22 April 2009

Bollard training

Ok, this really is the last entry concerning Manchester's rising bollards.

Sparked amid concerns of their unreliability in the aftermath of a recent story that saw an ambulance crew prevented from administering first aid to someone within the Arndale Centre, bus drivers operating in the adjacent bus only area are to be given training after some have publicly claimed they are "frightened to death" of them.

One Metroshuttle driver has gone to the press claiming "We all have our hearts in our mouths when we go over them because you don't know if you're going to be next. We all agree with the restrictions but it does seem to be an outdated system. To be honest we're frightened to death of them. Everybody makes mistakes. Is it right that your mistake could end up with you or one of your children in hospital with your car written off?"

First Manchester, who operates Manchester city centre's three free Metroshuttle minibus services, is now giving drivers operating these routes training in negotiating the retractable telescopic bollards. This has come following a £6,000 claim from the Manchester Fire Service, who had one of their £330k fire engines damaged when it struck the bollards which didn't lower. The Manchester Evening News has reported on an incident when a Metroshuttle bus struck one set of bollards which hospitalised three people.

Manchester City Council has so far robustly defended the bollards, claiming that, to date, all accidents involving vehicles prohibited from the protected zone have been the fault of their respective drivers. Spokesman Nigel Murphy said "Even though there is nothing wrong with how the bollards operate we have been having discussions with First about what can be done to make it even clearer to drivers how they work."

With the slow yet definite decline in driving standards over the past few decades, with so many car and van drivers now thinking bus lanes do not prohibit their use, these bollards are an incredibly effective way of ensuring only permitted vehicles can pass into a designated area. They are not, as the Metroshuttle driver asserted, an "outdated system".

I suspect that either sensationalism or pure ignorance propelled the bus driver to go to the press linking the bollards with fears for his and his colleagues' life. It's incredibly short-sighted: would this driver prefer the bus-only restriction relaxed and to run the gauntlet with all other road users in the area? Of course he wouldn't.

Since we live in a health and safety dominated world, a refresher course is perhaps a happy compromise. I agree with the driver's comment claiming everyone makes mistakes from time-to-time - the average motorist causing an at-fault accident every million road miles driven. Bus drivers are no different. This wont be the last incident involving the bollards, but hopefully the last one where there is some doubt over their correct operation. (GL)