No plans to make bridge any safer

Northamptonshire County Council says it cannot install railings
Northamptonshire County Council says it cannot install railings

HIGHWAYS officials have been branded ‘short-sighted’ after deciding not to make changes to footpaths under a bridge in the wake of a cyclist’s death.

The county council’s safety engineers visited the site in Rothwell Road where Sarah Burwell fell off her bike and was killed by a passing car last year.

But after an inspection they decided railings could not be installed along the path and it is understood no other safety measures are planned.

The investigation was carried out after a coroner asked if something could be done about the road’s safety.

The council has been criticised by the country’s largest cycling charity, the Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC).

East Midlands CTC member John Cutler said: “The road is badly designed because there is no clear distinction on whether the path is for pedestrians or cyclists.

“It is not helped by a toucan crossing, for cyclists and pedestrians, just before the bridge.

“The council should do something to sort this confusion out to improve safety along the road.

“The officers haven’t understood the problem and the fact they have done nothing shows them to be short-sighted.”

Mr Cutler said the narrow pathway, on one side of the road, should be closed or a pedestrian tunnel cut out in the embankment.

He believes the tunnel would cost about £200,000 to create.

He added: “It’s not a lot of money when you talk in terms of highways, or someone’s life.”

Mrs Burwell, 40, lost control of her motorised pedal bike as she rode under the bridge on August 22, 2011.

As she tried to regain her balance on the narrow stretch she fell into the road and was hit by a passing Ford Fiesta.

She died hours later.

At an inquest, Northamptonshire coroner Anne Pember asked if anything could be done to improve the safety of the 97cm-wide footpath.

Yesterday, a spokesman for the county council said: “We extend our sympathies to Miss Burwell’s family and, as ever, give very serious consideration to any recommendations coming from the coroner’s office.

“We were approached by the coroner to see whether it would be possible to install a railing on a stretch of footpath under a railway bridge in Rothwell Road, Kettering.

“The path width under the tunnel varies from its narrowest point of 0.86m to 0.97m.

“A guard rail would have to be installed 0.45m back from the edge of kerb to allow clearance to vehicles in the carriageway. This would only leave a footway width at the narrowest point of 0.41m.

“Guidelines accept an extreme minimum limit of 1.3m, however as the footway width is already less than this limit it is not possible to have an even narrower width of 0.41m.

“Placing a barrier rail at this location in line with current design standards would render the footway unusable for many users and therefore, unfortunately, we are unable to proceed with the request at this location.”