Sunday, 29 November 2020

Runner, 78, demands path after near-miss with car

A MAN who was nearly struck by a car while crossing Marlow Road in Henley has called for a footpath

A MAN who was nearly struck by a car while crossing Marlow Road in Henley has called for a footpath extension to improve safety.

John Huntley, 78, was on his way back to his home at Swiss Farm when the incident happened at about 5pm on Monday last week.

The 30mph stretch of road outside Swiss Farm is where Oxfordshire County Council has turned down repeated calls by residents for a pelican crossing.

A vehicle-activated speed sign is due to be installed by the end of March, nine months later than promised.

Mr Huntley, who had been for a run in Henley and was wearing a reflective vest and head torch, waited on the footpath on the east side of the road before attempting to cross.

He said he waited until he thought the road was clear in both directions before crossing and was in the middle of the road when he saw a car coming from the Henley direction on his left.

Mr Huntley said: “I didn’t know whether to go across or what to do so I hesitated. The car didn’t seem to be slowing down so I just waited there, in the middle of the road.

“I chickened out really — I could have let myself get run over. We would have got a crossing there then.”

Mr Huntley, a retired electric fitter who lives with his wife Wendy, called on the council to extend the path on the west side of the road from Henley Rugby Club to Swiss Farm, where there is currently a small verge.

He says people could then use the pedestrian crossing near Phyllis Court Club and walk along the path all the way to Swiss Farm.

Mr Huntley said: “I would like to see the path brought up to Swiss Farm, or even the residential park up the road from us. It would certainly help and make it safer.

“At the moment, the entrance at Swiss Farm is by the road and you have to jaywalk every time you cross. There is no question of it being dangerous.Swiss Farm has at least 85 homes and most of them are occupied by two people. There must be a regulation somewhere which says we should have the facility to get across the road safely.

“If the council doesn’t think so, then maybe it’s something we could take to the European Courts of Justice because we haven’t got something we should have, something which should be a requirement.”

His wife said: “There is a lady with a motorised wheelchair who got stuck in the road and I had to stop the traffic to get her to the other side.

“It is such a ridiculous situation. It would be bad enough if an elderly person was injured but in the summer we see hordes of children trying to get across that road.”

Fellow Swiss Farm resident Susan Phillips, who has led the campaign for a crossing, said she had witnessed several near-misses when drivers failed to stop to allow pedestrians to cross.

She said: “The traffic builds up speed from the rugby club onwards and they come whizzing down here — that’s why they end up having accidents further along the road.”

Mrs Phillips said she supported the footpath extension but thought it was unlikely to happen due to the cost. “All we can do is keep reiterating that someone is going to be killed and John’s near-accident is proof of it,” she said.

Laila Meachin, who chairs Henley Town Council’s traffic advisory committee, said: “Unfortunately, near-accidents are not recorded or used by Oxfordshire County Council in decision-making about road safety, only actual accidents that are reported to the police. Understandably, this may well not seem fair.

“The council ruled that there was no recorded accident history within the last five years and therefore the proposed crossing could not be justified. The argument would be the same for extending the pavement from the rugby club. In fact, I understand this solution would be even more expensive.”

Cllr Meachin hoped the vehicle- activated sign would ease the problem.

She said: “It will hopefully act as a signal to drivers that they are still within a built-up area where pedestrians are present and so control their speed as appropriate.”

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said: “There is a footpath on one side of Marlow Road and the county council will be installing vehicle-activated signs before the end of this financial year. This scheme will cost in the region of £10,000.

“We did investigate providing a pelican crossing but could not justify the £50,000 cost at this location. For the same reason we would not be able to provide a second footpath on Marlow Road.”

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