|Picture l-r: Local student Davey Ryuzaki, City Councillor Tim Hamilton-Cox, County Councillor Sam Riches and North Lancashire Green Party Co-ordinator Gina Dowding.|
The heavily-used pedestrian crossing at Stonewell is currently being upgraded to a Toucan crossing, which can be used by cyclists as well as pedestrians. This is a welcome move, but during the ten weeks that the work is scheduled to take there is a clear risk to pedestrians as no alternative temporary crossing has been provided.
"I started to be contacted by residents almost as soon as the work started last weekend," explains Sam Riches, who is County Councillor for Lancaster East. "A lot of people are very concerned about the situation as it is an accident waiting to happen.
"I carried out a site visit on Wednesday 26th September with a Highways engineer and a representative of the contractors, and during the half-hour I was present on site at least 50 people tried to cross the road, including senior citizens and those pushing children in buggies. Some of the people were walking out into moving traffic.
"The situation is even worse at night," she added, "when there is poor visibility for drivers and pedestrians alike.
"We have Freshers' week events taking place at present, with lots of new students finding their way around our city, some of whom will have been drinking, so there is clear potential for a serious accident. I have now liaised with the police about this.
"I was surprised to hear from Highways that the site has been assessed as safe," she says. "People are expected to use the crossing at Dalton Square - which is up a hill and round a corner, so it is not even visible from some places that people are trying to cross Stonewell, and it is completely the wrong direction for anyone wanting to cross between Church Street and Moor Lane or St Leonardsgate.
"It was entirely predictable that people would attempt to cross the road by the pedestrian crossing they are used to using - and I feel that a temporary light-controlled crossing, and quite possibly a speed limit, should have been brought in.
"I have requested that Highways urgently consider making the site safer for pedestrians, and I have also raised the more general concern that I was not fully consulted about this work," says Sam. "I am sent lots of information about any roadworks which involve digging up the carriageway, but because the work on this crossing does not directly impact on drivers I was not sent any plans or details.
"Pedestrians are meant to be at the top of the County Council's hierarchy of road users - just below disabled people - but on this occasion they seem to have been forgotten about," Sam feels.
"If I had been consulted about the plans I would have asked for a temporary crossing and a speed limit to be put in place, and I would also have been active in publicising what was going to happen. This could have avoided most of the current problems.
"I have now made a formal request that County Councillors should be consulted about any planned work which affects pedestrian crossings, whether or not the carriageway will be dug up."
Commenting, Jim Robson, assistant director for the County's environmental services, told virtual-lancaster: "The works on Stonewell are part of an improvement scheme to construct a shared crossing to make it easier for pedestrians and cyclists to travel across the city's gyratory system.
"To allow the work to take place, the existing signal controlled-crossing point at Stonewell has been closed, with pedestrians advised to use the nearest alternative controlled crossing at Dalton Square.
"Signs and barriers have been put in place to guide people towards the alternative crossing point and to encourage them not to cross elsewhere.
"The county council takes road safety very seriously and, having reviewed the temporary traffic management arrangements at this site, is satisfied that they work in practice and meet the necessary guidelines. We will continue to monitor the traffic management arrangements throughout the works."