Head injury fears on new path by Peterborough’s Rhubarb Bridge
Campaigners believe a new path introduced as part of the recent Rhubarb Bridge scheme is an “accident waiting to happen” due to people being at risk of banging their heads.
A black and yellow hazard sign has been installed low down on the A47 road bridge where a new foot path has been put in, with the city council claiming it is a “warning to cyclists using this route who may have missed or chosen to ignore the ‘cyclists dismount’ signs”.
However, the Save Rhubarb Bridge campaign group has alleged that “there are large concrete slopes at head height” which could leave people at risk, while falling debris is another concern.
The group added: “The litany of errors when it comes to the council’s handling of Rhubarb Bridge is staggering and seems only to grow.”
The £5.5 million Rhubarb Bridge scheme has proved very controversial after the council initially planned to demolish the popular foot and cycle path and instead install pedestrian crossings across the slip roads at the A47/A15 roundabout, near Brotherhood Shopping Park.
The council said the bridge needed to be knocked down as it was ‘at the end of its life’ and would allegedly cost up to £30 million to replace.
But after a backlash from residents, even though the demolishment had long been earmarked in public documents, the council did a U-turn after a new assessment revealed that Rhubarb could be repaired at the same cost as being demolished.
However, the crossings remained part of the overall scheme - which received £3.85 million of funding from the Department for Transport - despite vocal opposition from campaigners who believe they are a safety risk.
Those concerns only increased when safety audits from contractors Skanska stated that bringing in the crossings could see multiple collisions every year, including ones which may be serious or fatal.
Skanska, which is the council’s official highways partner, “strongly” urged the authority not to progress with the crossings but to instead focus only on repairing Rhubarb Bridge.
However, the concerns were dismissed by the council which insisted that the overall scheme - which included adding in an extra lane of traffic at the roundabout - is safe.
The authority has also suggested that the contractors were ‘confused’ by what the finished scheme would look like when compiling its assessment, that pedestrians and cyclists felt ‘intimidated’ by using Rhubarb Bridge due to previous incidents of serious crime at the location, and that it was not accessible for vulnerable residents.
The crossings finally opened last December after a delay due to connecting them to the City Fibre network.
The Save Rhubarb Bridge campaign said: “The litany of errors when it comes to the council’s handling of Rhubarb Bridge is staggering and seems only to grow.
“The network of paths and pedestrian crossings installed put the public at risk of being hit by vehicles as well as from pollution which is more toxic at ground level.
“The most recent hazard we’ve unearthed seems to be of the council’s own design. There are areas of the path that cross underneath the road bridge over the A47. This means there are large concrete slopes at head-height.
“The council hasn’t allowed for this in the width of the path so anyone, and particularly those with visual impairments, could easily hit their head on concrete.
“The council maintains the path is wide enough – but in reality it’s only wide enough at ground level. Our conversations with experts mean we know this hazardous design does not meet modern day standards. Some have expressed shock it got through design stage.
“The A47 road bridge is also deteriorating and the path directly under it puts people in the way of falling debris.
“Vehicles have been prioritised ahead of pedestrians and the council seems to be actively building hazards into the routes for walkers and cyclists.
“As we’ve said many times before, this scheme is not only an unnecessary waste of money but also an accident waiting to happen.”
A spokesperson for Peterborough City Council said: “The black and yellow hazard boards have been installed to act as a warning to cyclists using this route who may have missed or chosen to ignore the ‘cyclists dismount’ signs erected in advance of the bridge walls.
“The footway at this point is 1.9m wide. A clear unobstructed width of 1.5m is regarded as the minimum acceptable due to physical constraints, under most circumstances.
“This gives sufficient space for a wheelchair user and walker to pass one another comfortably.
“Hazard warning tactile paving will be installed on the approaches to the bridge as part of the current footbridge repair works in response to a recommendation from a Road Safety Audit.”