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May 1, 2013: Hard to believe but true. There's now a crossing at the Lower Road recreation ground.
Throughout April, Surrey County Council contractors have been toiling to realign pavements, relocate drainage, installing lighting and do all the other tasks needed for what looks like the simple job of painting some broad stripes across the road.
It feels like a miracle that ordinary residents can change the minds of officialdom. It's actually the result of persistent nagging by a few people who just wouldn't let up.
Blind eye turned to local speeding Local residents have campaigned since 2002 to get a safe crossing of Lower Road installed as a link between the Middlemead estate and the recreation ground. Every child on the housing estate has to cross Lower Road to get to either school or their rec. And the elderly and others had to cross it to get to the medical centre or the village shops.
For years the police, the residents' association and councillors swore that neither this nor any other local road posed no abnormal danger. When the Bugle's editor went to the local police panel to complain about the danger, members of the Bookham Residents' Association jeered at his suggestion that local drivers often broke speed limits.
It seemed that neither the police, local authorities, nor local politicians had any interest in addressing the danger drivers posed on residential 'restricted' roads covered by the 30mph limit, particularly to children.
As we'll see, even when the highway authority had evidence of excessive—illegal—speeding in Bookham, they did not see the danger it posed as a matter the police need bother with.
Then something really odd happened. In September 2011 Surrey County Council (SCC) dealt what seemed to be yet another defeat for the latest effort to win a safe Lower Road crossing.
Exactly two years ago a child was injured while crossing Lower Road at the recreation ground. Following local pressure and a second petition from, among others, the Residents of Middlemead Estate (Rome), Mole Valley local committee had asked SCC as the highway authority to look again at the safety of Lower Road at the recreation ground. The local committee links Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) with SCC on matters like this over which MVDC has no control.
SCC engineers visited the site in July 2011. Their report listed five options, including the 'do nothing' strategy SCC had favoured to date.
Four had problems. A controlled, 'puffin' crossing would cost £100,000. The zebra crossing—now in place—was "not considered feasible at this location". Instead it put forward a fifth option: road markings, traffic signs and coloured surfacing.
The smoking gun What changed the debate, however, was the report's revelation in rejecting the zebra option that, on the section of Lower Road which goes past the recreation ground, "85th percentile speeds are in excess of 35mph." In other words, it now turned out that 85 per cent of drivers were going at 5mph above the speed limit where residents wanted the crossing.
Worse, the document went on to claim that: "There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report." It is hard to think of any other crime and disorder issue where 85 per cent of those participating in a public activity were breaking the law, at threat to life, without 'crime and disorder implications'.
The Rome committee made absolutely clear to local councillors that the continuing risks to local children, and the blind eye being turned to widescale, dangerous and unlawful activity, were not acceptable. Within days, two Bookham councillors—local committee chair Cllr Clare Curran (Con), who had previously been ambiguous about the need for or feasibility of the crossing, and new MVDC council member Phil Harris (LibDem)—swung behind the crossing campaign.
Postscript Unfortunately, that is not the end of the story. Within a year, probably more, perhaps less, there will be an 'accident' at the the newly-installed crossing. That's because more residents, young and old, will change their habits to use it.
If official attitudes to enforcement don't change, however, drivers will behave just as they have always done. Someone will be injured or worse, and the crossing, not the driver, will be made the culprit.
Pay no attention. If you run over a child on a crossing, the fault is yours, nobody else's. Drivers have to learn to accept responsibility for what happens when they take the wheel. But it will be interesting to see who sides with the driver and who with the injured parties.
The Bugle has been campaigning for a Lower Road crossing since the site began in 2006. See our coverage of local pedestrian-safety issues here. http://bookhambugle.2day.ws/bookhambugle/section/ExpectPolicecrackdownonantisocialdriving/.
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