St Stephen’s Hill Tragedy: One year on
Almost a year has passed since 20 year old University of Kent student Bihari Payagala was tragically killed whilst crossing the road near the Downs Road junction on St. Stephen’s Hill. Since the crash last February the stretch of road remains as busy and dangerous as ever.
The potentially life threatening hazards to any pedestrians crossing it become strikingly obvious when we examine its layout. St. Stephen’s Hill is a main section of road connecting Canterbury City Centre to Tyler Hill, as part of the highway towards the seaside town of Whitstable; a major artery into the city. The meandering road steepens as it passes the Tyler Hill entrance to the University Campus. This particular stretch is a sharp bend from top to bottom. Placed awkwardly at the bottom of it is the junction of Downs Road, leading to the student dwellings of Hales Place.
It is no secret that a large proportion of those living in the residential area are UKC students. These students, in their hundreds, are the principal crossers of this stretch and for them there is really no other convenient route to campus Neither is there, in any reasonable distance, any form of crossing. Thus, for most there is no plausible alternative other than to put their lives in the balance at least twice a day on their daily trek to University. Although there is a speed limit of 30mph, accompanied by speed humps placed on the road by local authorities, these feeble attempts at speed control have ultimately failed as vehicles of all sorts continue to hurtle down the hill, City Centre bound.
There is, however, some light at the end of the tunnel. Immediately after last year’s incident, concerned students and locals alike came together to sign an e-petition to Kent County Council for a Pelican Crossing on St Stephen’s Hill. All were united by a consensus that something needed to be done to make this precarious road safer for everyone; be it a crossing, warning signs or speed cameras. The issue, backed by Canterbury Conservative MP, Julian Brazier and a ‘call for change’ from Kent Union’s Vice- President (Welfare), Colum McGuire, was raised at a meeting in July. After weighing up various options, Kent County Council confirmed that ‘a preliminary outline design for a crossing along St Stephens Hill has been progressed.’ Furthermore, ‘The University have agreed to contribute something to the cost of the crossing provided that it passes through all the checks and balances of County Council decision making.’ This is undoubtedly a positive step in the right direction. Just to know that negotiations for change are in progress, gives us all some piece of mind. Although, the fact that it has apparently taken a death for this critical issue to finally be addressed is, to me, mind boggling. Nevertheless, it is essential that the matter in question has continuous support so that, as more time passes, it doesn’t get forgotten and thus neglected by the authorities. To show your support, and for more updates, join the .
The need for support in this cannot be stressed enough. On my own way to campus, I have seen countless near misses. Fellow students dashing across the round as motorists desperately try to slow down in time as they appear around the corner. One life is too many to have been needlessly lost to that road. For me, Canterbury cannot claim to be a safe student city, whilst so many are risking their lives just to get to their University. It is therefore important to remind ourselves of the preciousness of life, something which we all take for granted. Time is ticking. Let’s all make our voices heard and make our walk to uni safer for all.