Mother calls for urgent repairs to crossing after disabled son's trip
- Credit: Matt Adams
A mum is calling for urgent action to repair a St Albans city crossing after a traumatic incident involving her disabled son.
Jessica Burger's 10-year-old son Jonty, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and epilepsy, was sent flying after his walker became caught in a pothole on a pedestrian crossing, and subsequently suffered a seizure from the shock of the fall.
He had been out in the city centre with his mum on Friday June 25, and had just left Waterstones to cross the road at the crossing opposite Halifax Building Society.
His mum explained: "Jonty is fiercely independent and as such likes to use his walking frame when out and about over his wheelchair, wherever possible.
"Disability access has been a growing issue since the start of the pandemic, and St Albans has always had some difficult spots, due to the nature of the old streets, cobbled surfaces and the bustle of the market with its various hazards twice a week.
"However, we are now old hands at moving about in a city we know well, and nothing stops us from trying to allow him to build his independence where we can as he loves being around people.
"As we were returning to our car he fell victim to the horrendous repair job that St Peter's Street has had recently, with a deep ridge in the surface of the most accessible pedestrian crossing in the city centre.
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"Jonty went dashing across in his walker when the front wheels careered into the ditch in the middle of the road. Luckily I caught him as he and his walker went flying, but the shock of the fall caused him to subsequently have a seizure in the middle of the road.
"Buses and cars waited for two sequences of lights to pass whilst I tried to keep him upright, calm and safe. We then picked ourselves up and continued to cross the remainder of the road."
Jessica said access for those with physical disabilities is growing ever more problematic following the pandemic – structures, protocols and constant changes are all new barriers to disabled people getting out and about.
But she said this new hazard is one that was entirely preventable.
"It is clearly the result of poor workmanship and no inspection from those overseeing these roadworks. Jonty was lucky in so much as I was with him – a disabled adult, elderly person with a walker, or anyone with mobility needs and not expecting that ditch in the crossing is likely to come off worse.
"I was very grateful for the traffic waiting patiently, the kind passers by, and the fact that I was able to break his fall and save him from further injury as well as the worst of his seizure, but the whole incident was hugely upsetting, disrupted the day and was entirely preventable."
A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said: “We are very sorry to hear about this incident.
"It’s important to us that our town centres are accessible for people with disabilities and we will be inspecting this location to see if work needs to be done to make it safe.
"We would encourage people to report any problems they spot on the highway network through our online fault reporting system at www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/highwayfaults"
Cllr Simon Grover, St Peter's ward Green councillor, added: "Hertfordshire’s transport strategy is meant to give the very highest priority to people on foot. That’s important for so many reasons, from public health to reducing emissions.
"So it is unacceptable for repairs to supposedly accessible pedestrian crossings to be botched like this.
"Potholes are a curse that affect all kinds of highway users, but the county council must focus its scarce resources on cases that impede or even threaten the lives of walkers and cyclists. As this incident shows, there are real-life consequences when they fail to do so."