Leeds Councillor forced to direct traffic while out with family during chaotic jams at Roundhay Park

A Leeds Councillor was forced to save the day during a trip out for exercise with his family after chaotic traffic jams emerged at Roundhay Park over the weekend.
Councillor Dan Cohen sought authority to remove barriers and direct the traffic (photos: Dan Cohen)Councillor Dan Cohen sought authority to remove barriers and direct the traffic (photos: Dan Cohen)
Councillor Dan Cohen sought authority to remove barriers and direct the traffic (photos: Dan Cohen)

Warmer temperatures at the weekend saw large numbers of people enjoying the sunshine in Leeds' green spaces despite the national lockdown.

Councillor Dan Cohen had gone to Roundhay Park for a walk with his family on Sunday - and could see that cars were stuck in the car park and hadn’t moved at all for over an hour in what he described as 'scenes of chaos'.

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The councillor said he saw young families getting 'increasingly anxious' as cars were 'simply stuck and getting nowhere' so took it upon himself to take urgent action.

Leeds residents said the park was 'rammed' over the weekendLeeds residents said the park was 'rammed' over the weekend
Leeds residents said the park was 'rammed' over the weekend

He added that with 'limited daylight left', after he had contacted the police he sought clearance from a senior council officer to give him authority to direct the traffic.

Alwoodley Conservative Councillor Dan Cohen said: "They were scenes of chaos.

"I could see cars were simply stuck and going nowhere.

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"I was concerned as the cars had many young families in them who were understandably getting increasingly anxious, there were also a number of disabled residents who had medical needs that required attending to.

"I contacted the police, but it was clear that another solution was needed.

"So, conscious there was limited daylight left and action was needed urgently, I contacted a senior council officer to get clearance to open up the barriers and slowly guide the cars through the old park link road, from The Lakeside Carpark up to Mansion Lane, having run backwards and forwards to check I could safely open up the barriers.

“I donned my Leeds City Council High Visibility Jacket, then marshalled the trapped cars along the pathway and safely out onto Mansion Lane, the whole process took no more than 20 minutes, but ensured that distressed and anxious residents could get safely home before it was absolutely pitch dark."

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Cllr Cohen has now asked that an investigation take place with Urban Traffic Control as to how this grid lock situation occurred and to also examine the police response to what could have been a dangerous situation at Roundhay Park.

He said there are also lessons for the council’s own out of hours service in ensuring all council departments are able to respond to significant issues like this.

He added: “It really was lucky I was there otherwise residents would have been stuck for an awful lot longer, which is entirely unacceptable.

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"It was lucky I was able to locate a key holder for the barriers - and find someone prepared to give the instruction to actually open the barrier.

"We have to learn the lessons to stop this happening again, the next time the weather is fine.

“While the roads to the park were clearly over capacity and the park itself very busy, the vast majority of people were social distancing, either in twos or what certainly looked like family groups.

"Thank goodness, the park itself is the size it is to allow that.”

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A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We recognise that for different reasons, such as if they are elderly or disabled, some local residents are not able to walk to their local parks and green spaces.

"This is why car parks at all our parks are open and operating in accordance with government guidelines around public green spaces being accessible.

“Our parks have seen a very high number of visitors recently, and it is clear that not all of the people are from the local surrounding areas.

"With that in mind, we again politely ask that residents please visit their local parks and green spaces if they require exercise during lockdown and if it is possible they do so by walking.

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"We also request that people do not take longer journeys than necessary by car to visit other parks in the city and that all visitors strictly adhere to government guidance in terms of social distancing and gatherings.”

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