Crossing the road

Some good news – eventually – in Horsham.

THE STAFF, parents, governors and children at Leechpool Primary School are having a triple celebration after winning their six-year battle for a pedestrian crossing and successfully passing two inspections.

The Horsham school’s active Travel Plan committee consisting of parents, governors, staff and pupils have worked tirelessly to see a crossing in Harwood Road.

Many of the original parents have children who are now leaving Millais and Forest, but have not given up the fight to realise this much needed safety addition.

The school’s business manager Caroline Dedman said: “We are delighted all our hard work has been worthwhile and now all our children in the catchment area have a safe route to school. This crossing will give our older children the independence to walk to school and safely cross the busy Harwood Road and for our younger children.

“Their parents will have peace of mind as they cross with youngsters and pushchairs without having to dodge the traffic.”

It is noteworthy that the battle to get this crossing has lasted so long that plenty of the campaigning parents no longer have children at the school in question; they have grown up and moved on to secondary schools.

The crossing is now in place across Harwood Road. You can see how the road used to look in Streetview.

The crossing now runs across this busy main road – which retains its 40 mph speed limit – from the footpath visible by the brick wall on the far side. It enables all the children and parents on that, the eastern side of Harwood Road, to cross it safely, and to get to Leechpool School on the western side. Before it was put in, the safest place to cross this road was at a pedestrian ‘refuge’ (a revealing word) some 100 yards further south. This was, with one other refuge, the only concession to pedestrian movements across the entire length of this three-quarter mile stretch of road.

On the separate, southern section of Harwood Road – also about three-quarters of a mile long – there is this charming, fortified arrangement to allow children to cross ‘safely’ into Kingslea Primary School.

Amazingly, the at-surface light-controlled crossing here was only installed in 2006. The barriers and fences at surface level were presumably designed to force impudent pedestrians to use the bridge, before the crossing came into existence in response to local objections.

Parents with pushchairs were complaining about the difficulty of using the bridge, with its stepped access. The most ideal solution, from the perspective of ‘traffic flow’,  was to have added ramps to the existing bridge. This was rejected, but, it seems, only on the grounds of cost.

the local desire for a road crossing which also meets the needs of those with pushchairs, cycles and very young children is well known. The decision not to amend the existing bridge with stepped access, to one with a ramped access, to provide this facility has already been taken on the grounds of suitability and cost. Experience of ramped access structures in other places shows that there are numbers of potential users who consider the length of ramp (up to 60m long on each side of the road) too long and therefore try to cross at road level – for example when in a  hurry.  The potential length of the ramps raises doubts whether there is sufficient land in the ownership of the County Council and the cost could be in the order £0.5m.

Trying to cross at road level? And with all those fences we’ve put in stop that nonsense? How impudent!

Naturally some parents and local residents expressed concern that the speed limit would remain at 40 mph once the light-controlled crossing had been installed.

local concern exists that this is to be installed in a 40mph section of road.   There have been strong calls, including from local members, for a reduction in the speed limit to 30mph in the vicinity of the crossing, as an extension from the existing 30mph limit approximately 150m from the west.

The call for a lowering of the speed limit was rejected by the council, because drivers couldn’t be expected – according to the Police – to stick to it.

such a change would fall outside of the speed limit criteria currently adopted by the County Council. The criteria have been developed in association with Sussex Police and takes into account local and national research which shows that drivers generally select their speed from the messages given by the surrounding roadside development and the prevalent traffic conditions.   It is considered that lowering the speed limit alone in this location would have minimal effect on the average speed of traffic.   Sussex Police would not support such a lowering of the speed limit here.  

It is revealing that, in the opinion of the local police, drivers simply cannot be expected to stick to posted speed limits (that is, to obey the law); instead they have to rely on ‘messages’ sent out by the surrounding roadside environment, which in this location consists a gigantic steel gantry, pedestrian fencing and extensive run-off areas.

70 mph it is, then.

Although the concern regarding safety for those crossing the road is understood, national guidance only recommends NOT installing such crossings within speed limits of 50mph or more. To assist in alleviating concerns and to enhance safety, it is proposed that high skid resistant surfacing be installed on approach to the crossing in both directions.

I’m not sure my concerns would be alleviated by ‘skid resistant surfacing’ – a more sensible policy might be to eliminate the kind of driving that needs assistance with the prevention of skidding. But sticking plaster solutions, and all that.

To return to the new crossing for Leechpool School, there is some interesting background on why these crossings take such an age to arrive, despite massive local demand for them.

The location exceeds the threshold determined by the Accident and Difficulty weighted Pedestrian and Vehicle count (ADPV2) for installation of a controlled pedestrian crossing.  The priority of sites is determined by utilising the number of vehicles and pedestrians and incorporates the pedestrian casualty figures into an approved formula, which includes a factor to reflect the degree of difficulty experienced in crossing the road. There have not been any accidents at this site within the last 3 years. Applying these figures to the formula the resultant score for Harwood Road is 0.86 where 0.7 is the accepted justification point.

This really is quite an awful way to assess whether a crossing should be built, because it makes the decision almost entirely on the basis of danger, and of the numbers of people who might be attempting to cross the road, without an appreciation that the danger itself might be discouraging people from even attempting to cross the road in the first place. If a road is extraordinarily hostile, then nobody in their right minds is going to go anywhere near it.

Crossings should, in my opinion, be put in to faciliate pedestrian movement; they should be designed to encourage people to make journeys on foot that they might otherwise make by car. This is not happening under the current system.

To take the example of this new crossing on Harwood Road. As it happens, it has met the criteria for installation, despite there being no accidents there in the last three years (this is, of course, a statistical measure of safety that takes no account of relative risk). But that could be because many parents on the eastern side of the road were packing their children into cars and driving them to school, because crossing Harwood Road on foot felt too dangerous. Or they might have been taking longer, circuitous routes on foot to avoid it; hardly convenient. Both these types of behaviour would have the additional effect of lowering the pedestrian count, and making a crossing even less likely under the ADPV2 criteria. I suspect it is largely the volume of motor traffic (and HGVs in particular, which count as 2.5 cars) on Harwood Road, along with its width, that might have pushed this location over the threshold for installation of a crossing, despite the attempts of a local Victor Meldrew to stop it.

You can see a long list of proposed crossings in Horsham here, many in desperately unpleasant locations for crossing on foot, most of which have been rejected because at present their ADPV2  rating is too low, below the 0.7 justification point. The lack of safe crossing points at these locations makes walking less likely, which in turn makes these places ‘safer’ and reduces the numbers of people attempting to cross. And so crossings continue to remain unconstructed.

Car dependency is inbuilt, and car use privileged, under such a system.

Still, it could be worse. I could live in Hull, where residents have been waiting 16 years for a crossing.

Another problem, of course, is that these crossings are very expensive, more so than a zebra (and even more than a ‘continental’ zebra, which is simply paint on the road), which are seen, incorrectly, as being less safe. They are usually funded from Section 106 money, and that very often dries up before crossings are even considered

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Department for Transport, Horsham, Horsham District Council, Infrastructure, Road safety, Town planning, Walking, West Sussex County Council. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Crossing the road

  1. davidhembrow says:

    Once you have the crossings, you then have the possibility that it takes so long for the little green man to appear that peestrians cross on red. Readers might like to compare this with the Dutch situation. For instance, in Assen, when crossing the ring road, the longest possible wait behind a red light for a pedestrian crossing the ring road is eight seconds.

    I cycled to Beverley once, and soon wished I had not gone there at all… Terrible place to get into, across, and out of again by bike. What a shame that what ought to be a really nice little town is so utterly dominated by cars. It is, of course, part of the East Riding of Yorkshire, precisely where Howard Peel worked and about which he wrote Confessions of a Cycling Officer.

    • One thing that I would add to your blog David is why the 4-8 second waiting time for pedestrians model doesn’t delay motor traffic, the same explanation you told me on the phone. That at some point the red light is going to have to happen, and some driver at some point will be affected regardless. It will make no real difference to motor traffic. But for pedestrians, there is no benefit by making them wait. In fact, it’s a deterrent to walking (and cycling at crossings where cycling is allowed). So it can only be inconvenient to make them wait longer than they have to. I always wondered why it doesn’t delay motor traffic until you explained these principles to me. Now I understand (I do wonder how junctions where motor traffic can also turn and there is a side road or crossroad also ensure low delay, aside from the possibility of protected intersections and simultaneous green allowing for right on red and the latter having diagonals in one go).

      Especially given that making walking and cycling attractive (as well as subjectively safe, and if it is not yet the case, socially safe) encourages cycling and walking, and this less car use, there would be less congestion. So any possible delay that motor vehicles may have is very likely to be offset by having more people go out of their cars and start walking or cycling.

  2. It’s such a terrible shame it took so much time and effort just to get a simple road crossing in! I can well believe that the faceless planners behind it all quite like to try and justify their decisions behind complicated formulas. Maybe if they actually got out and listened to people and tried to cross the roads themselves they’d understand.

    If they had then suggested the ramp conversion I’d sit them in a wheelchair and ask them to push themselves up a 60m ramp of equivalent grade and come back down and see how much they like it? If that’s too dangerous maybe they could take a double buggy up loaded with the equivalent weight of 2 average sized children?

    The opinion from the police in regards to the speed limit also says a lot. What hope have we got for safer roads if their attitude is “Well drivers ignore the law and we can’t be bothered to enforce it”

    I think all in all it pretty much sums up what is so broken about our roadsystem when it takes 6 years just to get a surface level crossing installed near a school. Mind you the most direct crossing outside my childrens school is a manned lollipop style one. Yet even with a guy decked out in a high-vis trenchcoat, carrying the obligatory sign and working right outside a school some drivers STILL can’t stop.

  3. Panjandrum says:

    It’s not Beverley but Beverley Road in Hull, actually!

    • Indeed so! Corrected, thanks.

      • davidhembrow says:

        Now you’ve made my reply above sound rather out of context. Actually, though, it doesn’t much matter whether you’re talking about Beverley or Beverley Road. The fundamental problem is that such delays are normal all around the UK. It amazed me when we were in Cambridge that nearly twenty years passed between a safe route between one of the villages and the city being cut off by building of a dual carriageway, and re-instatement of the route. The new bridge which eventually appeared looked quite good, but was actually rather too narrow for shared use and both ends were dangerous by design. However, when it eventually appeared it was greeted by a whole load of publicity and boasting, quite out of place with a 20 year delay for building something not quite good enough. Mind you, it also took years just to get a dropped kerb installed. A few slow steps like this are simply not enough to make forward progress against changes made to the roads for the benefit of drivers and the rise in driving.

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