The College of Paramedics has warned how lives could be put at risk and 999 emergency response times could increase if Grant Shapps’s green transport revolution is rushed through by local authorities.
The body – representing 18,000 paramedics – claims badly designed cycle lanes, new one-way systems, and road closures would leave ambulances and other emergency response vehicles stranded in traffic struggling to reach those in desperate need of help.
Richard Webber, a practising paramedic and spokesman for the college, said previous hastily introduced measures to control traffic had increased the time it can take for an ambulance to reach an incident.
His comments follow a series of photographs posted on social media of ambulances and fire engines appearing to find their routes blocked by new road closures or stuck in traffic.
The Transport Secretary’s £250 million scheme to promote a “new era for cycling and walking” has led to complaints that some new one-way systems, road closures and bans on cars in high streets have led to an increase in congestion.
Numerous petitions have been set up by those wanting changes reversed amid claims local authorities have rushed through changes under the emergency powers without any consultation.
Some business people have complained motorists have been effectively banished from some high streets, thus making it difficult to kickstart the economy after lockdown.
Mr Webber insisted both paramedics and the college were in favour of making the country’s roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
However, he feared the clamour to get the Government cash as part of the scheme could create new and serious problems.
“Previous traffic calming measures have caused delays for emergency vehicles. So now we are particularly concerned new measures are being rushed in without proper consideration and there will be a risk of further delays for ambulances and other emergency responders,” he said.
“For someone not breathing or having a heart attack, stroke or allergic reaction this risks causing significant harm. We would urge councils as they implement these new measures to give proper consideration to access for emergency vehicles and ensure they are not delayed reaching the scene of an emergency.
“We fully support and understand the need to improve routes to protect cyclists and pedestrians, particularly while there is a reduction in the use of public transport following the Covid-19 epidemic.
“However, the designs must take into account fully whether an emergency vehicle – whether ambulance police or fire – can gain access in a hurry, rather than making it difficult to do so.”
Recent research found it took on average seven minutes to reach an emergency in urban areas. That time increases to more than 20 minutes in some rural areas.
A London-based paramedic, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said some newly introduced cycle lanes cordoned off with barriers had made it impossible for traffic to pull over in an emergency.
“Some cycle lanes I’ve seen in London segregate cars entirely from other traffic, sometimes with barriers, raised paving or plastic red and white heavy duty bollards,” he said.
“While that improves safety for cyclists, it means when on a blue light cars cannot pull left into the cycle lane to get out of the way.
“We end up stuck in traffic.” A total of £45 million has been handed out since May after Mr Shapps urged local authorities “to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians”.