A ‘dangerous’ and ‘confusing’ decision to change the road layout at a busy Harrogate roundabout has been defended by the Executive Member for Highways at North Yorkshire County Council.
In recent months, signage at the New Park roundabout has been changed to allow motorists travelling away from Harrogate centre along Ripon Road, to go straight on in both the left and right hand lanes.
But after years of having a system where drivers in the left hand lane were only turning left onto Skipton Road, numerous reports of ‘near-miss’ accidents have emerged as a result of the new layout.
Harrogate resident and Taxi Driver, Andrew Thompson, said: “I first noticed it two or three weeks ago after a near-miss that I had and I drove back to have another look. I’d just finished a job and I was coming back into Harrogate from Ripon and I noticed that you could go straight on in the left-hand lane too and I thought that’s madness.
“Because of the traffic island on the Ripon Road exit there isn’t really enough room for two substantially sized vehicles to get through together.”
Readers of this newspaper have written several letters in the last fortnight, condemning the changes, claiming it has created a “competition to see who can get to the exit first”.
Mr Thompson added: “You always had to queue to get onto the roundabout but it wasn’t really a problem, you were only waiting a couple of minutes.”
But now Councillor Don Mackenzie, Executive Member for Highways at NYCC, has said to objective was to allow traffic to flow better at the busy junction.
He said: “The objective was to make the roundabout work better and to reduce queues.
“Obviously it’s a very small change, having two lanes merge into one is very common practice and is a feature at a number of roundabouts in the town.
“Near misses are reported to us and if there is an increase in the number of accidents then of course we will act upon that.”
Criticism was also levelled at the council for the road signage being unclear and inconsistent; Drivers claimed the signs were changed to indicate the new layout but then were altered back to permit drivers in the left hand lane to turn left only. Now the sign has been altered again, using black tape to re-construct a forward arrow in the left lane.
Coun Mackenzie explained: “The second set of alterations was carried out by an unknown member of the public who took exception to the new lane designations. Using spray paint the
signage was altered. This unlawful interference with highways signage has now
been put right.
He added: “There are white lines there, we have signs on the road surface and signs on poles on the pavement, that seems to me to be adequate signage.”
“No doubt in due course the there will be a proper painted sign erected.”