Zebra Crossings: My Passion for Central Refuges

This week I had correspondence with the Highway Authority for Bedfordshire,  and with Central Bedfordshire Council Development Control officials. Copying in various CBC councillors. I was concerned about the impending works due to start tomorrow in Houghton Regis High Street.

When complete, the scheme, a Section 278 agreement, for road works in conjunction with Morrison's new large supermarket, will provide 8 new zebra crossings, where previously there had been just 3 pelican crossings. Part of the scheme is illustrated here.

Looking back to the record of the Planning and Licensing committee of the Town Council in October 2010, I can see that we recorded concern at the proximity of some of the 'pelican' crossings to roundabouts. Where 'pelican' came from, I'm not sure, because the scheme shows zebra's. For myself, I do recall commenting that they were zebra crossings.

At the time we probably concentrated a lot more on the plethora of paper work to do with the store, the car park, and the access points. Nevertheless, the point was made about crossings being too close to roundabouts.  But, I think, whatever sort of crossing, there was an unquestioned belief that central refuge's would also be provided with these crossings. After all, as with the present pelican crossing below, we already had a refuge. Why would this new scheme offer less protection to pedestrians?

Pelican crossing with central refuge is due to be replaced with a zebra and no refuge.
The Bedford Road, Houghton Regis, was converted to a zebra late last year. The old central refuge was removed, the zebra installed a bit further back from the roundabout than previous position, but without a central refuge. There was an instant outcry from the public saying it was too close to the roundabout for such a long crossing. Check my Houghton Regis News Desk Facebook page. And newspapers have twice reported knock-downs of pedestrians since then, in Bedford Road.

CBC's Development Control apparently asked for  the crossing to be moved even further back from the roundabout "before Christmas". But nothing appeared to happen. The revised plan I was privvy to seemed to call for the zebra to be removed back down the road about 3/4 the width of the crossing. Maybe it was, or is being moved. But I don't think people will spot that it's been moved. So we're still likely to have an outcry. 

The width of this road in Houghton Regis is due to get a zebra crossing without a central refuge.
Somewhere near the keep left sign above, a crossing is due to be installed, without a central refuge. I am very concerned that when traffic comes off this roundabout that they will not have a clear view of a pedestrian standing over on the right hand side of the road. Traffic will emerge from Bedford Road (on the right of this picture above) and will not necessarily have a good sight line to pedestrians. In the picture below, looking from the other direction, you could try to make your own estimation of sight, on perhaps a dull, wet day with rain lashing at the windscreen.

Orange arrows indicate locations for TWO zebra crossings. High Street, Houghton Regis
This is a view of the same crossing from the other direction. As you can see from above, maybe there should not be two crossings so close together, but that is a secondary issue to the one of providing a pedestrian refuge. 

Can I tell you, dear reader, I'm currently being advised by Highways that in Houghton Regis the road is not too wide, and therefore people do not need a refuge. So why am I so passionately in favour of refuges? 

Here's why. When I lived in Hemel Hempstead for over 30 years, the local zebra crossing in Queensway close to a roundabout, had a refuge, and still has. A fairly narrow road, taking a significant amount of traffic, but IT HAS A REFUGE that 
  • gives pedestrians a safety zone if someone coming off the roundabout misses them, 
  • gives pedestrians confidence to cross.
  • helps to reduce the chance of accidents.

Queensway, Hemel Hempstead. Busy road, zebra crossing, AND a central refuge.

Closer to home there are dozens of examples where central refuges are provided. Here's one in West Street Dunstable:

So, why can't we have refuges, too, in Houghton Regis?