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The Flat Cap on ... Traffic Cones

Today The Flat Cap has been speaking to a chap working on the gas supply outside his house to find out more about traffic cones, and why there seem to be so many of them on our roads.

Traffic cones are designed to be highly visible and portable. It is for this reason that they are so popular with drunken revellers on nights out who pretend to use them as loud hailers, place them on statues, or simply want to be seen simulating sex with them – although the above list is far from exhaustive. At least one in twenty traffic cones go missing and the most popular places they end up are in other people’s front gardens, canals and student bedrooms (although the National Union of Students has unsuccessfully sought to challenge the last widely held stereotype). Traffic cones are like people, in that they come in all shapes and sizes. First patented in the USA they eventually found their way to the UK with the opening of the M6 motorway; where they have been a regular feature ever since.

Traffic Cone

As well as being used to cordon off hazards and work on roads and motorways you can now find them marking off marathon courses. When record breaking athlete Paula Radcliffe stopped for a toilet break during the 2005 London Marathon she was less than ten metres from the nearest traffic cone but unfortunately was so focused on the race that she forgot to hide behind it whilst paying her call of nature. Despite these public poo antics the British public took her to their hearts and she was allowed to keep her MBE and a BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. Cones can also be used to screen off areas such as slippery floors (see above), or as items to dribble around during football training. The English Football Association has a large supply of cones and encourages its elite players to practise their skills by running in and out of the cones, although there is no truth in the rumour that the cones once held England to a 0-0 draw in a practice game behind closed doors. When not in use for training purposes the Chief Executive of the FA uses the cones to create his own private parking bay at St George’s Park.

A Cones Hotline was introduced by the former UK Prime Minister John Major in June 1992 to allow members of the public to enquire about road works and report areas where traffic cones had been deployed on a road for no apparent reason. The telephone number for the hotline proved a complete waste of money, and having fielded fewer than twenty thousand calls it was wound down three years later. Today John spends hours on his allotment which is marked off from neighbouring plots by a series of old traffic cones.

In the absence of the above number The Flat Cap telephoned Alice at the Highways Agency and she was able to provide some interesting traffic cone facts:

• Traffic cones can be bought off the internet for as little as £3.79 • 1 in 9 male students in full time higher education has a traffic cone in his bedroom • German musical combo Kraftwerk featured traffic cones on their first two albums. In 1974 they then released the album Autobahn, which is another place you could reasonably expect to see some traffic cones • Traffic cones should not be confused with bollards, the latter being sturdier and not cone shaped • The Traffic Cones is a series on the children’s television channel Nickelodeon • Actor Dan Ackroyd successfully auditioned for the film Coneheads whilst wearing a traffic cone on his head • VideoLan use an orange and white cone as their logo • Wacky conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim paid homage to the traffic cone with a monumental sculpture of five cones, each measuring five metres tall • The equestrian Wellington Statue in Glasgow is renowned for sporting a traffic cone on the Duke of Wellington’s head • The best way to avoid people throwing traffic cones into your front garden is to buy a big ferocious looking dog

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