Keeping roads safe

Whenever there are changes to roads or footpaths we need to check that they remain safe for all users. These changes could be in the form of junction improvements made by the council, or changes in access that come with the construction of new building developments. The Road Safety team monitor these changes from concept to completion, through the Road Safety Auditing process, to make sure any changes are for the better.

Principal Road Safety Officer Paul Williams explains…

As a local authority we have a legal obligation to make sure that if any changes are made to the roads they remain safe, we want to make sure road layouts can mean that traffic flows freely, public transport has space and that streets will be safe for pedestrians and cyclists too. This is managed through the road safety audit process.

How does this work?

At each stage of the design and build process we act as a second pair of eyes to ensure that any proposed changes to the roads are safe and suggest recommendations for improvements where we have concerns. At each stage we write a report with our recommendations which will go back to the designers and the developers.

Stage 1 – is the ‘review at concept’. We look at the plans for new developments, shops or highway improvement schemes and consider the road safety implications for all road users. This happens early on in the planning process before technical drawings and planning permission is granted, and is a top level look to see if there are any obvious concerns, for example if it is close to a school or hospital.

The road safety team

Stage 2 – reviewing the ‘detailed designs’ these are the technical drawings from the contractor and it is at this point we go out to the location to review the proposals in situ. We look at historic accident data to see if there have been an issues at the site, and see if this is an opportunity to incorporate anything that could help improve road safety.  We strive to consider all potential scenarios involving different road users taking into account many factors, for example, the road surface, lighting levels, gradient, visibility and lots of other factors.

Stage 3 – Post completion – Once everything has been built we review the ‘as built’ drawings and compare these to what exists on street and check that changes to the road have been built correctly. We test the new layout by walking, driving and (where appropriate) cycling the road in various directions – in some ways it’s a similar principle to the hazard perception section of a driving theory test, however we are making sure the highway layout is not the hazard.

The road safety team on site

What happens on site?

This is a very thorough process, we visit the site both during the day and at night to check for possible hazards. We think about the typical users using the crossing or junction or new road layout and evaluate the levels of risk. We always work in teams of two, so we don’t miss anything. Each team will look at the layouts and think how this would affect different users e.g. children, adults, disabled access, pushchairs. You’ve got to think about the surroundings too, is there a care home nearby or a school? Will this have implications for road safety?

At stage 3 we invite the police along too, and other experts e.g. traffic signal engineers if it’s a new complex junction. If there are concerns at this point they are included in a report and passed to the design team and developer for their consideration for further action.

If there are major changes to a road layout, aren’t there more likely to be accidents after works finished?

Our statistics don’t show this. For people who drive a route regularly they have generally watched the situation evolve over time so know that the change is coming. For example, if a new housing estate is being built – regular commuters will pass by every day so any changes to the roads during construction will be gradual and they have time to adjust. For people who don’t drive a route regularly – they are more likely to be cautious at locations they are unfamiliar with.

If you have any concerns about a road safety issue in the city, please get in touch