“People are still shocked when I tell them the pedestrian gates at the Road Safety Authority’s HQ are still locked and welded shut”

Comment & Analysis: People are still shocked when I tell them the pedestrian gates at the Road Safety Authority’s HQ are still locked and welded shut. If not shock, disbelief. It seems unreal.

Last October, I reported that the Road Safety Authority is examining the issues of the locked and welded shut pedestrian gates beside its HQ and a missing section of footpath between Ballina town centre and the RSA’s location in the Moy Valley Business Park.

It might have been foolish to lampoon this issue as part of IrishCycle.com’s April Fool’s joke. Only the bit about the bricks was Photoshopped. The locked and welded gates and the missing section of the footpath are very real and are symptoms of wider problems with how our urban areas have been planned and designed.

We’re not talking about a remote location. The Road Safety Authority HQ in Ballina is just across the tracks from the train station and 1km from the town centre. It’s located in a business park that also hosts a cafe and a number of other businesses

It also hosts a heavy goods vehicle truck yard that serves the Coca-Cola factory in the town. So, it’s not just cars or vans going in and out.

IMAGE: The locked and welded gates flank the vehicular gates with the RSA HQ pictured to the right.

IrishCycle.com is also located in Ballina, and I only noticed the gates closed around Covid when visiting the business park. At first, I thought it was maybe some weird reaction to Covid or that it was closed when the offices were. However, the gates and footpath have been the same since maybe when the RSA moved into the business park. Google Street View shows the gates locked in 2009.

For myself, to try to combat the effects of Covid and then working from home for a few years, I started walking further for exercise last year. I already knew the design of my hometown was far less accessible and safety-focused than it should be, but walking in different parts of the town and in different ways than what I’m used to highlighted the issues.

Last year, as I was going past the RSA’s headquarters, I wondered if the RSA staff had ever raised the issues?

IMAGE: One of the gates is welded shut.

As reported last year, a spokesperson for the RSA said: “The RSA has contacted a representative of the Moy Business Park in relation to the issue of the pedestrian gates, and we are awaiting their response on this matter. I can confirm that this issue has not been raised previously by RSA staff.”

On the lack of a continuous footpath, the RSA said: “The RSA has contacted Mayo County Council in relation to the issue of the public path access to the RSA HQ on Primrose Hill. The Council has advised that the RSA make a submission on this issue to the Ballina Active Travel Plan and the RSA is currently drafting a submission as advised.”

The local area office of Mayo County Council’s stock response to members of the public seems to be to brush any issue aside and tell people they’ll have to wait for the Draft Ballina Local Transport Plan (which isn’t just about active travel). This includes long-known safety-critical issues such as the new school on the other side of town that is opening on an 80km/h road with no footpath or crossing.

The council doesn’t seem to take the RSA any more seriously than it does residents.

When this website asked the RSA for an update on the missing footpath, a spokesperson for the RSA this week said: “Regarding Mayo County Council, the RSA made a submission to the Mayo County Council Active Travel Plan 2023 in late 2023. The RSA has asked for an update on this.”

On the locked and welded gates, the spokesperson added: “Regarding the Business Park, the RSA have not received a reply to this query from the Business Estate Management Company. A reminder will be issued to them.”

And it’s hardly just these two issues of a gate and a section of footpath. The two issues happening on the short road to the RSA’s HQ are just stunning examples of the lack of systematic road safety on our streets and roads.

A long list of examples comes to mind when walking just 10 minutes or so across the town. After I dropped my children at an after-school activity on the other side of the town, walked to the RSA’s HQ for the photographs in this article and the list of issues found along the way is so long it’s best done in bullet points:

  • The junction at the public street outside the area hosts the Ballina Swimming Pool, Ballina Sports Centre, Ballina Tennis Club and Ballina Boxing Club. It is focused totally on car movement — children and others struggle there, and it is inaccessible to prams and wheelchairs.
  • There’s a zebra crossing on the main road, part of the N59 route with a lot of local traffic too, but the side street has no crossing over it and high kerbs. The whole setup of one-way traffic around the bridges at the River Moy in Ballina is designed for traffic flow but hardly even works for that.
  • The crossings on the town’s bridges are too ambiguous — most drivers yield, but a cheap, easy and significant improvement would be to install raised crossings with new zebra crossing signs.
  • After the Salmon Weir Bridge walking and cycling bridge, Barrett Street and Water Lane are used as part of the traffic system in the town — it’s not a national or even regional route, but it’s an official rat run for both local and national traffic. Traffic routes are needed, but there are no formal crossings and only dropped kerbs at one of the four sides of the mini-roundabout where the streets meet.
  • At Water Lane and James Connolly St, there is heavy traffic from different directions, but again, there is no formal crossing. Worse still, there are two examples of dropped kerbs on the opposite side that don’t have matching drop kerbs — this is where the footpath is lowered (for wheelchairs, prams etc) and has tactical paving (for people with visual impairments) but no corresponding treatment on the opposite footpath.
  • This junction is also often in desperate need of “daylighting” — daylighting junctions are where footpaths are built out, and it’s made impossible to park right at the junction, meaning crossing points are left free to use, and visibility is made clearer for motorists turning and people crossing.
  • Next, we’re out at the bus station and faced with the N26 national road, which has turning lanes but no crossing over to the bus station. If you don’t want to run across, the choices are a 400-metre walk in one direction or over 500 metres in the other. Given that it’s a sign-posted route for national traffic, there’s also tokenist drop kerbs here across the side street junction.
  • On the side road going up to the RSA the design is complicated by the level crossing and the entrance to the train station’s freight yard directly after it, but when HGVs are turning in and out of the yard, there’s not even a sliver of a footpath.
  • Then, of course, we have the totally missing section of footpath a bit further up, as featured in this article, followed by the locked gates.
  • Even if those are fixed, then inside the business park, the zebra crossings are all but washed away, and the design is built more like it was just for trucks when there are a number of retail outlets in the park.
  • Just beyond the business park, the council has weirdly extended the footpath before fixing the existing gap. Work has just been finished after it was left unfinished since last year. But it’s on the opposite side of the road to the one footpath beside the business park, and while there’s a dropped kerb on the old footpath, there’s no dropped kerb on the brand new footpath to match it. And the crossing is after a bit of a blind bend with a wall on one side, possibly blocking the view of a child about to cross. Maybe they plan to add a raised crossing?

None of the above observations require an engineering degree. These are issues that can be found around most of our towns and in different parts of many cities. Can the RSA not see it?

IMAGE: A new footpath past the RSA’s offices with no crossing or even dropped kerb.
IMAGE: The entrance into the business park also does not have dropped kerbs.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.