Following on from two incidents on Fairfield’s roads in the last week of June, both of which were serious enough to require attendance from the air ambulance, residents are calling for road safety measures to be brought to the top of the agenda.
The first incident took place on the Hitchin Road, opposite Fairfield Gardens, on the morning of Friday 24 June and left a female pedestrian hospitalised with injuries including broken bones. In the second, a collision between an e-scooter and a car on Dickens Boulevard at around 7.15pm on Sunday 26 June, an 11-year-old boy sustained a serious head injury.
The police have appealed for witnesses to this second incident to come forward. If you saw what happened, or have dashcam or CCTV/doorbell footage of either the car (a blue Seat Ibiza) or the scooter in the moments before the collision, please call 101 quoting incident 360 of 26 June.
In both cases there was widespread praise for the emergency services and for the Fairfield residents who were first on the scene. Both drivers also stayed to help.
These two incidents follow many near misses on Fairfield’s roads over the past several years, and have had the effect of bringing residents’ longheld concerns about road safety to the surface. High levels of on-street parking affect visibility on several of the residential roads within Fairfield Park, while through traffic on the Hitchin Road often fails to observe the 30mph speed limit that was introduced when Fairfield Gardens was built. The shared pedestrian/cycle paths which run along the Hitchin Road connecting us to Stotfold and Letchworth are narrow, often overgrown, and not suitable for two-way traffic or for cyclists to safely pass pedestrians. Added to this, the recent return of regular roadworks and temporary traffic lights also brings reduced visibility and increased traffic, which sometimes leads to carelessness. All of these issues have been raised with authorities by residents in the past, but many feel that now is the time to increase the pressure.
Since the incident on Friday morning (and although the path is not thought to have been a factor in that accident), attention has returned in particular to the inadequacies of the path towards Stotfold, which is used by increasing numbers of pedestrians and cyclists in both directions with almost no room for passing. It is of particular concern that this path is often used by unaccompanied children (starting from age nine) on their way to and from school in Stotfold.
Some residents would like to see railings installed to separate the footpath from the road, but this suggestion appears to have been rejected by Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) on the grounds that the space is too narrow.
Fairfield Parish Council (FPC), taking a different approach, has been asking for the path to be widened or for a separate cycle path to be installed on the other side of the hedge for years – at least since the network of foot-, bridle- and cycle paths known as the Etonbury Green Wheel was designed in 2018 – and whilst CBC has accepted the practicality of this proposal, they have failed to reach any agreement with the landowner.
The issue was raised most recently in FPC’s comments on the proposals for the Abbeymill Homes development along a small stretch of the Hitchin Road in March 2021. Their reminder that “provision needs to be made for the cycle path that forms part of the Green Wheel. The growth of Pix Brook and Etonbury will see an increase in cyclists and FPC has concerns for their safety” seems to have fallen on deaf ears, since CBC went ahead and approved Abbeymill’s proposal to remove the hedge and build close to the existing footpath in August last year without making any reference to, or provision for, an upgraded path.
CBC ward councillor and Fairfield resident Nicola Harris told FM that complaints about the footpath began to come to her during the lockdowns, when lots of people were out exploring our surroundings on foot and by bike, but that they have picked up significantly since the beginning of this year. This makes sense. With the return to normal life, more Fairfield children back at school, and ever-increasing numbers of them attending the two expanding middle/upper schools in Stotfold, the path is busier than ever.
She initially responded to the complaints by asking for the overgrown hedge to be trimmed, but was told that this cannot be done during the nesting season (February to August). She has now confirmed that the hedge will be cut back in time for the start of the new school year in September, and that she has also managed to secure a commitment from CBC to risk-assess the path to find a better short-term solution while talks with the landowner continue towards a future redesign.
Nicola urges all residents who feel strongly about the matter to make their voices heard before more houses are built and more land is lost, for the safety of everyone using the path. The more people get behind this, the more pressure she will be able to exert – and the more quickly a solution is likely to be found.
Perhaps someone was listening on the line, because we received a message just before going to press with the news that a Fairfield resident with a child at school in Stotfold is already in the process of setting up a petition for CBC to look urgently at the design of the footpath and resolve the issues with the landowner. You can add your voice here:
Residents concerned about road safety are also reminded that Fairfield has a neighbourhood SpeedWatch group, which is always in need of volunteers. If you are interested in joining, please email:
It goes without saying that all road users can also do their bit just by being careful, responsible and respectful on our roads. If recent events have taught us anything, it is that accidents do happen, even in Fairfield.