Local authorities could be using scarce resources by extending failure response times
How long should it take the city to fix tripping hazards? Not this long
Tumbling stones on pavements and sidewalks, the washing chute holding up streets, piles of broken glass, obstacles in the way: the list of hazards is long and growing.
The public sector seems unable to manage these situations quickly enough, and the city’s professionals say they need funds to boost their capacities to quickly and effectively respond to them.
“It’s a current requirement for the city of London to immediately improve its planning skills and allocation of resources for public safety,” says the all-party parliamentary group for pedestrian safety.
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The report, from MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Pedestrian Safety, comes three months after a report from Friends of the Earth found that more than 500,000 trips per day in London were now derailed as a result of barrier and cliff closure problems.
When just one obstruction such as a street post or stop sign forces people off the pavement or onto the road, it can slow traffic to a crawl. It takes time for police and ambulance services to respond, and if caught out as a result of travelling at too fast, the driver may face severe fines.
But the danger is not restricted to car users. Littering, smoking, dog fouling and swerving into oncoming traffic all jeopardise the quality of the pedestrian experience and can even kill.
But the public services in charge of London’s infrastructure still appear understaffed or underfunded. Instead of seeing a line on a list or paltry allocations in emergency budgets, the members of the all-party parliamentary group for pedestrian safety say more money is needed to “boost responses to urban hazards and incidents where lives are at risk”.
Business rates and transport taxes have been earmarked for the next spending round, but councils want the government to change the rule that councils are required to use less than 15% of their precept funds for urban infrastructure spending. They also recommend improved strategic planning, with councils given more resources to prepare for safety problems and scenarios.
“We’ve struggled to get a response from central government for this for almost six years,” says Karen Howell, London programme manager at Friends of the Earth. “If this report doesn’t convince ministers that this is so very much needed, then nothing will.”
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The lack of funding is disappointing to both the professional response to urban hazards and to those stuck with the consequences. A leaked report on UK cities found that a legal requirement for cities to protect pedestrians against hazards of urban development has led to too much consultation and expertise being lost. In the absence of resources, local authorities are spending their limited capacity more productively, most often on property management to minimise the risk of risk to pedestrians.
“I think we’re getting into a situation where we’re going to lose professional expertise, because it’s so difficult to adapt to and predict these hazards,” says Howell.