Victory for road safety campaigners after horror hit-and-run

Michelle Walters wins campaign for new traffic signals on Wenlock Road.
Michelle Walters wins campaign for new traffic signals on Wenlock Road.

People power has prompted council chiefs to improve safety on a road in South Tyneside where a couple were knocked down in a hit-and-run crash.

Michelle Walters was one of a number of Simonside residents who were left shocked when the elderly couple were struck by a vehicle which failed to stop on the pedestrian crossing in Wenlock Road, in December.

Wenlock Road, Simonside.

Wenlock Road, Simonside.

The road’s two crossings have been a contentious issue for people living in the area since they were installed, as they feared they would one day lead to a tragedy.

In 2010, residents backed by the area’s local neighbourhood policing team raised concerns over the safety of the road layout, including the need to consolidate the two zebra crossings near Simonside Metro Station and the railway bridge. Now, more than five years on and following a fresh call for action prompted by the near tragedy in December, a campaign by residents has led to road safety chiefs making safety improvements to the road.

Over the coming months the two zebra crossings will be consolidated into one, while a 20mph limit will also be introduced into the area.

The decision was made at a meeting of the area’s community forum.

I’m really pleased with the result, but this should have been done ages ago.

Michelle Watson

Miss Walters welcomed the news.

She said: “I’m really pleased with the result.

“The whole community pulled together to drive this forward, helping with the petition and attending meetings resulting in the right outcome. But, the fact is, this should have been done six years ago, when it was raised by the residents and the police as an issue of concern.

“I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and who have worked hard to make this happen.

Michelle Walters with her children Lily, 4 and James, 3.

Michelle Walters with her children Lily, 4 and James, 3.

“I’d also like to thank the shops who allowed us to put the petition in their premises for customers to sign.

“I’ve spoken to the couple and they are over the moon with the outcome.”

The couple, a man and wife, both aged 85, had been walking arm-in-arm on the crossing when they were hit.

The woman was released from South Tyneside Hospital after treatment.

Her husband was left fighting for his life at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary after suffering head injuries.

He has since recovered and returned home.

Hundreds of people signed the petition which was put into local shops.

A Facebook page was also created to drum-up support.

The petition was presented at a community area forum meeting.

The safety issues surrounding Wenlock Road and the crossings were first raised by residents more than five years ago when they called for changes to be made to the zebra crossings.

They also called for a 20mph speed limit for Wenlock Road with one resident claiming the layout of the zebra crossings were “dangerous.”

They said: “It is dangerous using the crossing. Where it is, there is a blind spot for drivers, and when people are trying to cross, it can be dangerous.

“There are a lot of older people who use that crossing.”

Since the hit-and-run involving the couple there have been a number of surveys undertaken.

It found during a typical day more than 4,000 vehicles used the road.

In the past five years there has been four accidents resulting in slight injury and one serious incident on the road.

Now – during the next six to nine months – work will be undertaken to introduce traffic-calming measures, to remove the zebra crossings and replace them with a signalised crossing on the bridge.

The speed will also be reduced to 20mph, with the road itself being resurfaced.

A structural survey has already been carried out on the bridge to ensure it is suitable for the new crossing.

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said they could make no comment on the issue because of the upcoming local council elections.