After B&NES Council’s defence of the controversial changes to the layout of Keynsham High Street, which have seen at least four pedestrians end up in hospital, signs have been put up advising people to “familiarise” themselves with the new arrangements.
It comes as one of the victims, Michael Lowe, who suffered head injuries when he fell, is calling for compensation to ensure that urgent action is taken so that no more pedestrians have to suffer.
In his letter, which is addressed to the council’s chief executive Will Godfrey – and which has also been sent to council leader Cllr Kevin Guy, his deputy Cllr Richard Samuel, High Street manager Georgi Tyler, and The Week In. – Mr Lowe also asks for evidence that a risk assessment was properly carried out into the potential danger to pedestrians from the design which he says has created a totally unnecessary drop-down kerb in the middle of the road between the cycle lane and the rest of the High Street.
North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and local councillor Alan Hale, who has received numerous reports of people sustaining injuries after tripping and falling, were also copied into the letter.
The £1.5m High Street project has seen footpaths widened and resurfaced, a new cycle lane and new street furniture. But differing kerb heights have seen pedestrians trip and fall, with reported injuries including broken bones, sprains, cuts and bruises.
In our latest issue we published a statement from the council which said that the design had gone through a full consultation, road safety audit and technical review and complies with relevant legislation, specification and guidance. The council also encouraged people to use the pedestrian crossings to cross the street safely; adding it would be monitoring usage and the comments raised were being reviewed by the traffic management team.
In response Mr Lowe, who has lived in Keynsham for more than 40 years, has written to say he was the “older man” referred to in our article who had suffered a nasty injury.
He writes: “On Saturday 26th March around midday, I crossed the road from near the Post Office, stepped down from the pavement onto the cycle lane, and then fell heavily where the cycle lane drops down again in the middle of the road. I suffered a gash to the head, cuts and bruises to my knees, hands, wrists and shoulder. I fell onto my glasses which are beyond repair and which caused damage around my eye socket and gave me a black eye.
“Passers-by were kind in their attention and a pharmacist from Boots came with dressings to give initial coverings and stem the flow of blood. When it was apparent that it would be some time before an ambulance would come, my wife drove me to the Royal United Hospital A&E where after some six hours’ wait, I was thoroughly assessed and treated by a doctor who, as well as cleaning and dressing the wounds, carried out numerous tests and a CT scan. I was able to leave at approximately 10.30pm.
“My fall was caused by the unexpected second drop down kerb from the cycle lane. The cycle lane part of the road is fully segregated from the rest of the road by markings and bollards. What then is the purpose of the added step down kerb? It has so clearly demonstrated itself to be a major hazard to pedestrians. In just the few days since the road was reopened there have, shockingly, been at least eight and probably more than a dozen pedestrian accidents.
“Any behavioural scientist would surely expect that when pedestrians step off the pavement onto the road, they are not expecting a second drop down. The cycle lane is simply a part of the roadway. The claims of the council that the design is ‘compliant’ is beside the point. It is inherently dangerous to pedestrians. What risk assessment was carried out on behalf of pedestrians?
“What should have been a very beneficial upgrade to Keynsham High Street has been undermined and spoiled by this unnecessary design fault. It is obvious from the number of accidents that it has created a health and safety danger to pedestrians.”
Mr Lowe, who lives at The Chocolate Quarter, says he wants to make a claim for compensation, both for damage to his spectacles and blood-soaked trousers, and for personal injury but “the B&NES website is unhelpful in telling me how to make such a claim”.
This weekend Mr Lowe said he was still unsteady on his feet. He and his wife are keen walkers and recently enjoyed a holiday in Cornwall where they walked part of the rugged coastal path. He said it was ironic that he should fall in his local High Street.
He has received a response from Cllr Samuel who has advised him that the chief executive is arranging a “full reply”.
Cllr Samuel said: “I am very sorry you suffered this accident and I hope you are recovering. I visited myself on Wednesday and spoke to a number of residents. As a result of my visit I have asked officers to consider ways in which awareness of the changes made to the road layout can be better emphasised to road users and pedestrians.”
Keynsham councillors Alan Hale and Brian Simmons were also at that meeting and they have told us that some of the solutions suggested include adding additional white lines to make it clear where the kerbs are located, installing signage on site and launching an advertising campaign to encourage locals to take care.
Cllr Hale said: I’m pleased that these concerns are now being taken seriously. I welcome the potential actions that can be taken to improve safety on the High Street and if they are found to be insufficient, I hope further work can be done to correct these problems before more people are hurt.”
Cllr Simmons said: “These works are simply not up to the standard we expect. There is a high risk of serious injury or worse unless these problems can be sorted out quickly.
“We need a resolution and I’m pleased to see the council taking our concerns seriously. Hopefully these problems can be corrected as quickly as possible.”
Some resurfacing work was taking place in the High Street yesterday, including in the cycle lane and there are signs which say: “NEW ROAD LAYOUT Please enjoy Keynsham High Street and familiarise yourself with the new traffic arrangements, crossing points and stepped cycle lane.”
We understand a couple of raised kerb ends adjacent to the informal crossing were being removed.
Meanwhile Tyson Mordue, from Willsbridge, also contacted The Week In after reading our front page article. He told us he slipped off the edge of the cycle lane kerb near the zebra crossing as he did not notice the difference in height, but fortunately did not hurt himself.
He accused the local authority of trying to throw responsibility back to pedestrians even though “the council are paid to have responsibility”.
Mr Mordue said an obvious improvement to the scheme would be to make the cyclepath a different colour.
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