Pontypridd 'optical illusion' pavement blamed for falls

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Media captionThe work has led to a series of falls, mainly for elderly people

A £10.5m town centre make-over has been blamed for more than 20 people being taken to hospital for falls after new paving stones "hid" a pavement kerb.

The new pattern of pavers on part of Taff Street in Pontypridd has created an "optical illusion", disguising the drop to road level, locals say.

It has led to a series of trips, mainly for elderly people, according to a shop manager who has helped many of them.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council said the regeneration had made streets safer.

The stretch of pavement on the main shopping street drops to a loading bay at road level, which has similar colour paving stones to the pavement.

It means that people - many rushing to a nearby bus stop - do not see where the kerb is.

Image caption Morfydd Jenkins says she suffered cuts and bruising to her face and neck after falling in Taff Street

The Welsh Ambulance Service said it had been called to the pavement 20 times since 1 May, when the improved streetscape was completed, all for injuries related to falls.

Cheryl Hull, manager of Shaws the Drapers, which is opposite the loading bay, says she has personally helped and called an ambulance for about 10 people in recent months, with the latest on Tuesday.

"The loading bay used to be the same colour as the road but when they did the regeneration they made the pavement and loading bay similar colours and this is what's causing what I would say is an optical illusion. It tends to blend into one," she said.

"Some people see the edge of the kerb but others don't.

"Depending on what angle you come at it, it can look as if it's all one level and I think when older people are rushing for the bus, they might not see it, especially as their eyesight tends to be bad.

"And at that age they fall quite heavily and some of the people I've helped have been quite badly hurt. At that age, it can really be a big deal too."

Bruising and cuts

She said she did not feel the council had done anything wrong as there were no loose pavers or broken stones but added: "Surely they can do something to try to highlight the pavement.

"It's such a shame as Pontypridd's much nicer since the regeneration and it's not good that this is distracting from the work that's been done."

Morfydd Jenkins, 75, from Pontyclun, Rhondda Cynon Taf, had been going to Pontypridd once a fortnight until she fell in August. Now she said she has lost confidence in going out alone.

"I was going to the bus stop and all I remember is falling over the kerb - I didn't see it," she said.

"The woman in Shaws took me into the shop and called an ambulance. I was taken to hospital and had X-rays and I had a lot of bruising and cuts to my face and neck.

"I'm feeling alright now but I'm much more cautious about going out on my own."

A Rhondda Cynon Taf council spokesman said safety had been a matter of "paramount importance" throughout the regeneration, "creating a safer and more attractive environment for all town centre users".

"Throughout the town improvements have been made removing clutter from the street, introducing more accessible floor surfaces, and introducing flat surfaces where possible which greatly assists those with mobility issues," he said.

"There are some areas in the town that do require a kerb to ensure services such as buses and deliveries to shops can continue to be provided, and it is important that pedestrians are suitably protected from vehicles in these areas.

"Accessibility throughout Pontypridd has been greatly improved due to the regeneration scheme and with an increased amount of visitors to the town centre month-on-month, clearly the project has been a huge success.

"Recently the innovative free hire of mobility scooters and wheelchairs has been introduced, a scheme that would not have been possible previous to the regeneration project taking place. "

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