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Summed up in nine words

23th November 2011

By Rob Cowan

Urban Design Group director Robert Huxford once said to me: ‘I have spent four years studying the law and practice of highway risk. Would you like me to tell you my conclusions?’ I have great respect for Huxford’s wisdom, but it sounded as though it would be a long session. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘but not just know.’ He told me: ‘I can do it in nine words.’

Now I was interested. I like compressed sense. I like the Nobel-prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman’s summary of physics in a single sentence: ‘All things are made of atoms – little particles that that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.’ So I thought I would hear Huxford out. ‘Nine words?’ I said. ‘Tell me.’

And he did. ‘Never make a place appear safer than it is.’

If you took a three-year course in highway risk, at least half of the syllabus would be covered by those nine words. The man's a genius.  

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