Only complaining via the letters page, achieves very little

Its always a bit disappointing when the first time you find out that somebody has got a problem, is when it appears in the letters page of the local newspaper.  It’s doubly disappointing when the person making the complaint is known to you, because you have had dealings with them in the past and have actually been successful in resolving an issue for them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not seeking to be the best thing since sliced bread – never really understood what that means – and be the go to guy for everything and everyone, but I’m just a bit nonplussed as they say, that this gentleman didn’t at least given me a heads up on the issue, at the same time as writing to the newspaper.  All that said, I have actually been looking into the issue of drivers allegedly ignoring the pedestrian crossing on Wygate Park, over the last couple of months, following a comment made to me by a resident sometime ago.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe comment was along the same lines as the letter in the press and although I have not witnessed any occurrences myself, it reminded me of my own concerns about this crossing.  Until the recent conversation, I thought it was just me and that I was somehow becoming less aware of such things and therefore needed to be on my guard when driving.  This is often a criticism of drivers of a certain age, so I had to consider it as a possible reason for my concerns, regarding this pedestrian crossing.  However, having heard these concerns from somebody of lesser years, I thought I’d do some further research.

For sometime now, I felt the crossing was somehow less obvious as you approach it in the car, than similar crossing in other locations – but only during the hours of daylight.  At night the opposite is true and I would defy anybody other than a blind person, somebody sleep driving, or somebody completely off their head on drink or drugs, not to see this crossing clearly.  Not only is it floodlit, it also has illuminated black and white posts, that work brilliantly in combo with the flashing yellow beacons that top them.

Unfortunately, during the hours of daylight, the beacons seem barely adequate and along with other surrounding issues, I wonder if this might be the cause of the alleged pedestrian near misses?  Does the background of nearby trees and branches make the beacons less visible than normal?  Is it the light units on top that leads a driver to see these as street lights, rather than the crossing illumination and warning beacons they actually are?  Could it the fact that the crossing actually sits on one of the traffic calming platforms, making the viewing angle from a driver’s perspective, shallower and the black and white crossing less obvious?

I’ve been in touch with the county highways department, asking all of these questions and they are of the opinion that there’s no problem with either the crossing, or its visibility.  As always, they are forced to look at getting the biggest bang for their ever decreasing buck, so they use the accident and incident figures for a given location, as a way of determining its priority.  In the case of this crossing, nobody has been run over yet and, thankfully, nobody has been killed, so it doesn’t even figure on the highways dept’s radar, when it comes to spending money on improvements.

I have made enquiries with a company that supplies beacons that have a ring of flashing LEDs around them, having seen how effective they are in other areas – Peterborough City seems to fit these as standard.  Unfortunately the cost, over £3000 per beacon (higher than standard, because of the integral flood light unit on top) makes funding any improvement from my ward budget almost impossible.  Just to make life a bit more difficult, county highways would still not sanction any changes, unless they received what’s called a commuted sum of £2,700, to cover the increased cost of future maintenance, or replacement due to accident damage.  Understandable, but nonetheless frustrating.

I really do hope that neither the letter writer nor myself, are proven right in our concerns and that the crossing continues to offer genuine safe passage to pedestrians crossing this increasingly busy road.

20 mph speed limit needed on our residential streets

Living Streets is a national charity that campaigns to make our streets and roads safer places for us all to use. Their strap line is, ‘putting people first’ and they have just launched a national campaign to encourage more councils to introduce a 20 mph limit in residential areas.

This is something I have been trying to get the county council to consider for sometime now and the more public support there is, the more likely it is LCC will give it some serious thought. If you would like to make the streets safer for our children, please go to the Living Streets website and take part in their ‘Show You Love 20mph’ campaign.

There would also be a further benefit to making the 20mph speed limit legally enforceable in Lincolnshire. Many of our schools have what is currently only an advisory 20mph speed limit on the street outside of them. This advisory status means that even when a driver is spotted exceeding it, the most they will currently get from the police is a ticking off and advice on being a more responsible and considerate driver.

Swan St Spalding closure – not yet it seems!

I had some disappointing news from the Lincolnshire County Council highways dept this am.  I had asked them to consider keeping Swan St in Spalding closed once the sewer repair work had been completed by Anglian Water, because the traffic flows in the town centre seem to of improved significantly since the work started.

Highways were willing to give the closure a trial period leading on from the sewer working, providing their informal consultation with local businesses showed overwhelming support for the idea.  Unfortunately, this was not the case, with a split of 60/40 in favour of closure for a trial period.  Because of this, LCC will now have to carry out a formal consultation exercise, contact any objectors and try to resolve their concerns and only then, initiate the trail!  To do anything else would leave them open to challenge and subject to official sanction for not following the rules! 

It would seem that some people have gotten hold of the wrong end of the stick on this one.  They seem to be under the misapprehension that it is the whole of Swan St that would be closed, rather than just its junction with Kings Rd, leaving the full length open for normal access from Winfrey Ave. 

Worse still, at least one individual, despite being asked for comment on behalf of the large retail outlet store he or she manages, responded by saying, “I object because it will take me longer to get to work”. 

I will try to be charitable as we approach Christmas and put this response down to a very busy manager, not really thinking about the long term implications of what they have written.  On the other hand, it could a short-sighted and self centred response from someone who cares little for his customers, the town of Spalding, or even for the increased carbon emissions caused by stop start traffic flows and tail backs that normally occur when this junction is open.

However, all is not lost and the highway authority has promised to look carefully at the responses they receive to the official consultation and to carry out a scientific analysis of the traffic flows if and when the trial period goes ahead, with a view to making the closure permanent.

Hopefully, our local press will pick up on this issue and encourage a wider group of Spaldonians to make their views known – only those in favour please ;¬)

Spalding, Wygate Park road works

Residents who are putting up with a fair amount of disruption at the moment, may be interested to know that this is all to do with getting the road ready for adoption by the county council highways department. 

I had cause to go and have a look at what was going on Weds night, following an email from a resident who had suffered a nasty shock, when his car received a severe jolt as he drove across an unmarked drop in the road surface.  The one he was referring to was particularly bad, because it was a trench some 50mm deep by 40 or 50cm across.  This was just about the right dimensions for your wheels to drop into and then jump out of it in quick succession – definitely something to make your teeth rattle!

As there were no signs warning drivers of this particular ‘trench’ in the road, I took it upon myself to seek out an unused (surprisingly given the state of the road) ‘Uneven Road Surface’ sign and placed it at the corner of Claudette Ave.  I was later told via email that I should not of done this as I wasn’t properly trained!!  However, I must have done something right, as it was still there 3 days later.

The email also told me the signs that were being used, were the authorised ones and were used throughout the country.  I agree, signs saying ‘Ramp’ are used on road works all over the country.  However, Wygate Park is the only road I know that has ramps at every junction along its length.  Is it any wonder then, that drivers who are familiar with the road might not think that these particular ‘Ramp’ signs referred to completely different ramps – or in this case drops – in the road surface and therefore received a very nasty shock when they hit them.

Having done my bit for road safety, I returned home and tried to contact the local police, to see if they could out some slow down signs overnight.  I eventually had to phone the non-emergency number for Lincolnshire Police, which of course took me to a remote control room and an operator who didn’t have a clue where Spalding was let alone Wygate Park. Having spoken to the duty inspector, I was politely told that, because the road was unadopted, they weren’t interested in responding to any road safety issues!  I then asked them if they had an emergency contact telephone number for the highway authority, no we don’t came back the reply.

Having failed to get help there, I decide to look at the LCC website.  This very helpfully told me that, if I had any out of hours highways emergencies, I should contact the police in the first instance!  Round and around we go!

Incidentally, thank you to a particular Wygate Park resident, who turned in to Wintergold Ave at about 8pm on Weds night.  Upon seeing me watch his car to see how the uneven road surface affected it, he decided to stop his car, wind down his window, ask me if I wanted a picture and then gave me a foul-mouthed tirade about finding something better to do with myself, than watch him driving (speeding) past me.  When told, ‘I am just doing my job sir’, he shout back, getting a different f*****g job!’.  Guilty concsience me thinks.  I don’t suppose I’ll be getting his vote in May then!