Safety fears over pedestrian crossing cuts across Staffordshire
UNDER-USED pedestrian crossings face being removed across Staffordshire – to save cash and help the planet.
Staffordshire County Council wants to scrap some pelican crossings to avoid paying for the costly refurbishment of the lights and equipment.
They would be replaced by cheaper zebra crossings, if necessary.
But the move has been criticised by community leaders and charities who fear downgrading any crossing would affect vulnerable residents.
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It is understood the initial cost of installing a pelican crossing is around £50,000, compared with £15,000 for a zebra crossing.
The typical maintenance bill for a pelican crossing is around £12,000.
Highways officials are currently reviewing how often crossings are used across the county to see if they can be downgraded.
The council is in charge of hundreds of crossings across the Staffordshire Moorlands and Newcastle.
Highways engineer Chris Lewis said: "The authority is looking at all signalised controls to cut its carbon footprint.
"There is an option to downgrade some to a zebra crossing if they are being underused."
The council is already considering downgrading the pelican crossing outside Biddulph's Sainsbury's.
The High Street crossing is used less frequently since the Sainsbury's store opened and the bypass took traffic out of the town centre.
But town councillors say the crossing should be left as it is after raising concerns for vulnerable residents who rely on the pelican crossing.
Independent councillor Ken Harper, who represents Biddulph North, said: "We need to treat disabled people properly and I think it is mealy-minded of the council to take this approach.
"If you are deaf or blind then you go to a safe crossing and I take exception that the crossing could be downgraded."
The Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) says residents with sight loss rely on the sound coming from a pelican crossing to tell them it is safe to cross.
An RNIB spokesman said: "Being able to make journeys safely when out and about is vitally important in ensuring people with sight loss remain independent.
"A lack of audible sounds make it extremely difficult and often very dangerous for people with sight loss to cross the road safely.
"It's vital for blind and partially-sighted people to have safe places in which to cross busy roads."
Paul Walters, head of roads policy at the AA, added: "The local authority needs to be careful about removing any crossings and must consider traffic flow."
The Staffordshire review comes as Stoke-on-Trent City Council considers withdrawing funding for 43 school crossing patrols to save £101,000 in its 2013/14 budget.
Schools have been told they must pay for the lollipop wardens themselves if they want to keep them.
Cheshire East Council is also planning cost-saving measures by installing energy-efficient bulbs in 32 of its pedestrian crossings.