PARTS of Blackpool’s much-heralded and new-look Golden Mile are to be changed after safety fears were raised by experts.
An audit of the resort’s controversial ‘shared space’ road and pavement system outside The Tower has highlighted a number of concerns.
Critics said the lack of road markings and kerbs was confusing for both motorists and pedestrians and some warned it was a tragedy waiting to happen.
Now, following concerns from local residents, a new crossing will be built, bollards and street furniture introduced to define the shared pavement and road areas, and 20mph signs put in place.
News of more works between The Tower and the Comedy Carpet, come just a month after The Gazette discovered paving on the section of new road had cracked.
The audit, ordered by Blackpool Council and carried out by transport planning consultants Phil Jones Associates, stated: “Very few drivers gave priority to pedestrians starting to cross, although most drivers did slow to allow pedestrians to cross once they had entered the carriageway.”
The report also suggested raising bus stops because at present, for the disabled and visually impaired, “alighting from a bus could also be a difficult or dangerous manoeuvre.”
It also suggested kerbing at Church Street should be lowered as it presents a trip hazard. One suggestion is for a zebra crossing the entire length of the Comedy Carpet across the road.
Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for streets and transport said: “The Promenade already looks great, now with these changes we can make sure that it works just as well.
“After it opened, some residents told us that they had concerns about safety and transport issues.
“What we’ve done is listen to residents’ feedback and act on it, making sure the Promenade works as safely and as efficiently as it can for all pedestrians and drivers.
“I welcome the suggestions and we will now look to make the necessary changes to the area.”
Tram crossings will be considered, and stone blocks on the east side of the Prom replaced by seating bollards.
The audit of the Prom was carried out during day and night time during the October half term.
Shared space designer Ben Hamilton-Bailie agreed the proposed changes could help pedestrians cross the Promenade.
He added: “A median strip in the middle of the road could be useful.
“A zebra crossing could also be useful but you have to be careful in a shared scheme that defining it like that means it’s the only place to cross. I think despite the concerns, the area is working well.”
The council confirmed permanent street furniture will be introduced to various junctions to clearly designate the pedestrian and driving spaces along the road.
Traffic light signals will be monitored at the junction with New Bonny Street, which could be altered to reduce traffic congestion.
The audit praised the new-look Prom, stating: “This ambitious new public realm scheme, drawing on shared space principles, has greatly improved the appearance and attractiveness of a section of the Promenade. Prior to completion of the scheme, the urban realm along this section of the Promenade was poor, being dominated by the standard road infrastructure associated with existing traffic signal control and pedestrians crossing at specified locations.”
Last year, The Gazette reported fears from blind charity N-Vision’s members that the alterations made it very difficult for visually-impaired people to cross the Promenade.
Alan Reid, Chairman of the Blackpool Disability Partnership, said: “When the Promenade first re-opened, it wasn’t ideal in terms of accessibility. Blackpool has one of the highest percentages of disabled residents and visitors, so changes needed to be made in order to make sure that Promenade was usable for everybody.
“We’re very happy with the consultation which has taken place between the council.”
Extra suggestions such as reducing visual clutter by using lighting columns as signposts and rotating some slabs of the Comedy Carpet so that they do not encroach too close to the tram tracks, will also be addressed.