A £300,000 cycle path, partly funded by Sustrans, has had to be reconfigured thanks to the complaints of a ward councillor.
The cycle and pedestrian path in Yarm near Stockton on Tees in the north east of England was a new-build and gives cyclists and pedestrians access from the upscale Levendale Estate to local schools. The cycle path crosses a minor road close to a primary school and at this crossing cyclists and pedestrians were given priority over motor vehicles, with a raised table, give-way markings on the road and give-way signs on poles.
Andrew Sherris, the conservative councillor for Yarm, claimed giving priority to cyclists and pedestrians would be confusing for motorists and he campaigned to return priority to motorists. (In the Netherlands, such a road would be classified as a "frontage road" with cyclists and pedestrians given automatic priority over motorists – such schemes are often highly controversial in the UK.)
The cycle path gives new and convenient access to Levendale Primary School in Yarm. The road crossing that exercised councillor Sherris is about 150 metres from the school. Councillor Sherris is a governor at this primary school. He also lives locally.
Earlier this year Sherris told the Northern Echo: “As the path crosses Lingfield Road cyclists have priority. Such confusion could lead to a child or adult getting hurt or worse.
“I appreciate that the scheme has yet to have its safety audit and would hope that these problems can be reviewed. In the meantime this particular section should perhaps be closed off? I remain supportive but these teething problems need sorting urgently.”
Councillor Sherris was successful in getting Stockton on Tees council to reconfigure the scheme. Workers recently burned off the cyclist-priority road markings, removed the give way signage and painted give way markings on the cycle path.
In the Teeside Evening Gazette, councillor Sherris expressed his pleasure at having being instrumental at removing priority for child cyclists and pedestrians close to the school where he’s a governor:
"I’m very pleased that having met with council officers the priority has been changed back to a more standard design that we experience elsewhere."
Stockton on Tees council footed the bill for the reconfiguration of the cycle path.
Sustrans played no part in the reconfiguration. Tom Bailey, Area Manager for Sustrans said: “All modern guidance makes it clear that cycle tracks can and should take priority at minor roads, but we recognise that each Highway Authority will take a cautious approach when implementing this for the first time. We are aware that the scheme has been changed from our endorsed design and are working with Stockton council on this issue.”
Photos of the burnt-off road markings can be seen on Flickr. Unconnected to this debacle earlier this year Sherries was de-selected as Conservative candidate for Yarm on Stockton Borough Council. He will remain in his current role until next year’s elections.
Yarm is a motor-centric town, with a High Street jam-packed with scores of parked cars in what was once a wide open space for a market. Plans for making motorists pay for parking in this conservation area met with bitter opposition from Yarm Town Council, leading to a costly judicial review that finally found in Stockton Borough Council’s favour. Sherris has long been a vocal opponent of parking charges for Yarm High Street.