‘Road safety week’ concluded last week; appropriately, I thought I’d share a small story of how boggling backward Britain is when it comes to prioritising walking and cycling in urban areas, and how we deal in such a peculiar way with issues of safety.
Arunside is a small cul-de-sac, close to the centre of Horsham.
There are only 62 separate properties in this cul-de-sac; that means the number of movements in and out of this close is minimal (or at least should be).
Only a matter of a few yards from Arunside are two primary schools. St John’s Catholic Primary is on the east side of Blackbridge Lane, and Arunside Primary School on the west, adjoining Arunside itself.
In the 2011 census, there were 165 pupils attending Arunside, and 190 at St John’s. Around three-quarters of Arunside pupils walk to school, with the remaining quarter driven. The picture is less rosy at St John’s, where 60% are driven to school, and the remaining 40% walk. (You can find the census data for these schools here; but see the ‘health warning’ here).
Taking these two schools together, it’s reasonable to assume that there are around 150 motor vehicles arriving in this area and leaving again, every school day, both in the morning, and again in the afternoon, to drop off and pick up children.
In Summer 2012 – after much lobbying – the schools gained a zebra across Blackbridge Lane, the road dividing them. (You can see this crossing on the aerial view, above). This crossing has been accompanied by a School Safety Zone (SSZ) which attempts to stop parents parking on the road right outside the schools, with gigantic zig-zag markings –
… And a 20mph limit that only comes in to force at school opening and closing times.
These (minor) interventions are welcome, and probably go some way towards explaining why Arunside, at least, has a reasonably good walking to school rate. However, virtually no children are cycling to these schools; Blackbridge Lane remains a hostile road, with a 30mph limit outside of this tiny (temporary) 20mph zone, and with plenty of motor traffic using it as a rat-run to bypass the traffic signals and queues in the centre of the town.
That still leaves around 150 motor vehicles arriving and departing twice a day; this presents a problem for the surrounding streets and cul-de-sacs – in particular, Arunside, as we shall see.
I was recently told that a lollipop lady actually volunteers here to allow school children, and their families, to cross this cul-de-sac. Not the main road between the schools; only the entrance to this dead-end road.
I couldn’t quite believe this, until I passed by and saw it happening for myself.
Reminder – this a very minor side street, containing only around 60 properties. Why is a lollipop lady needed to help children cross it?
The simple answer is – because of the large number of cars being driven in and out it, at school time, by parents using it as a car park to drop their children off. The two cars in the photograph above – one entering Arunside, one leaving – are, of course, parents on the school run.
So a problem is evidently being created by the amount of cars being driven into and out of Arunside, during the school run. But the solution isn’t to ban parking here, or to redesign the junction so that the children walking across this side street have priority.
No, the solution is to get a volunteer to stand here in a hi-viz jacket, twice a day, in an attempt to alleviate a problem that shouldn’t even exist in the first place.
That’s how we do things in Britain!