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2,047 call for Wicker bus gate relaxation

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2,047 call for Wicker bus gate relaxation

Post by Aftab on Wed 18 Feb 2009 - 2:18

Flexibility call: A bus on the Wicker where cars are currently banned from using part of the street Picture: Barry Richardson

By Richard Marsden
MORE than 2,000 customers have signed a petition organised by businesses calling for Sheffield's controversial Wicker bus gate to be relaxed.
Campaigners want restrictions banning traffic except buses, cycles and taxis from using the part of the street which crosses the new inner ring road to be cut from 24 hours to 12 hours and cars to be allowed through between 7pm and 7am.

The petition - signed by 2,047 people - has now been handed into Sheffield Town Hall and also calls for improved car parking and better signs.

Ellie Bennett, of Associated Chemists, which says it is suffering reduced trade due to the restrictions, said: "People have been signing the petition and then taking forms for their friends and family to sign too.

"Everybody wants to see the Wicker continue to be full of thriving businesses, which can only happen if the council helps us out."

Marcia Campbell, of nearby Marcia's Caribbean and English Takeaway, added: "We are just asking for the council to be flexible and relax the bus gate hours similarly to Hillsborough, so businesses have a chance of survival."

Relaxation of the bus gate's hours is also supported by Paul Wike, managing partner of Dovercourt Surgery, Sky Edge.

He has written to Coun John Hesketh, chairman of Sheffield Council's city centre, south and east planning board, which will decide whether to relax the hours at a meeting today.

Mr Wike said: "Many of our patients use the pharmacy out-of-hours and find the signs and route to the Wicker confusing and complicated.

"This is exacerbated by some patients being fined when they are trying to access the pharmacy to collect their medication."

But police fear relaxation would lead to more traffic making a banned manoeuvre, turning left on to the inner ring road from the Wicker when heading out of town which they fear could lead to collisions with people crossing the inner ring road.

PC Ian Shelton, South Yorkshire Police road safety officer, said: "At the moment, it is estimated there is one banned turn there every seven minutes.

"We believe that during times hours were relaxed, this number would increase. There are obviously safety implications."

Offenders are currently fined because they are filmed going through the bus gate.

But if enforcement hours were cut, there would be less monitoring of the junction out of hours, allowing people to make the turn without punishment.

PC Shelton said police would find it difficult to catch offenders because it was unlikely they would break the rules if they thought they were being watched.

John Bann, Sheffield Council's head of highways, has recommended the bus gate hours are unchanged.

He said extra traffic would "jeopardise" redevelopment plans including flood protection schemes and road safety danger would be "difficult to design out".

Mr Bann also said relaxation of the bus gate could be challenged by public transport operators because its installation was part of a council commitment to make services more attractive.

But he recommended improved signs and parking around the Wicker and said that the council should ensure the area is better promoted.

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