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.

Why 20mph speed limits, in residential streets, are a must

Driving on a local road this afternoon, on my way to deliver public meeting flyers. Suddenly, from behind a parked car appears a football, followed by a young lad, who luckily saw me and stopped chasing his ball.

If I was doing the legal speed limit and hit him, would it make me feel any better at all, that I was ‘in the right’ and he was silly enough to run out in the road without looking? Absolutely not!

The problem these days, is that far too many drivers see 30mph as a target to be aimed for, as opposed to the absolute maximum if, all road conditions are absolutely ideal – and that’s a very big if.   Parked cars, junctions, narrow roads and the strong likelihood of children out playing in a residential street at the weekend, especially if it’s not raining or very cold, all this means that 30mph on most residential roads, is unacceptable, legal or not.

Too many of us become selfish and blinkered when they get behind the wheel of the car, determined to get where we’re going, as fast as we can and with the least amount of slowing down, let alone stopping. You only have to witness the way so many drivers launch themselves at the traffic calming build outs, to see just how reluctant drivers are to have slow down if they can possibly avoid doing so.

I’m not claiming that my, ‘old-man in a flat cap’ driving technique, saved this child from serious injury or death, given that he put his breaks on when he saw the car. However, if the boy had continued to charge on, with only ball recovery on his mind and I had been doing 30 mph, the injuries sustained would have been far greater and far more likely to cause death, than if I had been doing only 20 mph or less and that is something I defy anybody to argue with.

Wygate Park traffic calming build out – a response from LRSP

Below, is the email I sent to Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership based on residents’ concerns about the traffic calming build out on Wygate Park, between Mariette Way and the Hayfields.   Below this, is the response I have just received back from one of their highways engineersImage.   

From: Roger Gambba-Jones
Sent: 06 October 2013 16:33
To: Stayingalive
Subject: Wygate Park, Spalding – Traffic calming build out

Dear sir,

Sometime ago you were kind enough to review the safety of a traffic calming build out located on Wygate Park.  On that occasion the build out, at the Monks House Lane end of the link road known as Wygate Park, was considered to be safe – a decision I agree with.

Unfortunately, local drivers have recently raised concerns with me regarding the build out located at the other end of Wygate Park, between Mariette Way and The Hayfields.  My position on this build out and indeed all of the build outs, has always been the same; it’s not the build outs that are at fault, it’s the attitude of the drivers using the road.

Having done some research myself, using an in car safety camera, the build out referred to appears to be at the optimum position, as it requires drivers to be travelling at a slow speed that would allow them to stop safely at the give way line, should they see a vehicle approaching from the other direction.

Despite posting a number of images on my blog, these residents still see this build out as dangerous and claim that it is only a matter of time before there’s a head on collision.  To the best of my knowledge, there have been no RTCs, or injuries associated with this section of road, but their view remains the same.

Obviously, as the local district councillor, I feel duty bound to do my best to address the concerns of residents, even when I don’t agree with them.  Therefore, can you please advise me on the design philosophy behind this particular build out and its specific location on Wygate Park.

Assuming it has not been done recently, would it be possible for one of your officers to take a look at this build out, in action so to speak, to see if there is something needed in addition to the existing signage, in order to get drivers to negotiate it in a safer manner than many do currently.  Thank you for your assistance.

My best regards,

Councillor Roger Gambba-Jones, SHDC, Spalding Wygate ward 

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Dear Cllr Gambba-Jones

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the resident’s safety concerns at the build-out on Wygate Park.

I have spoken to a colleague within Highways Division South who oversees this area and, although I have not actually managed to visit the site as yet, I have taken a look at the location on Google Maps Streetview (images from 2009). We are both of a similar opinion to yourself. The build-out seems to be more than adequately visible, with the appropriate signing and road markings. There is good forward visibility through the feature as well, so that oncoming traffic has more than enough time to adjust their speed accordingly.

I have queried our accident database which has records of personal injury accidents dated back to 1985 and is correct to 31/07/2013. Within the proximity of this feature there has not been any injury accidents recorded; with the nearest injury occurring at The Hayfields junction.

From our stance, I would suggest that there is nothing wrong with the road design at this point and in light of recent directives from the Department of Transport to reduce sign “clutter” that any additional signing or markings would not be advised. If the problem persists and is down to driver behaviour where they may not be adhering to the give way control then I would suggest that there could be a possible enforcement issue for the local Police.

I am sorry I cannot help you further, but unfortunately you have assessed the situation very similarly to myself and without drastic measures to force drivers to comply there is not a great deal we could proposed without “over engineering” which would be less desirable for all.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you need to discuss this further.

Regards, Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership

 

 

Wygate Park intentional(?) blind spot identified

1. Approaching the build out obviously sweeps left, out of sight, requiring drivers to slow down because they are unable to see if it’s clear to drive around the build out.ImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

In these two final shots, you can see the road beginning to open up more, as I arrive at the exact location of the give way line on the road.  Clearly, if the driver is to proceed safely, they will need to be going slow enough at this point to make a decision as to whether or not to stop on the line.
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Wygate Park build-out – showing that it’s not actually blind at all

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The build-out near the Co-op shop area is visible in the distance.  Even though oncoming drivers are on the other side of the road, my approaching car will still be visible to them IF they are looking ahead and IF they have approached at the appropriate speed.  A give way sign / line means, ‘be prepared to stop!’

 

 

 

 

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It could be argued that, if the trees and bushes on the right are not pruned fully, the view for drivers approaching the build-out, is obscured and they will not be able to see my car for a brief period.  However, this only becomes a problem if they have approached the build-out at such a speed, as to need to brake hard and pull back on to their side of the road, as my car comes in to view.  This issue would of course be made worse, if a car in my position was also exceeding the 30 mph speed limit, as some do.

The fact of the matter is, that the build-out is designed to work in both directions.  Not only should it cause the on coming car to slow, so that the driver has time to see if it is safe to drive on, it should also cause a car in my position to slow, having seen a car driving around the build-out. 

 

 

 

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As I’m approaching build-out, a car is approaching at speed and even though they must see me if they are looking ahead, they show no inclination to slow down and speed past the build-out.  Also notice the cyclist just passing through the build-out cycle path – you’ll see why in the next shot.

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Having forced their way through, the car driver continues on in the same unsafe manner, dangerously overtaking the cyclist.  Clearly build-outs don’t work when people are this ignorant. 

 

Why has Wygate Park got those useless buildouts?

The title doesn’t reflect my view by the way, but is a question sometimes asked of me by residents and drivers using the road named Wygate Park.  As an aside, I think that’s a terrible name for the road, as it seems to cause no end of confusion for people, even those who have lived around this area for sometime.  

As well as being the name used to describe the area of new development that was created off of the long established Woolram Wygate, Wygate Park partially shares its name with another long established road off of Woolram Wygate, Wygate Road.  Is it any wonder that people get confused dot com?  Anyway, I digress, back to the subject of this entry, the ‘cursed’ buildouts.

These buildouts were installed in response to the increasing concerns of certain residents and the councillors representing the newly formed Spalding Wygate ward, on South Holland District Council.  I have the honour of being one of those councillors and I make no apology for being partly responsible for this less than perfect traffic calming scheme.  Now for a bit of ancient history, as what was told to me, in days gone by.

Long before I even knew there was such a place as Spalding, let alone an area called Wygate Park, the chap who was the other district councillor for this area, was taking a very active interest in all things political.  Prior to becoming a district councillor, he had had a conversation with a member of the county council’s highways team responsible for planning, along with the developers, the roads in, around and through Wygate Park.  Apparently, the road now called Wygate Park was seen as a golden opportunity to create a defacto western relief road for Spalding and all at the expense of the private sector.  

When I first moved to Spalding, having been posted back from Cyprus by the RAF, I was baffled by both the width and straightness of a road supposedly intended to serve a totally residential area.  I very quickly came to realise that, once finished and opened all the way through to Monks House Lane –  we were living off of what was believed to be the largest cul-de-sac in England at the time, 540 houses with only one road in and out – speeding would quickly become an issue.

Incidentally, despite my concerns, a recent survey by the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership, suggests that the average speed on this road is actually 24 mph!  Not for the first time has this exact same figure been quoted to me following a traffic speed survey on another road, something I find slightly suspicious.

Once I became a district councillor, I made a point of voicing my concerns about the design of this road, as often as possible. Hindsight is a wonderful thing I know, but who in their right mind would plan a housing development the size of Wygate Park, on the wrong side of an archaic level crossing and then stick the equivalent of the A1 through the middle of it?  

To make matters worse and possibly because the county council had realised the potential for speeding on such a straight, wide and open-sided road, some totally useless, but very expensive block paviour platforms were added, supposedly as some form of – you’ve guessed it – traffic calming!  

Not only are these platforms useless as a traffic calming measure – I’ve yet to see anybody slow down for them – they also generate an inordinate amount of tyre noise, as cars enter and and exit them at speed.  I can only describe it as a sort of cracking sound. Having mounted a platform, often at speeds in excess of 30mph (notwithstanding the survey!) a loud buzzing noise can be heard again, from the cars’ tyres as they speed across the joints in the block paving.

So, with all these negatives in mind and having seen the impact a busy, fast moving road can have when it’s carved through a residential area, I was determined to do something about it, which brings us nicely back to the buildouts.

With all due respect to the very genuine concerns some drivers have for their own safety whilst negotiating these buildout, it’s not the buildouts that are at fault, its the drivers.  Taking the one near to the Co-op shop, just along from Mariette Way first.  I regularly hear drivers complaining that it is dangerous, because you can’t see what’s coming the other way until you are on the wrong side of the road – sorry folks, you’re wrong.

In the image below, using Google Maps street view, I’ve captured, as best I can, the view a driver sees as they approach the buildout.  As you can see from the white line on the photo, by looking well ahead, you can see all the way along the right hand side of the road towards the pedestrian refuge near Claudette Ave and beyond.  This of course is the same side oncoming drivers will be on as you approach this buildout.  IF a driver approaches the buildout at the right speed AND if the driver takes note of the give way sign and line, then he or she will have plenty of time to stop and wait until the road is clear ahead.  

However, if the driver approaches the buildout with the clear intention of not stopping, come hell or high water, then they will of course find themselves making a split second decision – should I stop, or should I go.  Now, because their approach speed was completely inappropriate, they will either find themselves slamming on the brakes, whilst at the same over shooting the give way line, leading to the need for an extreme piece of steering when they move off again or, actually needing to go even faster to get around the buildout, before then throwing the car back on to their side of the road, in order to avoid the on-coming vehicle!  Of course, had they chosen the right approach speed in the first place, all this drama and stress could have been avoided.        

Of course you might be tempted to ask, ‘but what about the bloke coming the other way, what if they’re speeding, I’ve still got a problem.  Not so; if you are driving at the right speed and looking far enough ahead, you will easily be able to assess the road conditions and respond accordingly.   

   

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Pause for the insertion of an extract from a driving tips website, that reminds us of how we were all taught to negotiate a give way sign, all those years ago.

How to approach a give way sign

Approach a give way junction using theMirror Signal Manoeuvre routine (MSM), or better still the MSPSL routine.

This is expected by the driving examinerduring the driving test. To establish whether you need to stop or proceed without stopping, you must assess whether the junction is open or closed.

A closed junction restricts your view of the road and traffic on the road you intend on joining, and open junction is clear to see and determine whether you must stop or proceed. See junctions for further information and a full explanation on open and closed junctions.

Difference between give way and stop sign

Both give way and stop signs are regulatory order signs. The difference between give way and stop signs however is at a stop sign, a motorist must legally stop just before the stop line before proceeding. This is often due to the area that the motorist intends on entering is highly hazardous.

Give way rules are different in that the driver must give way to traffic ahead but do not need to stop if it is determined that it is safe to proceed without doing so.

The same situation applies at the other end towards Monks House Lane, although I will confess, this buildout is slightly trickier, because you can’t see quite as far, especially when the the driver that doesn’t know what the speedo is actually for, is coming the other way.

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In summary, those of you who fear for your life every time you enter Wygate Park and have to negotiate one of these buildouts, should think back to when you were learning to drive and try to remember the simple rule – a give way sign means, be prepared to stop.  

The problem with us all these days, is that we’re all in too much of hurry and far too ready to push our way through, even when the traffic lights are on red – but that’s a rant for another day. 

I’m sorry if this all sounds incredibly patronising and superior, but this is my blog page and if I can’t be an annoying know it all here, where can I be? 

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.