Decision details

Town Centre Social Distancing Measures – Review of Temporary Signs For Pedestrians and Cyclists

Decision Maker: Assistant Director Transport and Capital Projects

Decision status: Recommendations Approved

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No

Purpose:

As businesses in the town centre were able to re-open provided they were able to do so safely, the Council was required to undertake an assessment and put in measures to support safe opening in the town centre.

The Government issued the following guidance to enable Councils to prepare for the safe re-opening in Urban Centres and Green Spaces.

“HM Government: Coronavirus (COVID 19): Safer Public Places – Urban Centres and Green Spaces”

The Council undertook an assessment process to identify constraints and the measures that needed to be implemented across the town centre. The overriding principle in designing and implementing the measures was public health considerations and ensuring business could re-open safely.

This included a range of measures which have been under continuous review and have been changed as guidance and behaviour have changed.

As part of the social distancing measures, new temporary signs were proposed to ensure that pedestrians could move around the town safely as the numbers of people visiting the town centre increased. These were:
1. Signs on the ramps between High Row and West Row to advise pedestrians to use the steps and leave the ramps for those that really need to use them.
2. Signs to advise cyclists to dismount between 10am and 5pm and push their bikes through the town centre

The first of these was requested following consultation with Darlington Association on Disability. They were concerned that those with disabilities who have to use the ramps would be unable to maintain social distancing of 2m or 1m+ as the ramps are narrow. Therefore trying to limit the use of the ramps as much as possible was deemed to be mitigation, though there were concerns that the signs would be ignored. It is proposed to keep these signs in place as this situation has not changed.

The second proposal was to make most effective use of the available space during the non-traffic period of 10:00 – 17:00. With 2m social distancing rules in place and extensive queues anticipated outside of shops it was decided that cyclists should be asked to dismount and park or walk their bikes. Initially signs were erected in Duke Street.

With changes in PHE guidance on social distancing and changes in the way that businesses are now operating there is a reduced requirement for allocating space to pedestrians for walking or queuing. Measures to provide additional pedestrian space in Northumberland Street, Grange Road and Coniscliffe Road have already been removed or significantly reduced.

Data from the Duke Street access into the restricted area shows that pedestrian traffic is still much reduced compared to last year - 3376 people over a 12 hour period (7am – 7pm, 30th July 2020) down from 4824 over the same period in July 2019. Data is collected outside of term time so should not be impacted by the current closure of QE College. The number of cyclists is 91, an increase from 71 in 2019. 67 cyclists use the Duke Street access during the period 10:00-17:00, which equates to 2% of non-motorised traffic. Data from the other access points into the town centre is not yet available.

It is therefore proposed that the temporary advisory cyclists dismount signs are no longer required and can be removed.

Financial/staffing/health and safety (inc virus transmission risks)/service delivery impacts/other risks and impacts considered:
The measures were implemented to reduce transmission risks in the town centre.
The funding of some of the measures was included in a bid to the DfT Active Travel Emergency Fund, where footpath widening, and reallocation of road space was encouraged to retain social distancing.
As further lockdown restrictions are lifted and more people will return to school, college and work (end of furlough) highway authorities have been told to continue to work with bus and rail operators to suppress demand on public transport and increase the number of journeys by active travel. Restricting use of cycles for journeys to and through the town centre will impact on people’s ability to travel.

Equality Impacts:
An initial screening exercise identified that there would potentially be impacts on some people with protected characteristics, specifically on the basis of age, disability, pregnancy and maternity and carers.
Due to the emergency situation, changing guidance/advice/legislation and nature of the decision making process, a full EIA has not been completed. Instead a more dynamic approach has been taken with consideration being given to each change as it is proposed. As many of the decisions are regarding the physical environment we have worked with Gordon Pybus from DAD, but not on the basis of a full consultation. This advice and guidance has informed the decision making and proposed mitigation.

There have been discussions with DAD regarding detailed plans for bus stops, bus services, suspension of parking bays (including the relocation of disabled parking bays) and footway widening. DAD has provided additional guidance from RNIB. DAD raised the issue with the use of the ramps.

In addition the plans regarding cycling were discussed with Darlovelo and some mitigation was proposed, such as additional cycle parking, but this has not yet been provided. (it was planned to integrate it with the launch of the e-scooters which is delayed). However demand for parking does not yet outstrip supply of cycle parking in the town centre.

Decision:

To retain the advisory pedestrian signs on the ramps.
To remove the advisory cyclist dismount signs as they are no longer required with the changes in the social distancing guidance and levels of pedestrian activity.

Reason: To implement measures to support safe opening of the town centre and manage the risk of transmission of the virus. The over-riding principle being public health considerations. Social distancing guidance has reduced the requirement for outdoor queuing and the 2m rule outside has been reduced to 1m+.

Alternative options considered:

To apply the advisory restriction all day but some of these streets open to vehicular traffic before 10:00 and after 17:00.

Publication date: 25/11/2020

Date of decision: 03/09/2020