A CONTROVERSIAL decision to remove pedestrian safety rails from roads to encourage social distancing has been backed by a national charity.
Tameside Council’s call to take out what it termed ‘non-essential’ barriers attracted criticism from members of the public and opposition councillors.
But the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has told The Correspondent it supports the announcement.
Hours after the authority announced the barriers were being taken out so people can ensure they are two metres away from each other, one on Oldham Road in Ashton was pictured pulled out.
And among a barrage of criticism were calls from people to remove ones they feel are unnecessary, including at three sites in Denton – close to Sainsbury’s and Morrisons supermarket and at Crown Point.
Tameside is using part of the region’s Mayor Andy Burnham’s £160 million Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund to carry out the work, which is part of a wider scheme.
Other proposals include key worker corridors, ‘access only’ quiet streets, upgrading cycle lanes, creating temporary crossings, de-cluttering street furniture and schemes to calm traffic.
That did not stop members of the public and councillors, even ones from other authorities, hitting out.
But RoSPA’s head of road safety Nick Lloyd said that as long as safety audits were done, the body does not have a problem with some being removed.
He told The Correspondent: “We welcome in principle the measures being proposed to encourage cycling and walking, which are in line with Governmental guidance that allows highway authorities to introduce pop-up bike lanes, wider pavements and cycle and bus only streets.
“As we gradually move out of lockdown, creating safer environments with active travel at their heart will encourage more people to see cycling and walking as a positive choice, which is good for safety, good for health and good for the environment.
“Where the roads are being reconfigured, it may mean that some older safety measures such as pedestrian guard rails are no longer required.
“This is a decision which the highway authority must make following a safety audit.”
Such was the outpouring against the announcement, Tameside Council’s original social media post was removed.
Cllr Stephen Ellis, who represents Cheadle on Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, said: “If these railings were non-essential, why the hell did you waste taxpayers’ money to put them in only to spend more taxpayers’ money to rip them out?”
Tameside Conservative campaigner Andrea Colbourne added: “Looks like a complete waste of money. What’s going to happen when the roads get busier? Reinstall them?”
The verdict from the public was even more harsh, with opinions ranging including: “If they weren’t essential in the first place, why exactly were they installed originally? Woe betide if an accident were to occur because of the lack of safety guards, on your head be it!”
Tameside’s executive leader Cllr Brenda Warrington said: “Quieter streets and less traffic are one of the huge positives to have come out of lockdown and we have also seen a spike in bicycle use and walking.
“As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, we want ensure people can continue to have the space to travel to and from work and school, exercise and go about their daily lives safely – being able to observe social distancing, on foot or by bicycle wherever possible – and our proposed measures aim to support this.”
And Cllr Oliver Ryan added in response to a question online: “They’re decorative. They thin the pavement unnecessarily for buggies, wheelchair users and cyclists.
“Government have actually recommended their removal for 15 years now. They’re not crash barriers, standing behind these won’t save anyone. They’re decorative street scenery we don’t need.”