Sunday, 3 July 2011

Southwell Street #1: I've seen your plan and it sucks

The tax-dodgers are complaining about Shared Streets this week -that they really mean "streets mostly for cars and vans". Exactly. Given a choice between a pedestrian area and a shared street, we'd go for the shared street. Once you get a hang of the chicanes they can be quite fun.

Southwell Street, our unofficial logo, is being "improved". We know that, as the vans to do it are parked there this week. Expect photos soon. But before that, the plans.

As people will recall, the concerns by the non-drivers about this area were
  • uphill pavement turned into NHS parking, possibly illegally.
  • no way for bicycles to get through except on the pavement
  • the pavement was blocked to give priority to staff cars
  • both dead ends were used as short stay parking for vans
Overall then a van-and-staff friendly area, with pedestrians as an afterthought, and one of those deliberately created bike/walker conflict zones to divide the opposition, all on the premier walking route from Gloucester Road to Bristol University, and hence full of students. By creating such conflict we could discourage people from trying to do this.

We were initially worried, then, when this draft plan hit our inbox, "a shared space".

Then we saw some emails from Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who we thought would approve of this fusion of walking and driving. Yet he seemed unimpressed
Most residents in Kingsdown feel, as I do, pretty insulted to be presented with a sketch of such pathetically poor quality for Southwell Street.
If the UHB really believes that Southwell Street and other streets in and around Kingsdown can be treated with such contempt, we should not give them any support. I have seen work experience students aged 16 produce more intelligent work than AECOM’s output for UHB. I only hope the hospital trust is not having to pay them fees as well....
Finally, we saw this video from a tax-dodging pavement cyclist who encounters the designers, and provides some feedback.

At 00:10 the Ginster delivery van does a U-turn without indicating, at which the troublemaker engages in discussion with the driver about, that and the fact that it isn't making any beeping noises. Well, the lorry pays more road tax, and isn't of a size where it needs the beeps. That shuts them. Remember that lorry though.

At 1:02 they execute the highly illegal "pavement bypass" option, so endangering pedestrians.

At 1:16 they meet the a hi-viz'd person planning the traffic calming area -and say to them the plan sucks, because painting a bit of pavement, whether it's in coloured paint or some cobbles down the middle of the road is utterly meaningless. They mutter on a bit, and we think their key point is that taking one pavement off for car parking and closing the other off for safe car park access is somehow wrong.

At 1:38 the cyclist, who is standing in the middle of the "person on the road" lane is actually forced to wheel their bike backwards to let a car out of the staff carpark. This shows to us how the "shared space" design will have no effect on our daily lives, so may as well be permitted. There is a risk of some benefit to people trying to cycle here -as they won't be quite so discouraged by having to hop on and off the pavement, but if we block the bollards with vans often enough, they'll be discouraged differently.

At 1:48 the troublemaker demands some of the pavement back. We'd hoped to have some good news there, but based on the building work it looks like these people have got their way. Somewhat. Wait until tomorrow for the specifics there.

At 2:02 they express concern that the dropoff area in front of the hospital is chaotic, and it will remain so. Well, that's why it's called a dropoff area, isn't it? If people were expected to do dropoffs and pickups on St Michael's hill, there'd be an area there instead.

at 2:20 their rant finishes and they finally head off, presumably to the relief of the site team. They then proceed down a road that clearly has room for parking all down one side, yet lacks it. And there are an oddly large number of pedestrians, given the effort the NHS has gone to here to discourage walking.

At 2:43 you can see some people trying to cross Horfield Road. Notice the wide five-junction crossing here. It's a dangerous exposed crossing and people shouldn't attempt it, not when there is a zebra crossing further up the road, as the video shows at 3:07. If people aren't prepared to cross the road where a crossing has been provided, well, it's like people on bicycles not using the bike lanes.

At the zebra crossing they do a U-turn, and at 3:08 show what is paveparked over yellow lines round the corner: Ginster delivery van HN58LVK. Purely because Southwell Street doesn't support through traffic, that van had to do a 180 degree turn in a narrow drop-off street, turn right up St Michael's Hill, right again on to Myrtle Road, then onto Alfred place. One U-turn and two right turns -not just a philosophy for the coalition government, it's costing the company money. The DfT puts a financial cost on critical business motoring, and its clear that closing this road has tangible costs to that key part of the economy: the white van.

Therefore, although the proposals don't take much away from us, they don't deliver what we need, either -the removal of the gate and the re-instatement of Southwell Street as a van-friendly rat-run!


between-the-lines said...

Never mind the moaning minnies, shared space works great in Bristol.

SteveL said...

@between-the-lines. Yes, that path sucks because it should be on the route from the bendy bridge to the railway path, yet it goes out of its way to make you feel unwelcome for walking or cycling there.

If you want to see something worse, try the bit north of wordsworth road in filton. The trouble with the concept that "chaos is traffic calming" is that it assumes that the drivers won't learn the chaos, or try and force their way through.