Build bridges - they save lives

Speaker's Corner columnists -  Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
Speaker's Corner columnists - Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk/opinion, @peterboroughtel on Twitter, Facebook.com/peterboroughtoday
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Pedestrians and road users have one critical thing in common. All make mistakes. We call the result of their mistakes ‘accidents’. More often than not they are tragic incidents that could be prevented, says Julie Howell, of the Peterborough Green Party.

In 1971, when Peterborough was granted ‘new town’ status, township developments (Orton in particular) were designed to keep pedestrians and vehicles separate from one another. If people can make journeys on foot without the need to cross busy roads the chances they will be harmed in a collision involving a vehicle are drastically reduced.

I grew up in Surrey and walked the journey to and from school along the A30. I crossed the road via a footbridge. Always. On one occasion in 1985, a 14-year-old friend judged it safe to cross that road on foot. A mistake. A car slowed and waved her across. A second mistake. The driver of the car behind didn’t see my friend and increased in speed to overtake the slowing vehicle. A third and fatal mistake. These three mistakes in tragic combination took my friend’s life.

Peterborough’s accident hotspots are well known (Bridge Street crossing, for example), but unreported near misses happen every day as the volume of traffic on local roads increases. One such spot is a crossing point where Lynchwood meets Oundle Road and Wistow Way. Here, a shared cycle path crosses a busy road that residents of Orton Northgate must traverse to reach the supermarket and primary school in Orton Wistow on foot. While there is a pedestrian refuge further along Lynchwood it requires an additional 300 paces (I’ve counted). The compulsion to save time is why motorists speed, and why pedestrians cross dangerous roads. Calling either party reckless doesn’t prevent accidents. Residents tell me they fear a serious accident here but the council will take no action until an accident has happened. Where is the Section 106 money that developers should pay the council for facilities to make the roads in our communities safe?

The solution, wherever feasible, is to take pedestrians away from roads altogether. Throughout Peterborough bridges did exactly this, one superb example being Rhubarb Bridge on Bourges Boulevard that has kept pedestrians and cyclists safe for decades. It is gut-wrenching to learn that the council intends to replace Rhubarb Bridge with a series of pedestrian crossings. These will not be as safe as a bridge. There is also growing demand for a bridge to be built at Fletton Quays. The council says these bridges are ‘too expensive’.

It’s the duty of town planners and the council to ensure that our transport networks are designed to reduce pedestrians’ capacity for mistakes. Pedestrian crossings should be a last resort as mistakes made here can be fatal. Wherever possible we should construct routes that keep pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles separate. A fatal mistake on the roads is a mistake you can’t come back from. Build bridges, Peterborough. They will save lives.