A pair of controversial ‘visibility screens’ installed on the approaches to the Winterbourne Road / Hatchet Road roundabout cost over £22,000 to install, the Journal can reveal.
The purpose of the screens, which are formed of an array of metal sheets, is to obscure the view of motorists approaching the roundabout (along either the Winterbourne Road or Gipsy Patch Lane), thereby discouraging them from making an early decision as to whether to enter the roundabout or not, in the hope that this will reduce the number of collisions (see further explanation below).
However, the counter-intuitive concept of improving road safety by obscuring drivers’ views has been questioned by many Journal readers and local councillors.
The three ward councillors for Stoke Gifford, Ernie Brown, Keith Cranney and Brian Allinson have expressed “strong opposition” to the installation of the screens and have challenged the “process and action taken”, allegedly without their knowledge or consent.
However, a spokesperson for South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) denied that the work had been carried out without due consultation, saying:
“We consult with local members and town or parish councils when highways schemes such as this are proposed. Stoke Gifford Parish Council and local ward members were emailed about this particular scheme on 15th May 2019 and we received no responses.”
In response to a request to provide more details about the justifications for the scheme, the Journal received the following response from SGC:
“The site was highlighted during annual collision concentration site analysis in 2018/19, which prompted further analysis of a longer collision record.”
“In the five years between January 2013 and February 2018, the period initially considered during analysis, there were twelve collisions at the roundabout. Five of these collisions involved a vehicle entering the roundabout from either of the B4057 approaches and colliding with another vehicle on the roundabout. All five of these collisions involved either a cyclist or motorcyclist being hit by a vehicle entering the roundabout.”
Asked if data was available to quantify the claimed success of a similar scheme elsewhere in the district, the response from SGC was:
“Monitoring of the casualty reduction scheme at the Wraxall Road roundabout saw the number of personal injury collisions at the roundabout reduce by 2.4 collisions per year. Moreover, the speed of vehicles on the entry to the roundabout on the A4174 reduced by at least 5mph.”
Visibility screens: Council’s letter circulated prior to installation
Collision records show that there is an issue with vehicles on the B4057 over-running give way lines at Hatchet Road roundabout and colliding with vehicles on the circulatory carriageway.
Funding has been prioritised to address this issue by providing visibility screens on the B4057 approaches, to reduce vehicle approach speeds.
Purpose of the scheme
The purpose of the scheme is to reduce the number of collisions occurring, by reducing vehicle speeds on the B4057 approaches. Currently, the very good visibility on the approach to the roundabout means that drivers can make a very early decision as to whether to enter the roundabout or not; consequently, these drivers do not reduce speed significantly, and some misjudge their entry leading to a collision. The provision of screens which reduce forward visibility forces drivers to slow down and wait until they approach the give way line, where they regain visibility, to make a decision on whether to enter the roundabout or not. Such installations have been successful in reducing collisions at similar sites (including A4174 Wraxall Road, in South Gloucestershire).
It is proposed to introduce visibility screens on both B4057 approaches to the roundabout. The screens will be dark green in colour and approximately 1.8 metres in height.
Reader comments on the BSJ & SGJ Facebook pages
KG: OK, so is it just me or are the road planners on some kind of LSD? If not they are certifiably crazy. The way the roads are planned and run is just a laugh (without the humour)!
AC: I just despair at the sheer stupidity of the council. At night anyone who doesn’t know they are there will just assume there is no traffic on the roundabout as they will see no lights and sail across without slowing down or looking. Madness.
MB: More “blinding screens” than “visibility” ones! If you call them with the right name, does it still sound like a good idea?
JH: Thought there was already something to slow vehicles without hinder visibility called speed bumps? I know of roundabouts with rumble strips that slow you down without losing visibility and are tried and tested so these ridiculous green walls seems crazy
MR-C: This is stupid, people who “misjudge their approach speeds” are the same people who will completely ignore these massive reflective eye sores and will speed onto the roundabout anyway.
RVC: Perhaps the council could reduce accidents further by blindfolding drivers so they can’t drive down the road to cause an accident? Reducing visibility doesn’t reduce speed, as fog always demonstrates, and will increase the danger for all when emergency vehicles have to enter this roundabout.
BS: Being able to anticipate the movement of traffic on a roundabout is a key tool to driving correctly and efficiently when approaching them. Reducing visibility seems down right stupid.
PJ: Not sure about this idea, but there are plenty of people willing to pull out in front of you on this roundabout.
DH: Quite apart from anything else it’s ugly – wouldn’t planting look better and achieve the same result?
This article originally appeared in the January 2020 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal magazine (on pages 4 & 5). The magazine is delivered FREE, nine times a year, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.