Highways experts have explained why they can rarely install road safety measures as part of new Derbyshire housing schemes.
Traffic issues are typically, across the thousands of planning applications filed across Derbyshire each year, the main concern raised by residents in opposition to developments.
They are more often than not also twinned with a debate on the potential overstretching of infrastructure and services, too.
Derbyshire County Council is the authority responsible for highways and is consulted by developers as part of every housing application in the county area.
Residents responding to planned housing and business developments raise concerns relating to highways for a variety of reasons.
Some include issues with speeding past a proposed site, insufficient existing space for car parking, noise and pollution, historically narrow roads and “blind” bends or hills.
The county council rarely puts in road safety measures in response to these concerns, often citing a need for evidence over opinion.
A summarised rebuttal frequently put forward by the county council to support this view is a lack of accidents or deaths on the stretch of road being questioned by objectors.
Now the council, in response to plans for 46 homes in Station Road, Melbourne, has extensively detailed why it cannot often install road safety measures anywhere across the county.
It explains that it must rely on “hard facts” due to the amount of areas across Derbyshire which potentially require speed bumps, rumble strips, chicanes or other road safety infrastructure.
The authority says resource is stretched, in relation to money and employees, to solve highways issue across the county leading to a hard and fast evidence-based priority system.
It wrote: “Speeding in general is a problem on many roads throughout the county and the Government is trying to address this issue nationally through education.
“The county supports this initiative with local campaigns and works in close partnership with the police to identify other methods of reducing speed.
“Whilst concerns are appreciated it should be acknowledged that as vehicle ownership rises, so do traffic volumes.
“This scenario is something that exists on many roads across the county and far outweigh the limited resources the county have available.
“A system of prioritisation is employed which includes the interrogation of pertinent data, such as the number and severity of collisions which may have occurred at any requested location.
“This helps to ensure that resources are firstly used in locations where there is the greatest need and where most benefits can be achieved in terms of road safety.
“Funds must therefore be directed to those roads where there is a history of reported injury collisions and where there is a trend in those collisions which a highway improvement scheme to be identified which would effectively reduce the number of collisions occurring. “This use of identifiable known ‘hard’ facts and figures is a methodology adopted by highway authorities across the country and provides a robust basis and justification for the use of funds.
“The county are very conscious that some residents may perceive this approach as meaning that a death or serious injury has to occur before action will be taken.
“However, it would be irresponsible of the county to commit funds to a location where few or no injury collisions have occurred, whilst there remain very many other sites with known collision histories, and trends in those collisions, which could be resolved through the introduction of safety measures.
“Whilst this may appear reactive rather than preventative the county do have a dedicated road safety team where officers work closely with Derbyshire Constabulary on a co-ordinated programme of road safety training, education and publicity campaigns with the objective of raising awareness with the motoring public and reducing road traffic casualties.
“The county are also mindful that physical traffic calming, such as road humps, is not universally popular with either motorists or residents.
“They are often considered a nuisance due to the noise and vibration cause by vehicles passing over them and it is questionable whether residents would be in support of such a ‘trade off’.
“It is therefore important to be able to justify such works that can have a negative effect on emergency vehicles, public transport and local residents alike.
“The provision of a formalised crossing requires the site to meet certain criteria, such as volume of pedestrians against time it takes to cross the road, number of recorded injury accidents, as well as many others. This helps to ensure that the significant funds required for such measures are targeted to locations where they are most needed and will be widely used.
“In order to meet assessment criteria, and consequently to ensure a new crossing will be well used, the county would be looking for numbers in the region of 1,000 vehicles, with 100 crossing pedestrians, for each of any four hours in the day.
“Other factors are considered during the assessment process, which include the level of difficulty for pedestrians crossing; any facilities within the area; and whether there is an identifiable ‘desire line’ where pedestrians have a clear need to cross.
“The recorded injury collision history is also taken into account in regard to pedestrian-related incidents.
“To provide a pedestrian crossing where footfall is relatively light, can actually prove counterproductive to road safety.
“Department for Transport advice states that caution should be exercised when considering crossings on roads where pedestrian flows are light for long periods of the day. Drivers become accustomed to not having to stop at the crossing and may begin to ignore its existence.
“This can increase the risk for pedestrians who make the assumption it is safe to cross and may step out in front of a driver who has ignored/forgotten the crossing.”