Safety fears have been sparked by overgrown weeds and foliage obscuring road signs and junctions in Ripon, preventing motorists from anticipating dangers.
Motorists in Ripon told the Gazette the number of road signs hidden by vegetation in the city and its surrounding villages – including West Tanfield and Melmerby – are causing dangerous driving, as S-bend, speed and roundabout signs have become indecipherable to drivers.
Giles Spencer, 48, who lives just off Palace Road, told the Gazette the 30mph sign near the busy city centre street has become hidden and “people just go flying down the road”.
“The problem is that there are no repeater signs and people don’t realise it’s a 30mph road,” Mr Spencer, who is a professional driver for a company in Boroughbridge, said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
In addition to Mr Spencer’s concerns about the 30mph sign on Palace Road, a sharp left bend warning sign and 40mph speed sign have been found almost completely concealed at the top of the street as motorist emerge on the left.
An obscured mini-roundabout sign has also been found on Ripon bypass, heading north towards the turn-off to Sharow, alongside a part-hidden green sign. A 20mph sign has also been covered by an overgrown tree on North Street.
“Half of the time it’s impossible to see what the signs say,” Mr Spencer said.
“You have only got to drive down country lanes in the area to see how many signs are obscured and it makes the roads really, really dangerous.”
Motorists travelling from Ripon to West Tanfield and Masham have also expressed fears about the disappearance of an S-bend road sign on the undulating and winding A6108, where PC Andrew Bramma crashed his patrol van into a tree while on duty in January.
Andrew McNamara, 46, said he was initially concerned by overgrown vegetation covering the sign next to the tree where PC Bramma crashed his police van – but the sign has now been removed completely.
Actuary Mr McNamara, said: “At the bottom of the hill there is quite a steep gradient and there is no warning of a gradient, and then I noticed the S-bend sign was really dirty and then started to get covered by vegetation.
“It’s shameful. The problem with that specific S-bend sign is particularly bad because someone lost their life there. The place has become a death bend without the right signage and warnings.”
The inquest into PC Bramma’s death heard that previous knowledge of a road makes it easier to determine speed and PC Bramma may have tried to negotiate this bend at a speed that was beyond his ability or his van’s capability.
The S-bend road sign was not mentioned at the inquest in April.
But it is not just hidden road signs that have caused concerns about road safety in the Ripon area.
Chairman of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) and Ripon city Coun Bernard Bateman said he had informed NYCC’s highways department about overgrown grass verges obscuring junctions in Melmerby.
“I have asked higwhays to look into some of the verges which are making it difficult to see other vehicles coming along from the main roads at junctions in the village,” he said.
A spokesman for NYCC said three signs have now been replaced near the site of PC Bramma’s death and all the vegetation in Ripon has been cut back.
When asked why a number of signs were still obscured when the Gazette went to press, the spokesman said further vegetation will be cut back as part of the highways department’s maintenance programme.