Businesses have urged a local council to reconsider an active travel scheme which they say could endanger the lives of cyclists and pedestrians using it – due to the apparent threat of being struck by the mirrors of trucks overhanging the new shared use path.
Work is due to start this month on the latest phase of the Truro Loops project, a scheme which aims to enable “car-free connections” for communities in Cornwall’s county town, and to improve cycling and walking links on the southern side of the city.
The latest plans, which form part of the Newham Trail, involve widening the existing footway on Newham Road to create a shared pedestrian and cycle path.
However, the proposals have been met with vocal opposition from local businesses, with Cornwall Live reporting that the new shared use path will narrow the only road with access to the Newham Industrial Estate, home to 180 companies and 1,200 workers.
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Businesses located in the industrial estate, along with the Newham Business Improvement District (BID), an initiative which promotes Newham as a business location and gives firms the power to raise funds to improve the local area, have told Cornwall Council that, while they support the Truro Loops in principle, they believe that narrowing the road will put all of its users in danger.
They claim that the plans mean that HGVs – a prominent fixture on the road – will only have 10cm of clearance when passing each other, forcing their drivers to move closer to the path where the vehicles’ large wing mirrors could pose a threat to cyclists and pedestrians.
Cameron MacQuarrie, managing director of Macsalvors crane hire, based at Newham, told Cornwall Live: “The road should be widened and not narrowed. The average HGV measures 3.2m across the wing mirrors, meaning that two lorries passing each other in a perfectly straight line will take up 6.4m of road space, leaving 50mm per driver as the margin for error.
“This is ludicrous on a road with such a high proportion of HGV vehicles travelling along it daily.
“The inevitable result is that drivers will then move towards the pavement to create a safe passing gap with oncoming traffic and the wing mirrors will hang over the pavement cycle way causing extreme danger to anyone using it.”
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A letter of opposition to the scheme, penned by BID chair Leigh Ibbotson and signed by 24 businesses including Tesco and Aldi, has called on the council to reconsider the plans, and asks why an earlier proposal to make use of Newham’s riverside path, away from the road, was dropped.
“We want to make it very clear that Newham BID believe the proposals pose a danger to the safety of users of Newham, particularly the proposal to reduce the width of the carriageway on Newham Road,” Ibbotson said in the letter.
“We want it formally noted that we foresee the accident statistics rising if these proposals are implemented.”
In the letter, Ibbotson claimed that the proposals were rushed to meet a deadline to spend European funding, and that the BID was happy to work with the council on another plan to widen the carriageway at a supposedly notorious pinch point.
“The opportunity to spend European funding before the deadline seems to be the overriding driver for this scheme rather than carrying out detailed research and safety studies to consider the best scheme,” the letter continued.
“We cannot see how these proposals are in any way safe and would urge you to consider the reality of daily movements on Newham rather than relying on ‘modelling’ as we understand has been the case.”
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In response to the vocal criticism of the scheme, Cornwall Council has agreed to modify elements of it, including its original plan to scrap the right-turn lane at Aldi, which businesses said would lead to gridlock and “chaos” for motorists.
However, in a letter to the BID two weeks ago, the council said it would press ahead with the installation of the shared use path.
“A road safety review carried out along this route has not raised an issue. Proposed narrowing has been tested by computer modelling with no indication that conflict of HGVs will occur,” the council said.
Work on the scheme is set to begin next week, with the aim to finish by the end of June, though the BID has continued to call for the construction to be paused until all alternatives are considered.
Commenting on the concerns, the Liberal Democrat candidate for Truro and Falmouth Ruth Gripper said: “Newham BID has raised serious safety concerns about the proposals and it’s vital that Cornwall Council gets this right.
“Decisions shouldn’t be rushed where people’s safety is at stake. I’m also concerned by the suggestion that not all options have been explored, and am calling on the council to pause and work with local businesses and other user groups to find a solution that works for all.
“Truro Loops is a really exciting project and I’m looking forward to what it will do for Truro. It’s important that these changes work for pedestrians, cyclists, and the many successful businesses based at Newham.”
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