Bungled barriers – and funny funding

This article was published in 2006, in Newsletter 69.

Diagram of the blind turn at the entrance to the underpasses at the Elizabeth Way roundabout, showing old and new barrier locations.
Image as described adjacent

We’ve received enquiries about why the barriers under the Newmarket Road roundabout have been changed to enforce separation between cyclists and pedestrians. In our view, the changes make things unnecessarily worse.

We understand from the Bridge Maintenance engineer who designed the changes that:

‘I had the three remaining old barriers replaced at the same time as installing a new one to replace the missing barrier. The remaining barriers had started to corrode at the bases and would have required replacement in due course, but it was cost effective to do all four at once.

‘I chose the same layout that has been successfully used at Fort St George, where the cyclists are separated from pedestrians at a corner to prevent injury to pedestrians.’

Sadly this is a total misunderstanding of the design – which we helped conceive – that is used at the Fort St George bridge. The point of that design is that pedestrians can enter the narrow section at the bend, completely assured that a cyclist will not run into them, because a cyclist won’t ride into such a narrow area.

The layout at the Fort St George bridge approach. The effective and well-thought-through barrier here prevents cyclists riding too close round the blind bend. A pedestrian can cut the corner safely.
Image as described adjacent

As you can see from the first diagram, cyclists, who come from the left rather than the stairs, naturally avoid running into pedestrians because the small visibility barrier, like that at the Fort St George bridge, helps avoid that.

The situation now is that cyclists will do exactly that, as both groups will turn the corner. In an attempt to avoid such collisions, pedestrian and cycle symbols have been painted on the ground, and are of course totally advisory rather than having any legal backing. But because the space is now narrower in total, walkers and cyclists quite understandably ignore the markings. Yet this merely creates more conflict as walkers sometimes feel “cyclists are in my space” and vice-versa.

Thus yet another ill-thought out change has made the risk of collisions increase rather than decrease. Had we (or anyone else) been consulted on this change, we would have pointed out this problem. All that should have happened is that the existing gate should have been replaced with an identical one.

Getting it fixed

We understand that reverting the change would involve spending money from the Minor Works budget, which has so usefully been used in the past to remove obstructions and install cattle grids on the commons.

However, we now understand that allocation of this budget has been delegated to the Area Committees, which are effectively local forums to see planning and other local matters discussed, which members of the public can attend.

In suggesting that the change be reverted, I was told that we are welcome to ‘attend the relevant area committee and suggest this.’ So now cycle campaigners and members of the public have to work out which of the four Area Committees should be attended, and go through that procedure. What a waste of time and energy.

Do motorists have to attend such meetings in order for problems they encounter like surfacing to be fixed? Of course not. Why can’t people just lodge a request centrally, and then the existing Transport committee prioritise these if there’s too heavy demand or if something is controversial?

Martin Lucas-Smith, Co-ordinator