Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Viewpoint: Council, show us what you plan

Having detailed the concerns of residents on the school crossings yesterday, I think it’s appropriate for the Diary to look at the matter in a wider perspective, writes Brian Byrne. In doing so, I’m trying to get inside the engineering ‘mind’ of the Council in relation to the works carried out.

First, on the Cnoc na Greine Avenue, where ‘an extra painted speed bump’ was put in place, there are actually two components. The red coloured ‘speed bump’ and the black ‘bump’ with crossing lines on it, linked to footpaths on each side.

That latter is correctly placed and sized according to the NRA’s own ‘Pedestrian Crossing Specification and Guidance’ as published in 2011. However, the style of the crossing lines is more suited to a signal-controlled crossing, and it would be better if it had ‘zebra’ stripes and beacons, so that motorists and pedestrians alike would know exactly their rights and responsibilities. As it stands, it’s a confusing crossing. It’s also not well lit, and there should already be temporary signs indicating a change to the road layout, to be there for a period of six months. In addition, it looks very temporary, and doesn't have the studded pavement dishing that helps people with visual problems.

There’s further confusion about the works at the entrance road to the Community Centre, where no marked crossing has been placed. However, under best practice guidelines, no marked pedestrian crossing can be put at the actual junction itself, because it could cause significant traffic problems both of vehicles on the main road, and those trying to exit onto the road. As things now stand, and if both pedestrians and motorists are behaving correctly and reasonably, incoming and exiting traffic will give way to pedestrians making the uncontrolled crossing.

To place a marked crossing on this road, it would have to be, like the one on Cnoc na Greine Avenue, at least 20m in from the junction itself. This is probably what the local residents and parents of school-going children were expecting from the Council. However, this wasn’t done, though the construction of kerbing along the Pinkeen stream side to just that 20m distance suggests that it was in someone’s mind, as there’s enough space to build the required width of short footpath.

Of course, should that second pedestrian crossing be put in place, there would have to be a guard rail that inhibited pedestrians going directly across the existing junction with the main road. Otherwise there would be two crossing points, and human nature will dictate that most people will take the shortest route.

To use a catch-phrase, ‘it’s complicated’. Complication which has some roots in previous planning decisions that allowed two exits onto the main Curragh Road so close to each other, for one thing.

Complications too, I’d suggest, in a lack of communication between Council and local people, who are currently saying ‘we didn’t get what we were promised’.

But what were they promised? The Diary is not aware of any plans of the proposed works being made available publicly in advance of them going ahead. Just as no plans were advanced on the recent footpaths works at Hillside and to Lui na Greine. And no plans in advance of recent works at Thompson’s Cross, which has been, and continues as a whole other saga.

I have previously put forward the proposition that all public improvement and maintenance works be publicly detailed in words and plans at the places where they are to be implemented. That way, everyone with an interest will know in advance what’s going on. Meaning much less confusion during and after works completion. And also allowing a level of public consultation and comment before things get started. The plans for such works are obviously available in advance to the contractors, so why not also show them to the community who are going to be affected by the work?

Having rows afterwards, involving councillors putting down motions, taking up officials’ time and all that other stuff could be minimised by a little early communication.

It seems straightforward and logical to me … or am I missing something?