Fringe Box



Opinion: Latest Tragic Pedestrian Fatality Should Cause Pause for Thought

Published on: 21 Feb, 2016
Updated on: 25 Feb, 2016
Onslow Bridge yesterday where a woman in her thirties lost her life.

Onslow Bridge yesterday where a woman in her thirties lost her life.

By Martin Giles

Walking on Guildford’s pavements should not be a particularly risky business but four accidents*, within the last six months, raise questions.

Statistics indicate that at the moment it is considerably riskier here, in a town of around 70,000, than it is elsewhere in the country.

Nationally, pedestrian fatalities have been steadily falling. In 2000 857 pedestrians died**. In 2013, the last year for which statistics are available, it was down to 398, the figure dipping below 400 for the first time since the 1920s, when motor cars became commonplace.

Using the roads is probably the riskiest thing we all do on a regular basis. Because we do it regularly we rarely think twice about it but in 2013 there were 1,713 fatalities and that was half what they had been at the turn of the century.

Opinion Logo 2But imagine if we expected 1,700 casualties from terrorism next year. The government would declare a state of emergency.

Of course we all need to move around, and we will continue to accept the risks, but that is not a reason for complacency about the hundreds of road casualties every year.

To be fair, the authorities, in general, have not been complacent and the steady decrease in casualty numbers is testament to their efforts and perhaps even more to improved car design. But when we get such an apparent statistical spike in one town a re-assessment is required.

We should ask is it just tragic bad luck for three pedestrians to be killed and several seriously injured all in the town centre within six months, or is there a particular problem?

Of course, any full study needs to be mindful of the reports produced by the official investigations which are professionally and painstakingly made. But surely the close proximity of busy pavements and busy roads must increase the chances of these tragic incidents.

Different versions of a Masterplan for Guildford town centre have incorporated more pedestrianisation in the town. This would help, especially on the busy pedestrian route between the railway station and North Street.

But we should also be mindful of the likely impact of the inevitable increase in traffic levels. It can only increase further if the building thousands of extra homes across the South East, many which will have two cars or more, materialises as expected.

Short term and long term measures are required if these heart-breaking casualties are not going to start increasing again. And for those of us who drive, cycle or walk in Guildford let us all remember our responsibility to do so with care and consideration.

*August 2015 Pensioner killed on Farnham Road Railway Bridge

October 2015 – Appeal For Witnesses Following Town Centre Crash

December 2015 – Pedestrian Dies After Collision With Lorry in Onslow Street

2016 February – One Pedestrian Killed and Others Injured in Onslow Bridge Traffic Incident

There were several other road accidents causing death and injury within Guildford Borough within this period.

** Source Office of National Statistics

What are your views? Does Guildford have a particular problem? If so what should be done? To Have your say please use the Leave a Reply feature below.

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Responses to Opinion: Latest Tragic Pedestrian Fatality Should Cause Pause for Thought

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    Simple, remove the bus lanes, and thus remove the frustrations thereto attached.

    Reducing road capacity chasing pseudo dreams of utopia, never brings happiness nor removes pollution from stationary traffic.

    The utopia of bus and cycle lanes may work in a major city, the same simply cannot apply to a small town wedged in a gap between two hills filled with small villages of commuters.

    The solutions are simply if only common sense and knowledge of the area are applied.

    • Andy Calladine Reply

      March 3, 2016 at 9:46 am

      In reply to Jim Allen:

      I’m afraid your pathetic argument for the status quo is one of the reasons Guildford has a traffic problem.

      To describe the move away from people travelling in cars to other forms of sustainable transport as Utopia is disingenuous and false.

      Why should our towns and cities be dominated by mechanically propelled vehicles when most people are travelling relatively short distances?

      It’s about time you got out of the 1970s and woke up to the present day, where 40,000 plus people a year are dying from air pollution, a lot of it caused by traffic.

  2. Bernard Parke Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Why do they not realise that there is too much through traffic in central Guildford on roads which cannot cope with it safety?

    Yet despite this fact there are plans currently under consideration which will only add to this problem.

  3. Phil Gunney Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    An interesting report. It’s tragic what’s happened lately on Guildford’s roads and thoughts must go out to everyone involved.

    Unfortunately we view our cars as just a personal mode of transport and at times that our journey is more important than anything else. Cars are lethal weapons and need respect but we also need to view other road user as people not just an inconvenience delaying our journey.

    Slow down chill out and arrive safely.

  4. James Dix Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 8:53 pm

    Full or part pedestrianisation of the one-way system – focusing on Bridge street for this comment- is still a long way away, I think.

    A more immediate and fairly simple solution at this point would be to install railings along the pavements of Bridge Street from the station to the traffic lights, mainly to to prevent pedestrians dashing across the road – especially late on a Friday or Saturday evening when said pedestrians might not be as alert as usual as they stagger between bars – I’m sure many Guildford drivers have experienced this first-hand.

    I realise that this particular tragedy would not really have been prevented even if railings had been in place, but Bridge Street is notorious for near-misses and I believe railings would be a good starting point in preventing further incidents.

  5. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    February 21, 2016 at 10:23 pm

    Current options 1 and 2 by the councils for making the gyratory pedestrian friendly as described in

    are inoperable in my view and either scenario if adopted would increase congestion and cause more accidents when frustrated motorists take risks and drive unsafely.

    Whilst the cause of the latest accident in Bridge Street is being investigated, it has shown the urgent need to widen the footway for a safer passage of pedestrians between the railway station and the town centre.

    The councils have been sitting on the funds and delaying works to improve matters albeit for the shorter term whilst the grand vision of transformation of the town centre and the riverside await the progress of the local plan that would take years to finalise and then executed if ever progressed as planned.

    It all depends on the developers coming forward as the councils themselves would not be financing the developments except for collecting Community Infrastructure Levies to fund associated works.

    How many more accidents would we sadly witness before a safer pedestrianised route to the town centre is achieved?

    In my humble opinion a solution exists. This would be to carry out the necessary alterations at a low cost to achieve both a safer pedestrian route and an improved flow of traffic and in the process making the exit from Walnut Tree Close on to Bridge Street that much safer.

    It is simply this – remove a lane from Bridge Street and widen the north footway, take one lane of traffic turning right from Farnham Road Bridge towards Millbrook using the existing inner lanes on Park Street and Farnham Road Bridge that are currently under-used. Such a change would not require additional traffic signaling phases at Park Street nor at Millbrook junctions.

    The above transformation could be achieved at low cost and requires no additional road space! I believe it would be a practical way to address the current congestion without delay and the work involved does not compromise any future alterations and works to the gyratory.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      February 23, 2016 at 11:40 am

      Apologies for the error in the above posting ” ..and Farnham Road Bridge that are currently under-used”, it should be “…and the Friary Bridge that are currently under-used”.

  6. Peta Malthouse Reply

    February 22, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    This is about constructing pedestrian ‘safeways’.

    If as much care and attention was taken in establishing the pedestrian traffic in towns as well as the vehicles ie bysurvey/interview at different times of the day we may be more clear about where people emanate from and are trying to get to.

    Walking from the railway station to to the Friary Centre should be capable of being routed safely behind the nightclub, etc.

    You cannot prevent people from ‘straying’ and mooching about, but the council who are fixed on expanding the retail development of our town they need to think about this fast and well.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      February 22, 2016 at 10:33 pm

      A route already exists over Walnut footbridge, but at present pedestrians from and to the railway station prefer Bridge Street, and I guess it would remain so especially out of hours as it is safer than the quieter alternative.

      If Solum Regeneration’s plan to relocate the station entrance and the pedestrian access to it is aligned with the route over Walnut footbridge that is due to be replaced by the council with a wider bridge, then this route may become the main daytime route, but until that happens a wider north footway on Bridge Street should be created without delay for the safety of pedestrians.

      I believe erecting fences would be directly against council’s thinking on new ‘streetscape’ ideas that would consider removing existing fences and barriers rather than erecting new ones!

  7. Karin Walker Reply

    February 22, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    The pavement in Bridge Street Guildford is far too narrow for the volume of pedestrians.

    Having walked that way to the station for many years I have been amazed by the fact that pedestrians often step into the road to get past people who are, in their view, walking too slowly.

    Add to that the fact that cars drive too fast along Bridge Street and I am surprised that there haven’t been more similar tragedies.

    Perhaps the speed limit within the town centre should be reduced to 20mph?

  8. Name withheld Reply

    February 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Maybe as a short-term measure put barriers down Bridge Street.

    I know this would make pavements narrower than they already are but at least both pedestrians and motorists would be protected (pedestrians often step out on to the road at busy times).

    Speed cameras on the section of Bridge Street and following along Onslow Street and Woodbridge Road – it is a racetrack through there at times.

    • Bibhas Neogi Reply

      February 23, 2016 at 10:04 pm

      In reply to ‘name withheld’.

      No doubt a barrier on the pavement would provide safety for the pedestrians but the lanes would have to be wide enough for buses and lorries.

      Unfortunately the total available width on Bridge Street is not enough to further restrict the lane widths. A barrier on the footway would reduce its width even further and worsen the situation.

      The only way to safely install a barrier would be to do away with the lane adjacent to the north footway and at that would enable a wider footway to be created. However, this would lead to more congestion and that is why I suggested the modification I explained in my post of 21 February above.

      In addition to this the Debenhams crossing on Millbrook should be made into a two-stage crossing with an island in the middle.

      It could be created by either introducing a chicane for the two northbound lanes or one lane could be blocked off from just beyond Debenhams car park entrance and the space used for the island.

      North of this crossing two lanes would be maintained. The effect would be to allow a much freer movement of southbound traffic and reduce the extent of tail back on to Onslow Street and the rest of the junctions.

      All the above are low-cost solutions for the shorter term pending the grand scale transformation of the town centre that the councils have in mind and that could be years away!

  9. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    February 28, 2016 at 8:37 am

    Concerning Guildford Borough Council’s scheme of £9 million worth of work that includes ‘improvements’ to pedestrian route from the railway station by building a new bridge to replace Walnut footbridge, no doubt a better bridge is needed but one has to question – is this a priority at this stage of traffic congestion on the gyratory?

    The exit from the station would remain as it is for several years until the new station entrance is relocated by Solum Regeneration if their plan is approved?

    The councils have £2 million of funds from the M3 LEP for improving the gyratory but to date have not undertaken any work that I am aware of. Has the funding lapsed or has it been spent on something else?

    Was resetting of the granite setts in High Street a priority? Is the replacement of Walnut footbridge a priority? When would the councils do something useful rather than spending funds on items of work that are not priority?

    Widening the north footway on Bridge Street should be a top priority and safeguarding the pedestrians with a concrete or a steel barrier if necessary.

    If the long term option 1 that makes Bridge Street a two-way street is progressed, such a modification would be compatible. If option 2 where Bridge Street is fully pedestrianized is progressed, the barrier could be easily removed when fancy pavement slabs as shown in the artist’s impression are laid all over on Bridge Street!

    So what is preventing the councils from widening the footway as advance works and make it safer for the pedestrians regardless of either option being progressed?

    An answer from the councils would be helpful in understanding the methodology they apply when identifying urgent work.

  10. Ben Paton Reply

    February 28, 2016 at 4:24 pm

    Isn’t the cause obvious?

    Guildford is at capacity. It was never designed to carry this much traffic or to be this big.

    Multiple ad hoc extensions have taken place over the last hundred years. Almost no material increases in infrastructure have been made.

    The biggest infrastructure investment has been the A3. But that is a national trunk road and not intended to carry local traffic.

    Cram more and more traffic and people into a confined space and the quality of life declines.

    Longer, more dangerous and more frustrating journeys are in store.

    It’s about time that local politicians stood up for the people who live here and applied some constraints to the opaque and unjustified housebuilding plans ordained by central government.

  11. Lisa Wright Reply

    February 28, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Yet again everyone looks to see how we can solve what is essentially an overcrowding issue.

    If GBC really wanted to improve the town centre they would halt their retail expansion plans, build more homes in the town instead and entice employment away from the town centre across the county so people won’t all have to drive/walk/cycle through congested Guildford.

    • Terry Stevenson Reply

      March 1, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Out of town shopping, employment centres anyone? In the green belt?

      • Ben Paton Reply

        March 3, 2016 at 8:58 pm

        In reply to Terry Stevenson:

        Why do we need more shopping capacity? Isn’t there enough already? Hasn’t the internet already resulted in a massive increase in virtual retail ‘square footage’? Aren’t the supermarkets all suffering from over capacity?

        And people want more shopping outlets?

        Why does Surrey need more employment centres? Isn’t unemployment rather low in relative and in absolute terms?

        There are plenty of underpopulated places in the world. Many have high standards of living and quality of life. Leipzig is smaller today in population that it was in the 1930s.

        Why won’t GBC let us see its housing need arithmetic?

        Why won’t it recognise and apply constraints?

        Green belt is not wilderness ripe for developers to exploit for profit. It is green infrastructure.

        If it is filled in then the commuting way of life Surrey has enjoyed since railways and cars were first invented will become impossible. Instead the place will become a car park and train journeys will become more like the daily commute in Mumbai.

  12. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 1, 2016 at 10:20 am

    There is no doubt a lot more houses are needed to be built both within the existing towns and villages using brownfield sites with appropriate expansion of infrastructures but also outside of the built-up areas where largescale developments are possible.

    The most important factor is the provision of adequate infrastructures eg roads, statutory services, schools, colleges, medical centres, shops, playing fields and open spaces etc. It is easier to locate the expansion on large areas with new road access and services compared with infilling pockets within the already built-up areas.

    Developments on Wisley, Dunsfold and Cranleigh for example should only be considered if proper accesses to the A3 are made and a A281 bypass for Bramley and Shalford is built together with a tunnel under Guildford taking traffic away from the town centre to the A3 that hopefully would be widened by the Highways England in the near future.

    A much wider co-ordinated approach is essential with the Department for Transport and the councils to plan these developments rather than left to the counties and borough councils to sort out when funding should come from the central government plus community infrastructure levies raised from the developers.

    Neglecting to build roads, bypasses and tunnels where required would make congestion even more unbearable and create more pollution that harms us all and that surely nobody wants to see.

    I would like to see a more rational approach to building of homes and for all of us to think positively and not oppose developments to solely protect our self interests.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      March 3, 2016 at 8:50 pm

      In reply to: Bibhas Neogi:

      Instead of repeating the ‘conventional’ wisdom which unquestioningly states that more houses are needed, why don’t you ask to see the demographic projections?

      That way we would at least be able to see how and why and when the houses are needed.

      Why wouldn’t you want to see the arithmetic?

      • Bibhas Neogi Reply

        March 4, 2016 at 8:37 am

        In reply to Ben Paton:

        You should thank your colonial ancestors for dispersing people all over the world and their descendants who now populate the ex-colonial Empire.

        Just imagine if all those people did not leave the UK, what the population of the UK would be at the present time!

        Population of the world would go on increasing and so will it also in the UK both from the indigenous and immigrant population. The fact that more housing is needed is indisputable and does not need statistics to prove that.

        Greater mobility, ease of air travel and use of English that is de-facto an international language mean more and more people would be attracted to come to the UK – a legacy of the colonial days.

        So, a pragmatic approach would be to accept that the cosy existence of a minority living in villages and pretty towns close to the green belt and enjoying a better life at the expense of other unfortunate flat dwellers crammed into brownfield sites is no longer socially acceptable.

        These are the staring facts ‘you do the maths’.

  13. Lisa Wright Reply

    March 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Cost of implementing infrastructure to enable stressful commutes towards London, tunnels, roads and rail, against giving tax breaks to companies that move away from London to high unemployment regions?

    This is crazy! Does no one else see that we are trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted? What we need is a huge change in our demographics.

    We live in Guildford because that’s as far away from London we can get, have a reasonable commute to London and some family time. Others less fortunate live perhaps a little further away and trade their leisure time against the cost of living.

    I don’t know much about transport but I know traffic (in Surrey) flows nrth in the morning and south in the evening. This ‘commute’ is mirrored by house prices, high to the north, lower to the south.

    If half of the jobs moved away from London to the coast, half the people would commute in opposite directions and congestion could be alleviated without spending a single tax payer £ on infrastructure.

    Housing need would be more widely balanced and priced, less well off towns would be rejuvenated and population densities dissipated across the area.

    Surely it would financially beneficial to give tax breaks to relocating companies rather than just adding Tarmac to endless roads?

    If we scale this down to just Guildford, spread employment around the borough and three counties, spread the housing etc and let the traffic sort itself out. There are plenty of empty commercial buildings and brownfield land you just need to look for it!

  14. Lisa Wright Reply

    March 4, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    When I say reasonable commute to London, that only applies if it doesn’t take 45 minutes to sit in traffic trying to get to Guildford station and another 45 minutes trying to get away from Denis’s roundabout in the evening.

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