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Manning and Black team up over roadworks safety fears

May 2, 2014 11:11 AM

Ian Manning and MJ Black at Milton Road roadworksCounty Councillor Ian Manning and disability rights campaigner, MJ Black have teamed up to attack the way a major utility company has cordoned off roadworks on a busy Cambridge street.

They fear barriers erected around the work being carried out by the National Grid in Milton Road put cyclists, pedestrians and disabled people at risk.

The barriers block the cycle lanes near a busy junction opposite the Golden Hind pub directing cyclists onto the shared use path alongside. Confusingly cyclists are then instructed to dismount.

Despite the problem of mixing a high volume of cycle traffic with pedestrians on a narrow path, a second set of barriers have been put in place restricting access for disabled people.

Cllr Manning, who represents East Chesterton on Cambridgeshire County Council went to the site to discuss with the National Grid team carrying out the work.

"These works are a farcical example of how not to cater for the most vulnerable users of our roads and paths," he said. "Cyclists are given inconsistent messages, pedestrians have already cramped space impinged upon further and most unacceptable of all, wheelchair users are totally blocked from using the path."

To demonstrate the impact, Ian asked disability campaigner Mr Black to come to the site in his wheelchair

"It is totally wrong that site workers can block wheelchair access on a public footpath without specific agreed permission before work starts," said Mr Black.

"The barriers in this particular area pose a significant difficulty for people who have a visual impairment or who are wheelchair users. This type of ill-thought out site works layout pits pedestrians (including wheelchair users) in direct conflict with cyclists unnecessarily.

"The National Grid should be ashamed of itself. It needs to implement some access guidelines so this doesn't happen again."

Cllr Manning added: "In attempting to clumsily fix one problem the wrong way by putting up a second set of barriers, they have ended up causing a far more serious problem affecting the most at risk group. This needs to be rectified immediately and both cyclists and pedestrians given proper care and attention."

In February, Cambridge MP Julian Huppert chaired the launch of a national agreement between councils, utility companies and businesses to prevent streetworks causing problems for pedestrians, motorists and businesses. The agreement - "What Good Looks Like" - was drawn up after Julian presided over the launch of a taskforce set up in 2012 by the Local Government Association to tackle the growing problem.

It requires councils, business and utility companies to sign up to a series of promises to make sure streetworks are carried out on time and to the highest standard with minimal disruption.

Julian said: "Clearly utility companies have to carry out work in busy streets, but when an area needs to be cordoned off it must be done in such a way as to protect pedestrians and cyclists while allowing traffic to flow smoothly.

"In this instance, little thought appears to have been given to how these barriers will impact on wheelchair users and disabled people. While trying to protect cyclists, a new problem has been created.

"I hope the National Grid team will look again at this issue and find a better way to make this site safe."