From Revd Marcus Bull
I write as a worried parent of a child at Hebden Royd School.
For the first term of this academic year, a school crossing patrol person was available, before and after school, to see our children across the busy A646 opposite Church Lane, Mytholm. But, since then, appeals from the school for a new Lollipop Man or Lady have been unsuccessful, and we and our children have been left to cross the road on our own.
The problem with this is that the 30mph limit ends 100m or so East of the crossing. Cars approaching Hebden Bridge have not yet slowed down to 20mph, and cars going the other way have already speeded up. The road from Heptonstall comes down the hill onto a blind bend, and the turning circle also adds to a complicated traffic situation.
As a result, we are often left waiting for a long time for a car to spot that we need to cross and slow down. On more than one occasion my son and I (and others) have been stranded on the central island while neither stream of cars will allow us to cross. (And the problem is sometimes exacerbated by cars turning left out of Church Road itself.)
I understand that the school have already spoken to Calderdale Council about the possibility of a Zebra Crossing, but have been told that it isn't possible. But we are not the only parents concerned about the situation, and worry that it will take the death (or injury) of a child before the matter is dealt with.
From Andrew Hill
I share Rev Bull's concern about this lethal section of road. How Calderdale Council can simply dismiss a proper pedestrian crossing as not being possible is a sad reflection of their lack of concern for real people who live locally and see potential problems. Isn't identifying hazards before anything happens exactly what 'risk assessment' is all about? And who better to identify potential hazards than those people who use this road every day. Do we really have to wait for an incident before the Council do anything?
From Paul D
Although the junction isn’t ideal, it could be quite safe to install a pelican crossing on the A646 to the town side of Church Lane, almost where the island is now. We have examples where pelicans have been installed in more difficult places, at Caldene bridge and County bridge onto the A646 and then on Keighley Road where the pelican is slap between two junctions. Perhaps Calderdale are motivated by cost as opposed to pedestrian safety? Certainly any proximity to the junction excuse just wouldn’t wash.
Furthermore, in my view Calderdale is directly implicated in decreasing safety for pedestrians and road users in the area. By allowing access to Mytholm Meadows from Church Lane and not via the A646 (via Browns) as originally envisaged they have exacerbated the problems at the very least. This is a lethal junction now, right opposite the church and totally blind, if entering on foot there is no footpath and if driving out you have to nose out and wind your window down to listen for anything approaching – a totally ridiculous and potentially lethal situation.
The other main issues (both not specific to that area) are reducing the speed and volume of traffic using both Burnley Road and Church Lane. Nobody has yet dared to confront the use of the steeps as a rat run to Burnley and beyond via Blackshaw Head and a simple safety camera between the turning circle and the Stubbing Wharf would also help. Calderdale has the power to do something about both – but don’t hold your breath.
Of course part of the solution lies within the community most affected. I recall that one Head of the school lived on Eaves estate, I’m not sure how many of the teachers live locally now, but as a pupil I don’t recall any teachers arriving to work by car and the only pupils who did lived on farms off Badger Lane. Parents and staff have a role to play, as do the congregation of a certain church who despite numerous gentle reminders, continue to drive to and from services and some seem to view Mytholm Meadows as their overflow car park (as do Saints Juniors parents, who like to park as close as possible to the pitch). Then we have the residents of the area who appear (up Eaves in particular) to not actually walk anywhere. A survey of car use would be useful as I’m sure that area contains the least physically active people in the valley, if not on the planet. So, some of the problems are very local indeed and shouldn’t be seen as incidental to road safety.
Finally, we need to address the priority we give to pedestrians in general. For example, the new pelican on Keighley Road is phased to give those going to and from school priority, yet in the centre of town the one at the main crossing point (at Holts) isn’t, at peak times it goes to every other phase. We have pavement cafes taking up public space and all over town illegal parking forces pedestrians, wheelchair users and those with prams into the road. The police do nothing, the local authority does nothing; I suggest that pedestrians mean little here, specifically local people going about their everyday business.
Look at Central Street and compare it to Bridge Gate – the car remains king, as far as those in positions of power are concerned, local kids and local people (unless commuting, or purchasing coffee and cakes) are invisible. Until those who run things get off their backsides, get out of their cars and into the community they claim to represent or serve, our children are very much at risk. If you’re a local man taking your kids to a local school – on foot, then you need to know that to most others you really are invisible – so take care Marcus, some fool could kill your kids because bigger fools choose to do nothing.
From Myra J
Well said Paul D. I would like to pick up one of the many good points you make - pavement parking. In an area where pavements tend to range between inadequate and non-existent it is particularly galling when parked cars take up what little space is provided for pedestrians. There is a flyer that can be downloaded from the website of Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrians Association). This can be slipped under the windscreen wipers of offending vehicles to provide a polite reminder to the driver of the inconvenience and potential danger they pose to pedestrians, especially those with disabilities or pushing prams.
From Lesley M
Pedestrian safety appears to be one of the lowest priorities of Calderdale Council. Despite repeated lobbying, having meetings with senior council officers, frequent nagging emails, nothing gets done.
It is not only at Mytholm but throughout the Valley. How do you cross the A646 at Friendly or access the Warley Wood estate in a 50mph zone? How do you cross the A646 at Brearley, or at Walkleys or at Mytholm?
The main road has become a monster in which drivers of vehicles can easily intimidate and bully other road users both pedestrians and cyclists. Keeping the traffic moving is the number one priority of traffic engineers. It is one of the government targets that the council has to meet. You can't slow the cars down.
The 20mph in the centre of Hebden Bridge is a joke. The 30mph at Mytholm or in Mytholmroyd is a joke; or the 40mph at Eastwood. Its the same the whole length of the road. Complaints come in from every stretch of the road from Walsden to Halifax. Residents take up the battle for a few months and then retire bruised with little accomplished.
No regular enforcement of speed limits means that few drivers (except for the tourists who don't know any better) keep to anywhere near the speed limit. But the council really don't care unless and until there are events in which people are killed or seriously injured.
Although the record of the A646 is bad, no specific improvements appear to be in the pipeline. Despite the A646 being named and shamed in the Getting Ahead report from the Road Safety Foundation of 2008 (and I emailed it on to every officer I knew might be interested in it with no response from any of them) Calderdale Council still do nothing. If you are concerned about pedestrian safety then you need to start lobbying Calderdale Council. If you want to be heard you have to Write/email to the Chief Executive Owen Williams
You have to manage to reach a wider audience than the traffic engineers who, hearing these complaints frequently, seem more able to disregard them. Nevertheless, there is no harm in contacting them again and making yourselves heard. Write/email to Nigel Pickles the Highways Engineer with responsibility for Hebden Bridge and write/email to Martin Hibbins, his boss. See you far you get!
From Graham Barker
By coincidence, a few days ago I sent this email to Nigel Pickles, CMBC highways engineer:
Dear Mr Pickles
I would like to raise a number of issues regarding traffic in the centre of Hebden Bridge.
1 The 20 mph speed limit. This is almost universally ignored, even by many buses, because there is no effective enforcement of the limit. I and others have raised this matter at police ward meetings, and although the police are willing to take the matter seriously, their resources are limited. It is clear that more needs to be done by the authorities responsible for the road. What, then, can be done to enforce the 20 mph speed limit? If the answer is ‘nothing’, what point is there in keeping a speed limit that has become a dangerous joke?
2 The problem of traffic backing up at the main traffic lights. You may recall that I raised this matter with you some years ago. Since then, the situation has got steadily worse. I am advised that your own road safety department has complained to you about it and had no satisfactory response. Let us make no bones about it: this is a dangerous situation that should have been properly addressed years ago. As a minimum, a yellow box is needed in the road. I am informed that you have considered this option and dismissed it on the grounds that the box would be too big. If correct, this does not make any sense and needs justification. Which is more important: yellow paint, or pedestrian safety? I was also informed some time ago that you are planning changes to the central white lines, but (a) nothing has happened (again) and (b) that is unlikely to be a complete solution.
3 The lack of proper safety railings at all four corners of that junction. I raised this too with you some years ago. I ask again, if safety railings on all four corners of junctions are standard elsewhere in Halfax (for example, Queens Road), then why not in the centre of Hebden Bridge when traffic speeds are well in excess of the supposed 20 mph limit?
I would remind you that this junction is used heavily by school children. It would be far better if common sense prevailed and safety measures were installed before, rather than after, a serious accident. Perhaps the only reason there has not yet been a serious accident is that most adults are fully aware of how perilous the junction is.
I would be grateful for your response. Please be aware that I intend to post a summary of this email and your response on the Hebden Bridge website discussion forum, as I know that I am by no means alone in my anger at Calderdale’s failure to take pedestrian safety seriously in Hebden Bridge. The time is past when vehicle traffic merits automatic precedence over pedestrians.
The reply I received from him, in full, is this:
1 The speed measurements we have, suggest that there are substantial parts of the town (including the A646) where a majority of speeds are below the late teens to early twenties throughout the working day, but often in the late twenties (and beyond) as the evening progresses. Market Street has better compliance than New Road (near Commercial Street).
As you say, enforcement is the responsibility of the Police and we have asked that they step up enforcement in the town.
I think that, bearing in mind the nature of the A646, it will be extremely difficult to introduce traditional traffic calming features on such a major road.
2 The problem you refer to is one mainly caused by the inability of vehicles to make progress away from the traffic signals when buses are waiting in the bus stops opposite each other. We introduced a sensor to detect this happening, which delays the onset of the green man for a little while to allow traffic to sort itself out - though on occasion, the time extension possible is still insufficient to resolve the problem.
When all this is happening, vehicle speeds are zero or very slow and, whilst this is not ideal, we feel that the introduction of a yellow box somewhere in the junction is more likely to result in higher traffic speeds as motorists who have crossed the stop line attempt to 'race' for the clearing exit. We did have an initial look at moving the centre line over, but didn't feel that it would offer much improvement. Motorists tend to try to accommodate traffic which has become stuck - the problem here is that there simply isn't enough road width to accommodate all the required users and marking a changed centreline is probably not going to have much real effect.
3 When we made the changes in Hebden Bridge, we wanted to emphasise pedestrian priority and we deliberately kept the amount of guardrail to a minimum. 'Corralling' pedestrians, like cattle, behind guardrail tends to emphasise segregation, reinforcing the motorist's perception that the road is 'theirs'. Unless absolutely necessary, we now try to minimise the amount of guardrail which we actually use. Given the constraints of the site, my personal observation of this junction is that it works reasonably well. At school start and finish times, pedestrians stream across the road with confidence and authority, seemingly taking possession of the road for a short while.
There have been no reported casualties at this junction in the last 3 years - which may be a function of the design, the behaviour of pedestrians / motorists or, more likely, a combination of the them all.
I hope that this covers the issues you have raised.
In other words, there isn’t a problem and we intend to do nothing. I don’t know what others think, but this response strikes me as massively complacent and in parts simply not credible. There is a problem, and it is being wilfully ignored. There are also traffic problems at Mytholm, Cragg Vale, Blackshawhead and elsewhere, and nothing effective is being done. I copied Christine McCafferty and all local councillors in on my email, and they all seem concerned but Calderdale remain unmoved.
What on earth does it take to get something done? I heartily endorse Lesley M’s advice to write to or email Owen Williams, Nigel Pickles and Martin Hibbins (never heard of him!). And communicate repeatedly. Perhaps head teachers and parent/teacher associations could add their weight. Dismally, it seems that the only thing that may make a difference is a constant barrage of complaints, because unless there is some more powerful recourse, the views of the Hebden Bridge community - and their safety - seem to count for absolutely nothing to officers of Calderdale.
From Paul D
I think the response to Graham’s email illustrates why lobbying and using existing democratic routes is largely an exercise in keeping inept people in work. A massive transport lobby not only effectively silences dissent; it shapes the discourse around traffic management. Thus, the response of Mr. Pickles, a man of significant experience and responsibility, could be summarised as keeping the traffic moving and limiting the harm to everyone else. Fine if that’s how small your imagination is, but a bit rubbish if you’re of the thinking type. Irrespective of whether these people do their jobs quite well, they’re doing the wrong jobs – they don’t get it and that’s our problem.
Community needs are not incidental to the freedom of movement of others and public perception does matter. The subjective experience of the majority (for example, that the Church Lane junction is unsafe, or that their freedom of movement is curtailed by other’s vehicle use) is overridden by purportedly objective evidence of accident rates. Everyone knows that these statistics are flawed, unreported incidents, injury that does not require hospital treatment, or where treatment is out of the area, the near misses that we see daily – these don’t make the data.
Similarly, speed monitoring gives a mean figure of all the vehicles passing a single point, when we all know it’s the single vehicle hitting 40 as it heads out of Hebden that will kill your child. A convenient presentation of ‘facts’ that: (a) underplays actual level of risk and; (b) associates public concern with the real risks they experience daily as irrational fear, asserting that such fear is not supported by ‘evidence’.
What the planners and the politicians can’t convince anyone of is that all this is necessary. They have no other solution, so the gap between their traffic lobby informed narrative and public perception increases year on year. So we can’t put traffic calming on the A646 because it’s a ‘major road’ – phew! I thought it was a bridleway – that explains everything - there’s me wondering why that 43 ton lorry wouldn’t give way to me on my pony.
We can’t put a yellow box on a junction because some idiots might race across it – so that’s 1-0 to the idiots then. Let’s not put windows in shops because some vandals might smash them. Could anyone find an appropriate way (without the use of expletives) to remind our local ‘experts’ that accident avoidance is largely a one way process – we (the pedestrian) tend to get out of the way, and they (the driver) tend to not notice. Hence the concern with our young and vulnerable. We care about those less nimble than us, less experienced than us, less able to spot that in the food chain of road use, we’re the road kill.
So without being overly cynical, I wouldn’t waste an email on an individual or a political group that has such a myopic and potentially lethal vision of road transport policy: all you do is keep fools in work. Let’s have a barbeque across the A646, the smoke will slow the traffic and we could give them food with a leaflet setting out our concerns. Let’s turf over a few streets, paint our own double yellow lines on Church lane (illegal but anything to do with the highways isn’t really enforced round here) and let’s ignore Mr. Pickles and his coterie of chumps who never quite seem to see the people in all the places they pass through.
From Janice S
The Living Streets organisation looks to be useful, but we don't have a local branch. Is there any merit in setting one up (or would it dilute the energies of those who are already involved in local sustainable transport issues)?
I think a pelican crossing is the best, most obvious solution. The previous planning permission for the Brown's site required the developers to put traffic lights near the turning circle, so the traffic engineers must have thought that a crossing in this area was feasible (unfortunately the current permission for the Brown's site doesn't contain this requirement). I think pelican crossings cost £30,000 upwards. Some villages have raised money to provide their own pelican crossings, e.g. Gowerton in Wales. Perhaps this would be an option - maybe the council would take notice if such a campaign was started. Yes, we shouldn't have to pay extra for pedestrian safety but it might never happen if we wait for the council.
I thought of other options: fake speed cameras (would have to be on private land), dressing in a high-vis jacket and pointing a hair-drier at speeding motorists, putting up some "slow - loose chippings" signs (as they're so worried about their precious cars they'd slow down) but I'd rather put time and maybe money into getting a pelican crossing.
From Lesley M
Traffic, vehicles, driving and the noxiousmix with pedestrians and cyclists is such a complex topic. It is your neighbours, your friends, the parents of the children in your child's class, the people you work with, those who work in the shops, the banks and the local businesses who drive the cars that give us all problems. It is local people who speed because they know the roads. There will be some people who live in Burnley or Cliviger or wherever who regularly travel through Hebden Bridge or Blackshawhead and Cragg Vale who zoom up and down at ludicrous speeds. Mainly however it is local people.
Very few people who live locally seem to become pedestrians in Hebden Bridge. They are car bound, they shop in supermarkets and they drive their children to school (look at the traffic at Mytholm any weekday morning or outside Calder High or Riverside or Central Street). That's why we have these frequent pathetic bleatings about the lack of car parking spaces or complaints about the dreadful iniquity of having to pay for car parking. Count how many pedestrians you see in an hour in Market Street any week day.
There are a few more locals around on Saturdays but mostly you don't see that many people you know shopping in Hebden. Pedestrians are a minority group, with minimal visibility. It is primarily when you find out your own vulnerability to cars that you take issue with them, i.e. when you have young children or an ageing relative or you lose you driving licence or if you are horserider or a cyclist. Most drivers have little imagination about or interest in pedestrians. Drivers enjoy bullying pedestrians. That's what children learn both as passengers and as pedestrians. They go on to do the same bullying themselves when they become drivers hence the increasing lack of courtesy on the roads.
I have friends who say 'it is hard to drive at 20mph' or 'I have to go down to second gear!'. Drivers slow down only because they are in a line of traffic (or there are cameras). When there's few other vehicles they go as fast as they can (and that's a good deal of the time out of the peak hours). That's why Nigel Pickles can say the majority of people are travelling somewhere in the late teens/early twenties in terms of speed. Throughout the day (after 9am and before 3.15pm when the schools are out) and in the evening, the traffic speeds are sometimes eye-watering. For the elderly and for those with young children it is these core 6 hours which matter. However, in the land of averages, the speeding vehicles don't count.
The road lobby in the UK has successfuly commandeered the transport engineers. Even although pedestrians are number one in the hierarchy of road users in Calderdale Council's own documents, it is seldom put into practice. Hence the pedestrians lights always favour the vehicle. Keep the traffic moving. Keep the economy going. Slow down traffic and the economy is affected. That's what it is all about.
A great deal of money has been spent on the pedestrianisation of Bridgegate and numerous other 'improvements' in Hebden Bridge over the last couple of years. I understand from Nigel Pickles that it is unlikely that any more funding for improvements will be forthcoming.
As Janice S says we need to both lobby and fundraise for pedestrian crossings if that's what it is going to take. We need to know first of all if, having raised sufficient funds, Calderdale would then put in a crossing at Mytholm (and then people would have to lobby for one near Walkleys; and one near Brearley; and one near the Warley Wood estate and then one at Friendly near its busy fish and chip shop; and one near the top of Tuel Lane). It requires political will to change the priorities in transport. It would have to be Calderdale councillors who exerted pressure on their officers to change the engineers priorities. (It has to be said that the political will is not apparent nationally either in the Department for Transport, amongst its staff or its ministers.) Lobby your councillors, both in Hebden Royd and on Calderdale council. Maybe it is possible to make a difference!
Enough ranting. For the moment can I mention that the Sustainable Transport Group, which comes under the umbrella of Upper Calder Valley Renaissance and which I chair, is hoping to become affiliated to Living Streets (an organisation which used to be called the Pedestrians Association). It is worthwhile for anyone who is interested to have a look at their website and see some of the innovative things that are going on in the rest of the country.
From Ian M
If traffic speeds are such a problem through Hebden, why does it take me an hour to get from Tuel Lane to the far side of the town on most evenings.
The over use of traffic lights, crossings etc is causing the traffic problem not solving it. Another crossing would only add to the strangulation of the only highway through the valley, by the pro pedestrian / cyclist lobby!
From Myra J
Ian M. - I think you partially answer your own question. The reason your journey from Tuel Lane takes so long is the "strangulation" that you mention. What you have failed to grasp is that traffic strangulation is caused by traffic itself - too much of it! Think about it - each car is a huge metal box, often carrying just one person. How much road space does each of these take up compared with each pedestrian or cyclist? How unjust to blame the latter for congestion on the roads!
We've suffered enough from decades of attempting to prioritise free flow of traffic and look where it has got us - ever-worsening congestion. Meanwhile other road users put up with inadequate pavements, hazardous crossings and a simply horrible, noisy, smelly and dangerous environment. That's without even starting to consider climate change. It's never been more important to ensure priority for walking, cycling and public transport, for all our sakes and for our children's.
From Graham Barker
Response to Ian M - most of the lights between Tuel Lane and Mytholm control junctions, not pedestrian crossings. And the 'green man' phase of most crossings is so short - a derisory seven seconds in the centre of Hebden Bridge - that even if he were stopped at all of them, they would total barely a minute of lost time. Nearly all the congestion is, as Myra points out, caused by the volume of traffic itself.
As has been noted by many, it appears that the 'flow' of traffic is the issue. We live on a trunk road which is a thoroughfare. Surely more speed restrictions and obstacles such as crossings will only serve to slow this flow and also add to congestion and traffic pollution therefore compounding the problem.
Road traffic is a necessity, it provides us with the tourists we need and please don't forget that everything you touch has most likely been transported by road at some stage. People need to get to work and many are unable to use public transport. From my own personal experience it appears that buses cause more traffic issues than they solve.
Unlike some I find local driving most civil. We know when and where to give way, slow down and acknowledge common sense with a polite wave.
There are many creative solutions to this issue, but it seems typical that the anti-car brigade tied with fake 'green' issues once again vilify the car driver.
From Ian M
How strange it is that the moment I get past Hebden and its 8 obstructions to free flowing traffic in less than a mile and a half, that traffic clears and flows freely.
From Anne H
It seems clear to me that the lollipop man was the ideal type of crossing at Mytholm. This way, traffic is only required to slow or stop when it's absolutely necessary - i.e. when fairly large numbers of vulnerable pedestrians are likely to be crossing. For the remaining 22 or so hours in the day, traffic can flow relatively freely. I can see that a zebra crossing - or any other type of permanent crossing for that matter - would not be as appropriate and would also frustrate drivers.
But I can't see why Calderdale have not replaced the lollopop man. As someone who used to use that junction frequently at busy times, I would say that they are putting the children at risk by not re-appointing another lollipop man or lady.
From Paul D
Ian – I’ll go through the ‘obstructions’ on your way home from Tuel Lane top.
So, all the obstructions are in fact created by other vehicles, many drivers no doubt blaming every other vehicle except their own for causing the queues. It’s pure physics, limited capacity, excessive demand. Some of the congestion may well be slightly exacerbated by the number of crossings but the only people actually contributing to the problem are sat on their arses in cars whingeing at how long they take to get home. They’re sick of the congestion, sick of traffic, sick of anything that gets in their way. These are sick people. We need a response that recognises this – our authority sees vehicle movement as the priority - I’d point to its impact on the mental health of drivers and the physical health of other road users.
Ian makes clear that not only are pedestrians seen as the problem by some drivers, even when they’re not in fact the problem, they are often blamed for the delays that drivers face. This is why our vulnerable are at risk – many drivers locate the problem on others. Stand at Mytholm between 5 and 6 and you’ll see hundreds of frustrated drivers putting their foot down as they escape the grip of all those other frustrated drivers – all blaming everyone else and most of them not really all that bothered about anyone trying to cross at Church Lane.
Clear road to Tod, foot down, many hitting 45 by the Stubbing Wharf. I feel your pain Ian, but it’s all in your head. Point is, what is Calderdale and the police going to do? Hundreds of (mostly men) breaking the law because their heads are screwed up and we get nothing - because those in authority are screwed up too.
From Lesley M
Now that we have been able to express our views our the dreadful state of the A646m the congestion, the delays, the awful drivers, etc., we should return to the original problem: the need for a crossing at Mytholm. People need to be able to cross the A646 safely at Mytholm whether to attend church, school or simply to go home. It is not safe at the moment. The number one priority for all road users should be safety.
A lollipop person is not sufficient to make safe all those who need to cross the road throughout the day. Demand may be greatest at the start and end of the school day but is not confined to these hours. Residents who take a bus into Hebden Bridge on the north side will be returned to a bus stop on the south side of the road. There needs to be a pedestrian crossing and it is this which we should be lobbying for. Whether it should be a zebra or a pelican crossing is open to debate. What do you think?
From Graham Barker
To answer Lesley’s specific question, a light-controlled crossing would be safer and probably better for traffic, especially if it could be tied in with management of the Church Lane junction, which is hazardous even if pedestrians were taken out of the equation.
It’s obvious that Calderdale are supremely indifferent to pedestrian safety if it is perceived as interfering with the ‘free’ flow of traffic, and won’t be budged by any number of complaints. I’ve recently had a letter from Christine McCafferty, who has been in touch with the council, but all she was able to send me was exactly the same response I got from Nigel Pickles, posted earlier. One gets a sense of going round in circles. Road safety is becoming just one more area where we need a complete sea-change in the way democracy is conducted.
A useful practical step might be for those with an interest in this thread to turn up at the next HB police ward meeting, at 1830 next Tuesday (4 August) at the Town Hall. The matter of safety at Mytholm can then be raised. The ability of the police to manage traffic is very limited, but at least it may help close off one of Nigel Pickles’ excuses - that ‘enforcement is the responsibility of the Police and we have asked that they step up enforcement in the town’. If the police say, as they almost certainly will, that they haven’t got either the resources or the legal authority to have much effect, the ball can then be put back into Calderdale’s court. They must be pressured to find a more effective solution to the Mytholm crossing and other safety-related traffic problems, like the total sham of the 20 mph limit through Hebden Bridge.
A fundamental problem is that few of us (Nigel Pickles is clearly an exception) can afford to place any trust in driver behaviour. Too many people get behind the wheel of a car and then believe they can pick and choose which laws to obey. If driving round Hebden Bridge is more ‘civil’ than elsewhere, why is the 20 mph speed limit almost universally ignored, why are so many red lights jumped, why do so many drivers not use their indicators, why do so many cars park on pavements and double yellow lines? Things may be worse elsewhere, but that doesn’t make them good here.
From Ian M
Paul D, I will try and answer your points in order
Congestion at Tuel Lane top as traffic queues to turn right up to Warley. Remove the bollard that narrows the road so cars turning right no longer block the free passage of traffic turning left
Congestion into Luddendfoot as traffic queues to turn right up to Luddenden. Narrow the footpath enabling the road to be made wider so cars turning right don't block the road. Is an eight foot wide pavement necessary?
Congestion into Mytholmroyd as traffic queues to turn right up Midgley Road. See above
Congestion into Mytholmroyd as traffic tries to access or exit the A646 over County Bridge (a problem eased by the pelican).
Congestion in Mytholmroyd as traffic turns right into Sainsburys.
Congestion in Mytholmroyd as traffic queues to turn right into Scotts Garage.
Again never had a problem
Congestion into Hebden Bridge as traffic queues to turn right up Commercial Street.
Congestion in Hebden Bridge as traffic queues to turn right up Albert Street. Remove the traffic lights and replace with a mini roundabout. Congestion is caused here by the lights stopping the flow of traffic to enable a very limited number of cars to exit Albert Street
Congestion in Hebden Bridge as traffic queues to turn right up Hope Street on rare occasionally increased as the picture house pelican is used (nobody really uses it). I have never been held up here either by people turning right or crossing the road
Congestion in Hebden Bridge at junction with Bridge Gate and pelican crossing - which by the way gives priority to the drivers whoíve been held up by each other up to this point. Remove this set of lights and replace with a mini roundabout (yes another) This set of lights is no longer needed since Pedestrianisation.
Congestion in Hebden Bridge as traffic queues on Market Street due to parking and large vehicles travelling to Halifax crossing the white line (2 zebras don't cause the delays really). Remove the parking spaces
Congestion in Hebden Bridge at Bridge Lanes as lights allows traffic to join the A646 from Heptosntall.
No problem here
Congestion at Mytholm as cars queue into turning circle. Reduce the width of the overly large pavement to enable cars to pass.
Clear road to Tod. Yes there is!
Finally, make it a mandatory £30 fine for people who choose to cross the road at any point other than one of the many crossings in town
The majority of the congestion is caused, not by the cars themselves but by the poor planning of the road. It is possible to argue that this may be deliberate in order to cause the congestion!
From Paul D
Ian - the road capacity we have can only cope when the demand is low. So shunting everything off the road that isn’t heading our way is another fantasy, nor is planning to increase flow a real solution. For example, mini-roundabouts can create congestion, this is because the demand from the side roads vary, whereas drivers on the primary route have to always slow down to navigate them. They are also very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians as drivers being drivers (mostly watching the tarmac, or the brake lights of the car in front) tend to run them over.
Road traffic accidents are the most common cause of death amongst young people, they’re responsible for three quarters of all accidental deaths of those between the ages of 15 and 24. So we argue about the risks kids face from drugs and alcohol and crime, but it’s from vehicles. Inattentive drivers cause most accidents, not children running out in front of cars or phantom cats or dogs. Many accidents are close to home, on routes that drivers know well, suggesting to anyone doing the same route everyday that complacency is also a bit of a killer.
So given the risks, the causes and the very local factors often involved, what do we do to stop the problem of limited capacity and excessive peak demand increasing risks for pedestrians and others at Church Lane?
There is a casualty reduction partnership, which consists of Calderdale MBC, highways and the police. I think it’s 2009/10 focus is to paint children yellow and pensioners fluorescent green – then to change the phasing of all pelicans and then (resources permitting) filling the countryside with huge fluorescent chevrons so that numb drivers on full beam can see a bend a mile before they fail to slow down for it. I obviously don’t rate it, but then I don’t expect to see a traffic car enforcing English law on the Queen’s highway at Mytholm either, so it’s a learned cynicism, not naturally occurring. It won’t solve the problem.
Given the difficulties of recruiting an retaining crossing patrols and the fact that out of term time they aren’t there, and the fact that they increasingly get run over by irate drivers, a pelican is a sensible solution. I’d prefer a zebra but worry that the eye contact argument only works in Holland where people like each other, here it’s all tinted glass, tinted spectacles and an apparent determination to have minimal interaction with the community you happen to drive through every day. I think a pelican could change the lives of local people for the better, even if only a little bit. It has the potential (that we can never prove) of saving a life or preventing injury and it’s cheap – compared to the alternative, which is the unquantifiable but unending feeling that our community is being hollowed out and cars are something to do with it – our cars.
From Myra J
Ian M. - amongst other things, you recommend removal of the bollards at the junction with Church Road at Mytholm. As this string is headed "School crossing at Mytholm" this is a significant point. In the absence of any other crossing assistance, these bollards are essential. How on earth could anyone cross at this point without them, especially the many parents with children on their way to school and residents of the sheltered accommodation? Would you wish an elderly or very young relative of yours to have to find their way across the A646 at this point without even this small assistance?
From Ian M
Perhaps they could walk the hundred or so yards out of their way to the traffic lights where they can cross in safety.
From Andy M
In reply to Ian M:
'Nobody really uses it' (the cinema pelican crossing)
Blimey - I'll have to remind myself of that when I use it over the next few days. I might tell all the other people who regularly use it this interesting fact too.
From Andrew Hall
Ian M, if you mean the traffic lights at the bottom of Heptonstall Road, forget it. These must be the most dangerous lights in the area.
From Myra J
In addition to the many safety issues at the Heptonstall Road junction, as ably set out by Andrew Hall, there is the small matter of the steep incline to be negotiated in order to reach it from Church Lane. Is Ian M. seriously suggesting this as an acceptable alternative crossing point? Pedestrians are just people who happen to be walking - even you must do it occasionally Ian!
From Christine P
My daughter went to school at Mytholm even when they had a lollipop person there it seemed to me that the lollipop person had to put their life on the line trying to get the traffic to stop to let the kids cross the road.
I know I am going slightly off topic here, but I have on several occasions crossed the road at the zebra crossings on Market street and the car near me has stopped to let me cross but ones at the other side of the road just go straight through the zebra crossing.
I have stood patiently at the pelican crossing at the Cinema on New Road, it takes so long to change I start to think it is broken at least I now know it is doing it to relieve traffic congestion. I think that is what Mr Pickles was saying.
From Marcus Bull
Yay! We've got a school crossing person!
From Graham Barker
A crossing attendant is good as far as it goes, but it only scratches the surface of the road safety and (let’s not forget) air quality problems that require better traffic regulation throughout the Upper Valley.
The fundamental frustration remains the unwillingness or inability of Calderdale MBC to see a problem. Their attitude seems to be, ‘You’ve got 20mph speed limit signs, what more do you need?’. The police made it clear at a recent ward meeting that with the best will in the world they just don’t have the resources to enforce the 20mph limit. Drivers are proving themselves incapable of sticking voluntarily to the limit, so all that’s left is engineering solutions, which puts the ball back in Calderdale’s court - and the habitually negative response of council officers suggests that they have no intention of picking it up.
It’s interesting that the Green Party is now proposing a 20mph limit in Todmorden, but they seem to be wilfully ignoring the lesson of Hebden Bridge. This extract from the Todmorden News of 3 September sums it up:
' Derrick Kershaw, secretary of the Todmorden Accident Prevention Council, cast doubt on the effectiveness of a new speed limit. "No-one enforces the new speed limit in Hebden Bridge; it was a waste of time putting those signs up. The people that should slow down don't read road signs."
Alan (McDonald, Green Party member and Todmorden resident) argues that speed limits make drivers think about their behaviour. "Speed limits have to work by consensus. The police cannot be expected to watch a road 24-hours a day but at the very least a new speed limit would change the way we think about the roads in our towns and hopefully change people's driving behaviour."
Kate Sweeny, the prospective Parliamentary candidate for the Green Party and Hebden Bridge resident, said: "The 20 mile-per-hour speed limits do work and they don't stop the flow of traffic. It's working in Hebden Bridge; it's a lot easier to cross the main road now.” '
Kate Sweeney has, I think, made the same comment before, in the Courier. I’d like her to justify her claim that our 20mph speed limit is working when it’s clearly an abject failure. Derrick Kershaw recognises this, so why not the Greens? Are they too stuck in a mindset that can’t countenance any form of enforcement or sanction? When we already have enough difficulty getting anything positive out of smugly indifferent local authority officers, it’s disappointing that the Green Party shows itself to be so deluded and wishy-washy. A 20mph limit is no solution to anything if it isn’t enforced effectively.
From Kate Sweeny
Happy to "justify my comments"!
I spoke last week to Haydn Vernals, the Consultant Traffic Engineer for Calderdale MBC. He crunched some numbers and found that the accident rates are down by 25% since the introduction of the 20mph zone in Hebden Bridge. He and I would both like to stress that it's too early to draw firm conclusions, but that sounds to me like a good enough start!
Until recently I was a casual supporter of 20mph restrictions, but since I looked into it properly I've become a zealot! The evidence is overwhelming that they save lives and money. I've written further letters to the Courier and the Tod News this week with more details on this. I'll provide more here if anyone wants me to!
From Rev Tony Buglass
The answer you get from data always depends on the questions you ask of it. I can see how a 20mph limit will certainly save lives (cars can stop sooner, fewer pedestrians will be hit, more of those who are hit will survive, etc) and money (correspondingly fewer repairs.
However, as I wrote here when the scheme was first mooted, for most cars driving at 20mph as opposed to 30mph will mean a lower gear and higher engine revs, which will mean higher fuel consumption (so higher costs) and higher emissions and pollution. That is arguably a price worth paying, certainly if lives are being saved, but does need to be a cost on the balance sheet.
Where I wonder about the completeness of the question is the effect of motorists blasting away from the limit at either end of the zone. It is especially noticeable at the Eastern end, where the speed limit jumps from 20mph to 40mph - and a significant number of drivers exceed 40; I have often been overtaken along there by idiots doing more like 50 or 60. At the Western end of the zone the limit is 30mph - yeah, right.
Of course, the real issue is not the speed limit itself, but the lamentable standard of driving among a certain number of motorists who really do not care about speed limits. I'm continually astonished that I don't have to do more funerals of kamikaze drivers, or their unwitting targets. That is the issue which concerns me most; I suspect it will be a problem whatever the speed limit.
From Graham Barker
It would be good if Kate Sweeny or Haydn Vernals could supply us with the raw data so we can see exactly what is being compared with what. I find it impossible to accept that ignoring a speed limit produces significantly fewer accidents. The more likely cause is the reduced traffic into and out of Bridge Gate, and the installation of traffic lights at the junction with Albert Street. I’m as much a supporter of 20mph limits as Kate, but I object to the announcement of a bumper grain harvest when all the evidence of my own eyes tells me that there just isn’t one.
From Kate Sweeny
I think we're all basically on the same side!
Here, as requested, is the raw data from the Council:
If we consider all accidents in the same geographical limits of the current 20mph speed limit, that occurred before 1st Jan 2006, back through the previous 5 yrs as pre scheme, there have been 25 accidents in total over 60 months, these break down as follows.
If we consider accidents within the current 20mph speed limit, from the 1st Dec 2007 to the most recent data (we have validated statistics to end of May 2009) as post scheme, there have been 6 accidents in total, over 18 months, these break down as follows.
The figures aren’t completely representative as the post scheme period only covers 18 months, so statistical blips each way do come into play, this can be seen with the increase per year in serious accidents, but with a significant reduction in overall accidents.
The headline figure would be the accident rate per 100MVkm which is a common level at which we would measure the accident levels on a road.
Its fair to say that the reduction in the accident rates are not just as a result of the 20mph speed limit, but a major package of works to provide additional crossing facilities, changes to the road geometry, improvements to footways and reconstruction of the highway."
On the 25% figure, my comment was "(Haydn) and I would both like to stress that it's too early to draw firm conclusions, but that sounds to me like a good enough start!" This has been interpreted as "announcing a bumper grain harvest" which seems a tad unfair to me!
The other stat of note, as far as I'm concerned, is that the overall accident rate is still above the national average. I don't dispute for a minute that there are still problems! In particular I agree with Tony that the Halifax end of the town is problematic. Ten days ago someone went through a red light at the crossing outside the station, ignoring me and the other pedestrians waiting to cross, and she was certainly doing more than 20mph!
Where pollution/emissions are concerned, the picture is more complex than you'd think. If (if!) drivers slow down appropriately the emissions actually decrease because they're using brakes and gears less. The only hard evidence I've found so far backs this up (Hass-Clau 1990) but of course in Germany, where the research was done, one would think that drivers are more likely to obey the limits! The London Assembly currently has a team looking at this, among other things.
We Greens honestly don't want to pick arguments with people who obviously think along the same lines as us on this issue. However, by refusing to acknowledge any benefits, however small, from the 20mph zone you give support to the powerful lobby which opposes speed limits gnerally. Have a look at this website for an illustration!
From Rev Tony Buglass
"If (if!) drivers slow down appropriately the emissions actually decrease because they're using brakes and gears less."
To be precise, I wasn't talking about braking or deceleration, but flat speed. My car will cruise comfortably in 5th gear at 30mph, with correspondingly low engine revs. It will not do 20 mph in 5th, so I have to change down into 4th or even 3rd. The question is whether the engine is doing more revs in 4th or 3rd at 20 than in 5th at 30, and my impression is that it does, although I haven't tried a precise check (I'm usually too busy watching the road and other road users...).
I am in favour of speed limits generally, but they do need to be intelligent.