OK, so last week’s post was a bit whiney about the lack of action from the Government on traffic orders in the face of Coronavirus and so this week, I thought something a bit more positive and helpful was in order.
I’m going to mention things I have before, but it’s probably useful to have things in one place. If you’re an advocate, please direct your friendly local authority councillor, planner or engineer to this post because it might inspire them.
In terms of governance, each highway authority will have processes for works to be signed off and so these should be followed. It is probably easier in a unitary authority as otherwise this will be a county council matter. For example, minor projects not requiring traffic orders may be delegated to a departmental head and larger projects may be with a cabinet member so it’s worth checking out.
Designers also need to undertake proper risk assessments and keep proper notes setting out their design decisions – it’s your design, not mine! We also must ensure we keep disabled people safe and there are ways we can assist such as stick down tactile paving.
The most powerful piece of legislation for making changes to highway layouts is held within Part V of the Highways Act 1980 – Improvement of Highways. In this part, there are all sorts of interesting powers given to highway authorities and I’ll talk through some of the ones most useful in this current crisis. There’s also other things which we can do which I’ll pick up as I go along. This is the law in England and Wales and the rules are a little different in Scotland. Things are tougher in Northern Ireland because lots of things are done by order and I’m really not up on the mechanics of it – ask some questions please!
One point to make is that we cannot use these powers to close anything, so if general traffic is allowed on the street, this must continue to be accommodated, but that doesn’t mean we have to allocate the same space it had before.
S62 sets out the generality of the powers in Part V. Of interest here is the ability to;
- Vary the relative widths of carriageways and footways
- Construct cycle tracks,
- Install refuges, pillars, walls, barriers, rails, fences or posts for the use or protection of persons using a highway,
- Plant trees, shrubs and other vegetation,
- Install road humps,
- Install traffic calming.
The last two points are a little more complicated and require reference to other legislation.
S66, paragraph 2 states;
“A highway authority may provide and maintain in a highway maintainable at the public expense by them which consists of or comprises a carriageway, such raised paving, pillars, walls, rails or fences as they think necessary for the purpose of safeguarding persons using the highway.”
A footway is defined in S329 as;
“a way comprised in a highway which also comprises a carriageway, being a way over which the public have a right of way on foot only”
It’s a wide ranging power and the materials aren’t specified, so we can use all sorts of temporary materials to build or widen footways such as;
- Water filled barriers
- Crowd barrier
- Traffic cones
- Bales of straw
- Concrete blocks
- Planters – manhole rings and large tyres could be cheap options
- Paint (as long as we aren’t mimicking road markings)
Planters in Malmö
Frankly, anything you can get your hands on which is not going to create a safety risk (trips, falls etc) and will be reasonably conspicuous to drivers. We’ve the general power under S62 to vary the width of footways and carriageways, so don’t worry about losing road space.