I was poking around some government websites over the weekend relating to ‘encroachment’ when I came across this delightful example of how discrimination against pedestrians (and indeed cyclists, motorcyclists and lorry drivers in this case) works. It comes from the ‘Homes and Communities’ section of DirectGov and expresses clearly attitudes which are common but normally unspoken:
“An encroachment is where an activity unlawfully takes over a section of a public roadway; for example, a garage forecourt over-extending on to the public highway. If a person without lawful authority or excuse in any way wilfully obstructs the free passage of cars along a highway, they are guilty of an offence. In such cases the highway authority (your local council) has legal powers to enforce their removal. To report any obstructions, contact your local council.”
OK, so that means that it is OK to willfully obstruct the free passage of pedestrians, wheelchair users, people with buggies and cyclists! Nice! Here is a screengrab of the webpage taken this morning.
I have already used the feedback box to suggest that they change this page and make it more inclusive. Others may wish to do the same.
Ipswich Borough Council staff are disrupting pedestrians near to road works by leaving signs on pavement with only 800mm clearance (which is about the width of an external door to a house and less than the legally required 1 meter for road works signs). Only when pressed did they confirm that they knew the law about 1 meter clearance. Their justification was that they were concerned about the risk to motorists if the signs were further into the road – no concern at all that I heard about the risk to pedestrians and old people from leaving them on the pavement. I have reported this on fixmystreet which the council monitors and responds to.
Here are some photos of the signs in question. The good news is that there is a 100% clear rule that they are breaking in this case. No excuses about it being a ‘necessary obstruction’ or a ‘willful obstruction’. It is however a very clear example of the contempt that pedestrians are treated with and is, I am sure, repeated across the country. Incidentally I am still waiting for May Gurney to ask for their signs backwhich they left blocking a pavement over a week ago!
The following day all consideration of pedestrians had disappeared.
Having abolished the M4 bus lane some hard-line motorists are now gunning for getting rid of bus lanes and are regretably even getting the support of local papers. A great example of this sort of thing is the campaign to get rid of the bus lane along the A40 into High Wycombe is now being championed by the Bucks Free Press who have created a ‘ban the bus lane’ petition to support their ’cause’.
The advocates of removing the bus lane say that it is dangerous and slows motorists – the council patiently explains that removing the bus lane will not increase the number of vehicles able to get into the town and will only result in slower journeys because of bus passengers switching to cars. The bus company point out that the lane is well used by buses and that they are about to increase the level of service with new buses.
Here are some maps showing what is going on (all taken from official data). The first one shows bus service frequency on roads in the area (yellow most frequent) and confirms that there are many bus services along the A40 from Loudwater in the bottomm right of the map into High Wycombe at the top left. The second one shows traffic counts and traffic mix in the area in 2008 – the small yellow dot on the A40 towards the bottom right indicates that over 85% of the vehicles using that road are private cars or taxis. This confirms that the problem of congestion on the road is from cars not buses!
One of the reasons given for removing the bus lane is because ‘it is an accident waiting to happen’. Here are the actually accident results since 1985 on the road (big red dots a pedestrian fatality, small red dot a pedestrian serious injury, big blue dot for a driver fatality and a small blue dot for a driver serious injury). There have regrettably been six of pedestrian fatalities and two driver fatalities and also a number of driver serious injuries (how fast do you have to be traveling in a car in an urban area to have a serious injury I wonder)! Possibly this is a good reason to slower well-enforced speed limits rather than the removal of a bus lane?
The final map shows where the schools are and where the kids live. As you can see most of the kids have to cross the A40 road to get to school each day.
All maps produced by the pre-release version of ITO Map. Base mapping OpenStreetMap and contributors. All maps cc-by-sa 3.0.
May Gurney are continuing to leave signs blocking the pavement with less that the legal minimum of 1 meter for pedestrians. In the past I have emailed the company to complain and have also occasional repositioned them to legal positions.
Section D1.1.2 of chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual states that ‘ Road works on or near a carriageway, cycleway or footway might impair the safety and free movement of vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians (particularly those with mobility and visual impairments)‘. Section D4.4.1 says that ‘in no circumstances must the width of the footway be reduced to less than 1m, preferably not less than 1.5m’.
I spotted some more signs yesterday right across a pavement close to my home used by disabled people and parents with young children. Neither of these signs left 1 meter clear and they were causing more inconvenience that the road works themselves. I contacted the Water Board for whom they were working and asked them to get May Gurney to move them within 24 hours. When May Gurney didn’t do this I removed them into safe storage to avoid injury to pedestrians and emailed the company to request that they phone me to arrange for their collection.
No response to my email after 48 hours. I am now sending out a tweet that includes @maygurney to see if that gets a response.
Section 143 of the Highways Act 1980 gives authorities powers to remove any “structure [that] has been erected or set up on a highway“, including “any machine, pump, post or other object of such a nature as to be capable of causing obstruction notwithstanding that it is on wheels”. This is interesting. This covers things that ‘are capable of causing an obstruction’ with no requirement to prove that it was an ‘unnecessary obstruction’ and a ‘willful obstruction’ and that anyone was actual obstructed all of which make other obstruction regulations pretty much useless.
So… the question of course is when is a vehicle a structure and covered by this act. I have been looking out recently for mobile homes and similar stuff. Here are a few examples. The first one is, I understand, owned by an active member of the green party who prefers to leave it on the road / pavement rather cluttering up his pretty front garden. The second one is appropriately called a ‘highwayman’ (as in highway robbery?). The final three pictures show a very large caravan which has been left on the verge for so long that the grass has died under it. Possibly the magic ingredient is the number plate – even the caravan has a number plate (even though one doesn’t actually need to pay any vehicle tax for a number plate for a caravan). I would so love to stick up a shed on the highway and see how long it took for the council to come round an complain! My guess is that they would be round within 24 hours demanding that it was removed. Possibly I should put a number plate on it?