those still busy repairing our city’s infrastructure.
The exhibition is on until the end of next week, 20 November, at Civic Offices, 53 Hereford St and is guaranteed to give you a wry smile.
When a letter from SCIRT arrived in our mailbox earlier in the year, detailing the works to be done to the underground pipes on our street and those on surrounding roads, it was greeted with pleasure. The prospect of being able to ‘flush without fear’ after days (or even merely hours) of rain looked to be close at hand with the remediation of the nearby earthquake damaged storm-water and sewer pipes.
The road cones, signs, trucks and workmen arrived, did their job and departed. Or at least 3 out of the 4 of the traffic management crowd did. The little orange cones stuck around. Some of their whānau disappear for a bit, but still visit regularly for a party in the middle of our street or the neighbouring ones, for no apparent purpose.
Some days it seems my travel to and from work is book-ended by roadworks and the cones, and they appear on every second road in between. When I find myself faced with yet another un-notified unexpected detour, down a street going in completely the opposite direction to which I need to head (and of course I have allowed no time for in the morning rush of school and preschool drop offs), part of me thinks ‘suck it up, princess, the east side of town has been dealing with this for YEARS not just months!’ and yet I often still have the urge to scream and swear. I manage to resist, if the children are in the car. Usually.
I suppose I should be grateful I’m not in the traffic jam on the M25 in England, as depicted in the novel Jam. Or perhaps I should borrow some soothing, calming music from the library, and play it in the car during my travels…
Some residents in the city have even been sufficiently moved to write letters to the Press to express their feelings about the humble items.
What is your experience of road works? Have you found road cones to be little orange triangles sent by Satan to torment you at every turn, or are they bright happy indicators of important progress happening across our city?
Some people might think that I love road works with all the road cones, big trucks and stop’n’go men.
I do, sort of. It is a sign that things are being repaired. There is a great website to help you get around the city and suburbs. With a bit of planning, you should be able to get to where you want to go without too much difficulty.
What I don’t like is being detoured down streets I have never been down and sent off in a direction I don’t want to travel in. When I find I’m speeding down the road at a top speed of 20 km/h, I try not to stress over the fact that I’m going to be late. Sometimes, no matter what road I go down, I get stuck in a slow line of traffic, going the wrong way.
I took a walk with my camera around my neighbourhood this afternoon. Normally it is very quiet at this time of day. If you listen carefully, you can hear the local children playing at one of the schools in the area. A dog or two might bark and a few cars go by. Wheelie bins line the streets like a guard of honour and road cones keep us out of the pot holes.
It is a huge contrast with last year. Last year the neighbourhood was awash with water and silt as a result of the soil liquefaction. Road cones and wheelie bins were used to mark the sink holes. Neighbours called out to each other to see if they needed help and cars were abandoned in the street.
Today, most of the silt has gone, the roads and houses are pretty battered and the road cones are serving a dual purpose. The road crews put the cones where the road works and potholes are. The locals have put flowers in them as a tribute to those who died last year as a result of the February earthquake. They are not fancy, florist shop flowers. They are flowers from our gardens – in a cone near some vacant land, I even saw dandelions and yarrow being used.
For me these road cone vases are a quiet tribute not only to those who died, but also to those who were injured and to those who rescued others in need.
I have heard there are 60,000 road cones around Christchurch. I dodge street repairs and pot holes to get to and from work each day and I’m sure I pass most of the 60,000.
The Certificate of Design students from CPIT borrowed some road cones from Fulton Hogan and created forty sculptures. These works of art were on display in the Botanic Gardens, under a shady tree near the Peacock fountain.
I visited the gardens last weekend to admire the creativity that was on show. I was asked which one I liked the most. I couldn’t choose. Was it the shoe, the icecream, the gramophone player, the butterflies or the cone fish? Why not have a look at my photos and cast your vote?
Sadly, the exhibition ended on Monday 28th November. I don’t know what has happened to the cones. Maybe you’ll drive past one on your way to work one of these days.