A final valedictory to my bête noire, the Banksy queue. We are told some 300,000 people visited Banksy vs Bristol Museum over the summer, most queuing for several hours in a serpentine column stretching up University Road and along Elmdale Road. Of course the Great and the Good didn't have to queue, either getting invited to private viewings if well connected or paying £25 a head to attend a special 'charity' viewing, but assuming the average Joe queued for say 3 hrs then the total time wasted in the queue was 900,000 hours, or 37,500 days, or over 100 years.
We can equate 100 years of wasted time to human lives. Average life expectancy is say 80 years (78 for men, 82 for women), although about a third of that is spent sleeping and the quality of the last 5 years or so may be very poor so we could equate a life to say 50 years of 'quality' time. One might of course argue about the quality of our waking lives, since much of the time is devoted to routine tasks that give little satisfaction in themselves, but let's leave that for another time.
So we can equate the time wasted in the Banksy queue to two complete human lives from birth to death. However few of those queuing were new born babes so we should take account of the average age of those queuing to establish a better life equivalent. Let's say the average age of visitors was around 30 and the average 30 year old can expect another 45 years overall of quality life, less one third sleeping gives net 30 years of quality life. So the time wasted in the queue was equivalent to more than 3 of the residual lives of those queuing. In short we can say the queue cost three lives.
Two weeks ago the Police closed the northbound side of the M5 Avonmouth Bridge to traffic for more than 6 hours because a man was threatening to jump from the bridge to his death, which he eventually did. The Police argued that the delay to motorway travellers was justified by the need to attempt to save the man's life and for the safety of those involved. But what of the life equivalence of the time wasted in the resulting massive traffic jam?
According to reports the traffic queue stretched back 35 miles to Bridgewater and many roads in and around Bristol were gridlocked as drivers tried to find avoiding routes. Difficult to estimate numbers involved but 35 miles (56 kms) of three lane motorway could accommodate around 33,600 stationery vehicles (5 metres per vehicle). Let's say that as it was a Bank Holiday weekend average vehicle occupancy was around 2.5 people so that gives us over 500,000 hours wasted. We can probably double that to take account of delays on the highway network beyond.
In effect the police decided to waste over 100 years of life, the complete residual lives of several people, in an attempt to save the residual life of a man of about my age, who on average one would expect to have little more than 10 years of potential quality waking life left. So the equivalent of ten 59 year old male lives were lost in a forlorn attempt to save one. It just doesn't add up and it looks as if the Police are beginning to realise what a major error of judgement they made.
In the same way Banksy and Bristol City Council decided to waste the residual lives of at least 3 people rather than charge for entry to Banksy vs Bristol Museum, a charge which might well have generated £5 million or more resulting in correspondingly lower Council Tax bills for all of us. What's more by eliminating significant queuing by charging a market rate entrance fee the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Bristol would have been freed from the captivity of the queue and able to spend more time visiting other attractions and would therefore have spent more money on goods and services in the city.
As they say, to err is human but to really screw things up you need a self-serving bureaucracy with a chronically risk-averse and economically illiterate culture. Or Banksy.