Building works on one corner of the First & Last junction have closed the footway (the posh name for pavement used by DCC’s highways officers).
I am pleased to report that, despite comments I’ve heard, there has not been a wall collapse on the corner of Dunsford Road and Buddle Lane outside the Old School House.
This is not a Devon Highways scheme and doesn’t involve any highway alterations.
Mercury Construction are working on the perimeter wall of Bowhill School site. As part of these works the wall outside the Old School House was to be rebuilt, as it was beginning to show signs of movement and their were evident cracks after having stood for countless years.
The works were scheduled for the school holidays to minimise disruption, but a recent structural survey identified that the wall was in an unsafe condition to leave by an active footway.
The footway was closed two weeks ago on the 8th July and the works commenced shortly afterwards.
A Cowick resident has pointed out to me that the pavement here is too narrow at this dangerous location and wondered if DCC should take this opportunity widenthe footway at this location.
So, is the pavement too narrow?
In Design Manual for Roads and Bridges HD39/1 Volume 7 Pavement Design and Maintenance Section 2 Pavement Design and Construction Part 5 Footway Design [May 2001]
2. DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS
Where possible the footway width should be sufficient to allow two wheelchairs or double buggies to pass. The basic geometrical parameters are set out in Table 2.3.
The Highways Agency DDA Design Compliance Assessment Guide [March 2010] has this to say:
18.104.22.168 The recommended minimum width of footway/footpath is shown in Figure 3.1.2.
• A clear width of 2000mm allows two wheelchairs to pass one another comfortably. This should be regarded as the minimum under normal circumstances.
• Where this is not possible because of physical constraints 1500mm could be regarded as the minimum acceptable under most circumstances, giving sufficient space for a wheelchair user and a walker to pass one another.
• The absolute minimum, where there is an obstacle, should be 1000mm clear space. The maximum length of restricted width should be 6 metres.
• If there are local restrictions or obstacles causing this sort of reduction in width they should be grouped in a logical and regular pattern to assist visually impaired people.
DCC have told me the cost to widen the footway on this corner would be substantial and prohibitive in the current financial climate. In addition to the physical construction of the widened footway, there would be a need for alterations to railings, traffic signals and sensor loops, push-button signals, utility services, etc.
Also, this junction is also clearly running at capacity in terms of trying to get as many vehicles and pedestrians through the junction in the shortest possible time period. The junction layout is almost unchanged in the last century so understandably this challenge has increased.
Each of the four legs of the junction has three lanes (both directions) including a right-turn lane on each approach. There is no viable option to alter or improve this layout as the buildings restrict the available width. Any widening of the roads would impinge on the footways and vice versa.
To widen the footway outside the Old School House would involve narrowing of the road which is really a non-starter.
The ‘swept path’ is the name given to the area of road surface a vehicle uses in negotiating a manoeuvre or corner. As the drawing below shows for a longer vehicle the swept path is considerably wider than the vehicle itself and this can lead to problems at tight junctions.
The First & Last junction is already restrictive for HGVs, buses, etc. so to narrow the junction further by widening a footway, whilst still maintaining three lanes on each approach as needed is not practical.
And that response shows the primary focus of the Highways team – roads, not pavements.
Perhaps rather than a pretty pictures of an articulated lorry going round the corner, what is needed is a picture of a children’s buggy meeting a bicycle or disabled pedestrian inside the railings?
Have we lost an opportunity for want of some lateral thinking?
The opportunity to move the wall back, not to narrow the road.
The wall needs rebuilding. Why not rebuild it one metre further back? This would provide a wider pavement. And there would be NO need to touch the road, the rails or any other expensive kit!
But it seems although both under the remit of Devon County Council, the Education and Highways services work in silos and don’t talk to each other.
The scheme to repair this failing wall is part of a large programme of works by DCC Education department on the Bowhill School site. And these works had no highways impact until there was a need to close the footway due to the wall being assessed as dangerous.
The Bowhill School works are in progress and so the works have already been designed, put out to tender to contractors and the contract awarded to Mercury Construction.
As Mercury are now working on site, there is no scope for redesigning the works and changing the contract and programme.
Wholesale changes and increasing costs are an impossibility at this stage and would have had to have been proposed during the initial design to have been included.
The main trouble is no-one has ever mentioned problems with the footpath being too narrow here before. I haven’t heard about concerns and it seems neither has any other local councillor. Nor has DCC.
With no previous history of reports of the footway width as being a problem on this corner, then there would have been no motivation to address this issue.
I will be taking a greater interest in this corner in future.