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Councils dump road safety measures to cut accidents

LOCAL AUTHORITIES are scrapping road safety measures like guard rails, special road marking and traffic signals because they are thought to increase accident risks.

They believe cutting removing some safety features makes motorists drive slow, reducing their chances of colliding with pedestrians.

NCE has learned that councils across the UK are working on more than 40 schemes which remove segregation between motorists and pedestrians.

The principle – known as “shared space”– is widely used on the Continent.

It has long been claimed by road safety groups – particularly in the Netherlands – that the idea improves road safety. It is thought that the resulting increase in uncertainty caused by reduced use of safety features makes drivers cut their speeds.

Figures published this week by Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea showed that pedestrian casualties had dropped by 64% since London’s Kensington High Street was redesigned along shared space principles.

Local authorities are now rushing to implement similar schemes shared space said transport, traffic and urban design consultant Ben Hamilton-Baillie.

"The speed of take up recently from local authorities has been amazing. Shared space appears to have touched the zeitgeist," said Hamilton Baillie who is currently working with 12 highway authorities on shared space proposals.

"I'm getting about 20 calls a week at the moment," he said.

New schemes worth millions of pounds in consultants fees are set to undo millions of pounds in investment in guard rails and road markings. They are going forward despite fears that engineers may be made liable for accidents if safety features are removed.

County surveyors body CSS’ engineering committee chairman Matthew Lugg said: "We are still wary about some of the legal aspects of this.

“Some local authorities may be liable if there is an accident after removing road signs and markings.

“Arrangements need to be put in place to guard against that. I'm a bit nervous about taking away things that were put there for a good reason in the first place."

Despite these fears, schemes are under development in Newcastle, Ashford, Oxford, Bath, Bristol, Brighton, Kings Cross and Dagenham in Greater London, New Hall in Harlow, Calderwood near Edinburgh, Waterlooville in Hampshire, Sherford in Devon as well as other schemes in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Suffolk.

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