There are growing calls for a busy zebra crossing in Preston to be replaced with traffic lights after a 10-year-boy was injured in a crash on his way home from school.Advertisement
Young Talha Hussain was struck by a van as he rode his bike over the crossing point on Manchester Road in Preston city centre, outside Cardinal Newman College.
His mother says he is lucky to be alive after the accident on 14th July, which saw him launched over kerbside railings and land several metres away on the cobbles of nearby side street Larkhill Road – having nearly reached the pavement at the moment when he was struck by the vehicle.
Read more: Arson hotspot former pub in Manchester Road to be demolished
The incident follows more than a decade of calls for a safety upgrade at the location, led by the area’s county councillor.
Talha’s mother Salma Khatun says she was left “shaking” after opening the front door to be greeted with the sight of her injured son, who had been carried home by eyewitnesses.
“He was covered in blood and I didn’t know what was going on. He had landed on his head and face – and the insides of his legs [were and] are all swollen. We thought he had broken his leg he was in that much pain”, Salma explained.
“He [later said], ‘I was on my bike one minute – and then I was on the cobbles and everybody was picking me up.’”
Talha told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that he was still “hurting everywhere” almost a week after the “scary” collision.
His dad, Zakir Hussain, said that he himself had had “about 10 near misses” on the zebra crossing – but that his son had not been so lucky.
Read more: Crackdown on cyclists ignoring Broadgate flood defence work diversion routes
Talha says his advice to adults and children crossing Manchester Road at that point would be to “wait until all of the cars have stopped” before setting foot off the kerb.
That is a lesson that Salma says she tries to instil in all her children – not least because of the driver impatience she witnesses in the vicinity of the college during term time. Calls for a safety upgrade have often been linked to the volume of students who use the crossing at peak times – but on the day Talha was hurt, Cardinal Newman College had already closed for the summer.
“I’ve said to Talha, ‘Don’t cross the road until you’ve actually seen the cars have stopped – even if the car is slowing down, just wait [on the pavement].’
“Cars won’t stop, even if they see you [on the crossing], they just go. And I get their frustration…[because] when the college is open, it’s like a swarm [of students] and they are [looking at] their phones.”
However, she believes that the belisha beacons that highlight the zebra crossing hold far less sway with motorists than a set of pedestrian traffic lights would – and is calling on highways bosses to make the change to a system that would ensure drivers were “more cautious”.
“I don’t know what they are waiting for – somebody is going to end up dead.
“Traffic lights would at least give a clear indication of who has right of way . At the moment, if you’ve not stepped onto the zebra crossing, cars are allowed to go, that’s the rule. If you’ve already stepped on and a car is ready to go, it’s like: who is going to make it first?
“When somebody is on the zebra crossing – especially at school finishing time – [drivers] should slow down towards the zebra crossing regardless,” Salma says.
Read more: Horrocks Mill housing plans progress
The road has a 20 mph speed limit and there are speed humps on the approach to the exiting crossing point.
However, Yousuf Motala – Preston City division representative on Lancashire County Council – says that traffic lights are the only solution and one that he and residents have been demanding ever since he was elected in 2009.
“It’s just dangerous that it’s taken so long to get anywhere with this – and it needs addressing in an urgent way. You’ve got the college and two primary schools [in the area] – and it’s also a residential route into the city,” said county councillor Motala.
He also urged students to take more care and repeated criticism, saying some “completely disregard their own safety” and often walk into the street without looking up from their phones, not having “a care in the world”.
In response, Cardinal Newman principal Nick Burnham reiterated that the college was closed at the time of Talha’s accident.
He added: “We are working closely with Lancashire Highways on a scheme to improve things, including a financial commitment from us. We follow [their] advice on the safest form of crossing – and they say a zebra is the safest in this context.”
It is understood that just 24 hours before Talha was hit, another young person was injured after being struck on nearby James Street.
County councillor Rupert Swarbrick, Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said that his thoughts were with both children and their families and that he hoped they were “recovering well”.
On County Hall’s plans for the Manchester Road zebra crossing, he said: “We have been working with the college over recent months to progress changes at the location of the existing zebra crossing to further calm traffic on the approaches and provide additional width for the zebra crossing, [which] better supports students and others to cross the road, preventing the pavement and crossing becoming too crowded at busy times.
“The proposal is for a widened zebra crossing on a raised table, with detailed design work due to start shortly with the aim of installing the crossing early next year. This design of crossing is appropriate for Manchester Road where the speed limit is 20mph, and there is already traffic calming in place outside the college.
“We have considered requests for a signalised crossing, however in this location where there can be a steady flow of students wanting to cross at busier times, this is likely to lead to safety issues with people continuing to cross when the lights have changed.”
Lancashire Police told the LDRS that the incident involving Talha last week remains under investigation.
Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines