Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Living Streets—Hebden Bridge (RTS 23)


  I wish to submit evidence to this inquiry on how road traffic speed affects people in various parts of Calderdale and particularly in the Hebden Bridge area.

  I am a local contact for the Pedestrians Association in Hebden Bridge. In this capacity, I am a member of the Transport Focus Group of Calderdale's LA21 Sustainability Forum and have been involved recently in consultation on traffic reviews for Hebden Bridge and Todmorden.


  Calderdale consists of Halifax and the smaller towns of Sowerby Bridge, Brighouse, Elland, Hebden Bridge and Todmorden as well as many villages, hilltop communities and remote rural areas. In Halifax, 20mph speed limits have been introduced in a residential area and in the town centre, the latter as part of a zones and loops system to reduce through traffic and make the centre more friendly to pedestrians and public transport users. The Transport Focus Group and Calderdale Friends of the Earth have pressed for a borough wide programme of 20mph zones, Home Zones and other measures to improve quality of life in the various Calderdale towns. In October 2001, Calderdale Council engaged a consultant to undertake road traffic reviews for Hebden Bridge and Todmorden and, following consultation, traffic counts and other research carried out during the autumn of 2001, the consultant's reports are expected soon.


  Hebden Bridge is located in a steep valley through which the main road route is the A646 trunk road. Space is at a premium throughout the town and pavements are narrow everywhere and in many spots are non-existent. Most houses have no front garden and front directly onto the road. These factors intensify the impact of speeding traffic for local residents. There are three main approaches to the town from hilltop communities. All are very steep and with dangerous bends. The A646, a key route for commuter and commercial traffic, is also a shopping street and a residential street in the communities through which it passes. There are many points where crossing the road is extremely hazardous—a good example being in the vicinity of King Street, Mytholm, where two bends reduce visibility and traffic frequently travels too fast for the conditions and dangerous overtaking is commonplace.

  In spite of these difficult conditions, accidents are remarkably infrequent and in the absence of casualties the council is unlikely to prioritise safety measures. There is an urgent need for a new approach to the kind of difficulties caused by traffic speed, taking into account impacts on quality of life as well as simply counting casualties. As consultees during the Hebden Bridge traffic review, members of Calderdale Friends of the Earth and the Pedestrians Association urged adoption of 20mph speed limits in the town centre and on approach roads to the town, combined with effective enforcement. The speed camera schemes shortly to be piloted need to be extended much more widely and applied not only in areas with high casualty counts but those where traffic speed is affecting quality of life and producing either actual or perceived danger.


  Residents of Lower Bentley Road, Sowerby Bridge have found that since construction of a new housing estate nearby, with many two and three car households, they are suffering from additional traffic speeding through their area to the estate. In response to a request for "slow" signs, the council told residents the policy was to prioritise sites with significant road safety implications but that it would endeavour to carry out the work in the forthcoming financial year. In nearby West Street, two pensioners have recently been knocked down, one by a hit and run driver, compounding residents' concerns about road safety in their area.


  Residents at Willowfield, Halifax are seeking help from speed cameras and other speed reduction measures to tackle speeding traffic along a stretch of road which, while not built up on either side, must be crossed by local residents, many of whom are elderly. They may find, however, that their problems do not meet present criteria, requiring prioritisation of areas with a high rate of casualties.


  Speeding traffic blights lives. Low casualty rates may mask a situation in which many people are so intimidated by traffic as to avoid going out on foot. Present funding levels restrict the extent of assistance which the council can provide and requests for road safety measures must join a waiting list prioritised in terms of casualties occurring. In Calderdale, we urgently need a borough wide programme of traffic calming, home zones and properly enforced speed limits so that people do not have to join a long waiting list to have their road danger concerns addressed. Current funding regimes do not appear to facilitate this approach and Government action is needed to make sure councils are able to respond to residents' legitimate demands for streets in which they and their children may walk, cycle, play and live in safety.

Myra James

Pedestrians Association Local contact—Hebden Bridge

January 2002

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