Highways - Road Safety Report, June 2020

Road safety in Sonning has been a major concern for the Sonning Parish Council for many years, long before I joined the SPC in 2013. I have continued campaigning for safer roads in the parish since then. As Councillor for Highways, I take personal responsibility for monitoring traffic speeds and volumes, road crossings, parking problems etc.

We have to turn to Wokingham Borough Council for expert advice on traffic matters and for implementing any improvements thought to be beneficial. We have dealt with several officers from the WBC Traffic Management team over the years. We also liaise closely with the Sonning & Sonning Eye Society and have set up a Joint Working Group dealing with traffic and parking problems.

We do struggle to get WBC to implement our proposals, the excuse normally being that they have limited funds. For instance, we would very much like to see the Pound Lane zebra crossing upgraded - see below. We would therefore very much appreciate residents campaigning to improve road safety in Sonning, either by contacting the SPC or by sending your comments direct to WBC.

Third Thames Crossing

The prospect of a third Thames bridge has been discussed for over 100 years. A new bridge would obviously make a very big difference to the traffic problems in Sonning. We continue these discussions with the various interested parties but progress is very sporadic. We regularly ask questions on progress and attend various meetings. There now seem to be fewer objections from councils north of the Thames but we think it will be some time before this objective is realised.

Traffic Speeds

Unfortunately, this is an ongoing problem. It is the major topic when we discuss road safety with WBC. The SPC has in recent years invested in two Speed Indicating Devices. One of these is a mobile SID and you will have seen it in varying positions around the parish. More recently we purchased a fixed Smiley/Grumpy face device which "protects" the zebra crossing by the school. The data from these devices are analysed and the results sent to WBC and Thames Valley Police.

We are often truly amazed at the speeds recorded on all roads in the parish. Unwanted records are 70 mph in the 20 mph limit in Pound Lane and 80 mph in the 30 mph limit in Sonning Lane.

The 20 mph limit is deemed by Thames Valley Police to be self-enforcing due to the presence of speed humps. There is more about speed humps under the heading "Pound Lane Survey".

The Pound Lane zebra crossing

This crossing has been considered dangerous for many a year, especially as traffic approaching from the Pearson Road direction has limited visibility of the crossing due to the bend in the road. Most of us have seen near misses on the crossing and some residents have sent video clips of vehicles driving through when they have been on the crossing. We have been campaigning tirelessly to upgrade the crossing especially after WBC decided to stop employing School Crossing Patrollers in 2017. The SPC would like to see it upgraded to a lights-controlled Pelican / Puffin type crossing. We have had meeting after meeting with WBC to move things forward and the lack of action is frustrating. We continue to work on this, but we need your support to show the strength of feeling in the village.

Extension of the 20mph zone

Another SPC campaign has been to extend the 20 mph in Pound Lane. At the moment, the speed limit changes on the zebra crossing. We would like to extend the 20 mph zone from there to the roundabout on the A4. The good news is that WBC Traffic Management would seem to agree to this request and have an officer actively working on the scheme. Hopefully we will soon see some results but it is not simply a matter of moving the speed limit signs.

We have also specifically discussed the excess speed in the 20 mph limit by the farm entrance in Charvil Lane. We are waiting for WBC to come up with suggestions to improve road safety in this location as well as to evaluate the 40 mph speed limit in Charvil Lane from the farm entrance to the Wee Waif roundabout.

Pound Lane Survey

In 2018, the SPC were asked by WBC to conduct a survey of the residents of Pound Lane regarding road safety. Views were requested on the zebra crossing, the speed humps and the extension of the 20 mph speed limit towards the A4. Of those that answered each question, 95% were in favour of extending the 20 mph speed limit and 75% were in favour of upgrading the crossing. The views on speed humps were not so clear cut. 33% wanted them removed and replaced with a road-narrowing scheme, 18% wanted them moved to a different position and 49% said they should be left as they are.

Heavy Goods Vehicles

This is an ongoing problem. The SPC has a very good working relationship with the West Berkshire Trading Standards Department. If we get evidence, particularly photographic evidence, of an HGV disregarding the 7.5 tonne limit within the village, the officer concerned will investigate. This can lead to a warning letter or a prosecution.

Reporting Vehicles Exceeding the 7.5t Weight Limit

You can report overweight vehicles that are seen crossing Sonning Bridge by submitting photgraphic evidence and a brief report to me. Please remember not to take photos if you are driving at the time!

Extension of the 20mph zone

The parking problems in Sonning continue to get worse. The Joint Working Group (mentioned above) has identified the main trouble spots. However, finding a solution is not necessarily easy. The SPC, WBC and Sonning & Sonning Eye Society recently had discussions with the Reading Blue Coat School about the parking problems in Sonning Lane. These have now, in the main, been solved but several other areas of concern remain.

Summary

The Sonning Parish Council very much welcomes your comments and suggestions on improving road safety in Sonning. If you have something that you would like to say, positive or negative, or wish to tell us of an HGV transgression, please feel free to contact me:

trefor.fisher@sonning-pc.gov.uk or 07789 880072

Trefor Fisher