Saturday, 4 July 2015

Should these streets be reopened to through motor traffic?

There have been two articles written in the past few days that are pertinent to Lambeth where a decision to undertake a six month trial on measures to prevent traffic rat-running in the Loughborough Junction area has been called in. The borough wants to be the most cycle friendly borough and has a lower level of car ownership but how can progress be made when there's hesitation to even trial a scheme?

The first article in the June edition of Highways Magazine outlines the benefits of 'taming' streets by closing them to through motor traffic. Access is retained for motor vehicles while calm, convenient and safe through routes are created for people of all ages walking and cycling. 

Within Kennington check out the little enclave of streets around Walcot Square; a child-safe place because motor traffic has been prevented from cutting through via Brook Drive. Likewise Cleaver Square is enhanced by a motor traffic barrier onto Kennington Park Road that prevents cars and vans cutting through to and from Kennington Road. 

The second article, 'Trying it out', on the As Easy As Riding A Bike blog, questions why Councils don't try temporary closures to help them decide whether a street can permanently have through motor traffic filtered out. Change is challenging for people and even a temporary experiment may lie beyond the comfort zone of some politicians.

But what happens when there are long-running temporary closures for other purposes? 
Can the politicians and the council use this experience to assess whether there are benefits in reopening the street to through motor traffic?

There are three of these long closures in north Lambeth and I really hope the authorities won't just reopen the streets without really determining whether doing so is beneficial.

Newport Street has been shut for at least two years for the creation of Damien Hirst's new gallery.

Newport Street forms part of the Missing Link, the green trail from Vauxhall to the Garden Museum by Lambeth Bridge - a continuation of the new Linear Park between Battersea Power Station and Vauxhall. Why re-open this to through motor traffic on a green trail when it's been shown not to be necessary for two years? After all, taxis and coaches can drop gallery visitors off at the Albert Embankment, rather than fouling up the green trail, leaving it fantastic for adults and children walking or cycling.

Nearby there's St Oswald's Place, a minor one-way street which could usefully be two-way for cycles except that there's a narrow part on a blind corner at the junction of Tyers Street. This junction been closed for months now as a building is constructed.

 It could be reopened as a two-way walking and cycling junction if motor traffic is filtered out. It's working now, why not keep this option? St Oswald's Place links to a useful Toucan crossing over Kennington Lane. A great improvement for cycling while retaining motor vehicle access.

Finally St Agnes Place / Bolton Crescent, at the back of Kennington Park, has been shut for over two years while some housing is built.

It is a quiet cycle route to Foxley Road and down to Loughborough Junction. There is an improved green walking and cycling link being created through Kennington Park just beyond the closure below. Why not keep the closure to motor vehicles, which wouldn't prevent access to the new homes but would stop drivers taking a short cut through this street. The two year closure shows this is practical, and the benefits for people wishing to get around on bikes are clear. Why re-open the street and risk the new residents not permitting their children to cycle to school?

Monday, 29 June 2015

Are so many taxi journeys really needed?

Many streets in Waterloo (such as The Cut) swarm with taxis, frequently making their empty way to the station and I wonder why so many space wasting, air polluting vehicles are needed. Especially on a sunny day like today when a burst water main has caused major congestion in the area.

I decided to spend half an hour between 5.10 and 5.40 pm looking at people walk up to and get into cabs at the Waterloo station rank. The line of cabs stretched back from the rank as usual, round the corner and down to the mini roundabout on Spur Road. The drivers kept their cabs' diesel engines running even though they were stationary for minutes at times - certainly long enough to read an article or two in a paper. Given the high temperatures, the price of fuel, and the harm that the emissions cause to people and the planet I'm amazed the drivers don't switch their engines off while stationary.

During the half hour I looked for:

People for whom a taxi was clearly a sensible option:
a. Those with a heavy burden of luggage - 6 taxis (though a benefit-of-the-doubt call in two instances)
b. People with a clear lack of mobility - 2 taxis

Total: 8 taxis

People for whom an alternative mode of transport seemed to be a reasonable option:
a. solo passengers - 28 taxis (18 female, 10 male passengers)
b. two passengers - 5 taxis
c. three or more passengers - 6 taxis

Total: 39 taxis

Within those 39 taxis there may be people for whom a tube or bus and/or a short walk is not feasible, but I'm guessing that for the great majority it was just a choice, and I'm interested in how they could be persuaded not to choose to take a congesting, polluting taxi.

None of the people looked in a desperate hurry. Some were clearly tourists and some people seemed habitual taxi users here.

For the tourists a carefully positioned desk and interception on the approach to the taxi rank by an official Travel Adviser (similar to the inmidtown scheme) may switch many people to a tube, bus, walk or cycle hire.

I think such a scheme should be trialed by TfL or the local borough(s) as a congestion busting measure, though I am aware that it flies in the face of a capitalist system that doesn't expect entrepreneurs such as taxi drivers to pay the full external costs of their business.

That thought led me to consider how the public transport system is sold here currently - I hope, firstly, that Oyster cards are promoted and sold on the Gatwick Express and other services from airports and ports, with onward public transport advice available - including promotion of relevant apps etc.

In the station itself; as you exit the platform you are met by this sign:

Taxis and Cars are prominently placed; Buses and Travel Information are non-existent.

There is no Travel Information or Tourist Information desk at Waterloo. You go to Victoria for the former, Leicester Square for the latter.

There is however a Rail Information desk - hardly an intuitive place as you leave a railway station to seek bus information, and indeed no bus maps etc. are available there, though a tube map is.

Tourists may well prefer to use an Oyster card rather than try swiping a debit card, but an Oyster card cannot be bought here - you have to go down the escalator to the tube station to buy an Oyster card then come back up to exit the station to catch your bus.

On the approach to the cab rank there is currently this poster on the wall, but is a lengthy walk really the preferred option for someone with a compact wheeled case - and anyway, where's the accompanying map or Legible London signpost?

A public transport map board with an Oyster card machine also seem sensible options to have just by the taxi rank, though I think a Travel Adviser is also needed to really sell more civilized options than city clogging, belching taxis for people leaving the station.

Finding a way to switch even as little as 10% of taxi journeys in London to smarter modes would make such a difference in the centre of London. Let's hope a way can be found to do it.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

How can Wakehurst Place increase admission-paying visitors?

How could better promotion of public transport and active travel help turn around the declining number of visitors to Wakehurst Place in West Sussex?

Owned by the National Trust, Wakehurst Place is a country estate that is let to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and houses the Millennium Seed Bank.

The BBC reported on 9 April 2015 that the number of people visiting has nearly halved since the introduction of parking fees last April, saying,
Visitor numbers reached 315,000 in 2013-14 but fell to 164,000 in 2014-15, after the charges were brought in.
The parking charges were brought in as measures to tackle a £1.4m deficit.
National Trust members have free entry to the gardens, but have had to pay for parking since last year.
Parking costs £10 a day to those entering Wakehurst Place free using their National Trust membership, which costs £60 for annual adult membership.

Parking is included free for the day for non-National Trust members within their admission ticket (£12.50 per adult), and for Wakehurst Season Ticket holders (£25 for unlimited visits per annum, including a bonus free £15 ticket to Kew Gardens) and for Friends of Kew (£72 per annum, gives unlimited free admission for you and a person from your family to both Kew and Wakehurst).

The Royal Botanic Gardens are clearly trying to get some more income from free-entry National Trust members many of whom, it would appear, are instead choosing a location with free parking. Frequent visitors may decide to buy a Wakehurst Season Ticket, but one-off visitors are going elsewhere. While the lower attendance won't lower ticket income, it will dent cafe and gift shop takings. Of course, if there is a non National Trust member in the car, they'll have to pay £12.50 admission which gets the day's free car parking.

The challenge for Wakehurst Place, just 35 miles from central London, is to increase the number of paying visitors. Given that Inner London has a population of 3.2m but 58% of households here don't have a car (2011 census), can Londoners who don't own cars and aren't National Trust members be tempted?

How is public transport promoted currently?

On the Royal Botanic Gardens Website no information is immediately visible but if you scroll down the 'Getting Here' page you see that there is a train station six miles away with no bus service on Sundays or Bank Holidays. No suggested travel times, indicative price information, local cycle hire, taxi service or walking information is given.

I'll decide not to travel on Sunday or a Bank Holiday, but on a Saturday instead, and start checking bus information using their link. I'm taken to the Metrobus home page and have to refer back to the Royal Botanic Gardens website to check the bus number and insert that, then open a timetable PDF, to discover that I can take a bus in the morning only at 9.42 or 11,42, returning at 14.42, 16.04 or 18.07.

Now, let's check the prices - open a new PDF on the Metrobus page and I see that tickets cost a complicated amount:

But it may be cheaper if Wakehurst Place is within the local Plusbus area, so I go to their website to find out - it has this unhelpful area map:

 How hard would it be for the Royal Botanic Gardens to put the few bus times, the prices, matching rail times and journey duration from London and indicative prices on their website?

Or to include the fact that there's a station just four miles away, on a direct line from London Victoria, that has a footpath to Wakehurst Place if you're coming on a Sunday or Bank Holiday?

And that's almost as far as I go without being paid a consultancy fee to show the Royal Botanic Gardens or National Trust how to do this kind of thing properly - happy to oblige: tweet me @kenningtonpob.

But before I sign off, the National Trust website doesn't even give the bus number

and gives a link to the following Public Transport website

Finally, as far as I can tell, neither the Kew website or the National Trust one offers a discount to Wakehurst Place if you come by more planet friendly public transport (except of course that you can park your non-existent car for free).

Thursday, 9 April 2015

What's on offer in Lambeth

Lambeth's Sustainable Travel Team have just put the following testimonial they received on Facebook. I'm putting it here, with the links:

"Hello - I just wanted to say a massive thank you for everything you're doing for cycling in Lambeth at the moment - it's amazing. 
I have recently bought my bike through Try Before You Bike, which was SUCH an amazing scheme and pushed me to do something I'd thought about but would probably not have got round to due to lack of confidence about what to buy/equipment needed etc. 
I then had a session with Cycle Confident to help me with a route on my way into work which really changed my attitude to cycling and made me feel far surer about myself on the road. 
Then we've recently got bike hangars in nearby roads which meant I could get my bike and the kids' out of the hallway, eradicating a source of tension between me and my husband! 
And THEN cycling home from work the other day, I saw Dr Bike and got my (slightly dodgy) brakes adjusted and seat raised - all for FREE! 
AND cycling into work a day or two ago, there was a police stand who ID'd my bike and registered it and advised me about cycing with lorries. 
I am in rhapsodies about all you're doing; it really is fantastic, thank you. Much appreciated.
Keep it up and thanks again!"

If you want to find out what infrastructure changes are being made / planned in Lambeth please attend Lambeth Cyclists meetings on Tuesday 21 April and 19 May when representatives from Lambeth will update us and invite comments.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Street Furniture obsession in Swansea - part two

My previous post started with a line of bollards; here's a line of benches

It's important to have seats but the reason for the alignment (beyond mirroring a decorative track) isn't clear to me - it's not a particularly social 'sit and chat with your mates' set up

 To the left of the benches in the top picture there are more benches, mirroring the track as it winds its way up the road

Here's the view coming the other way. The track has swerved away from the road to allow a waiting space for a car that has turned off the road.
The track then sweeps back towards the road, past the bollards protecting the flush kerb, before sweeping away again to avoid a loading bay. Note the on-road cycle lane.

At the bottom of the road the track sweeps to the left, swinging on the pavement blindly around the corner, and to the right crosses the side road

though without the priority the adjoining main road enjoys.
It isn't until the next road that I saw something to make it clear that cycling is allowed on the track
Enough about the track - I saw it being used and, while it's got some  flaws, it's way better than many I've seen.

Back to the benches - they've got lights in them

They're not svelte benches and I wonder how they'll age. Was the bench below considered stylish when installed?

Talking about dated stuff; how's this for an object lesson in how not to provide cycle parking?

 Along the coast at Mumbles, we found a bench with a view

Don't you love it when an urban realm composition comes together

Also in Mumbles, I was delighted, having just suggested a road train as a more cycle-friendly replacement to the RV1 bus along Belvedere Road and Upper Ground in London, to find an actual example (albeit summer only, sadly)

Back in Swansea, I spotted a prohibition sign I haven't seen before

Don't attempt horizontal climbing? Don't sleep across the protruding metal bits? Madonna not allowed? I'm flummoxed - can any readers help?

Finally, here are a few other photos that might also entice you to pay a visit to Swansea (and prove that I didn't spend all the time looking at street furniture).

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Street furniture obsession in Swansea - part one

It all started as we walked from the station and saw an enormous semi-circle of street furniture - the photo below shows about a third of it

Here's a further section
An awesome wall of bollards, benches, boxes, bins, bicycle stands and trees.

Bicycle stands like no other - these are chunky and enormous cycle stands. Cycle stands that stand out.
But mainly it was the bollards that caught my eye - so many of them. Just look at this line prohibiting access to the pedestrianised section of town
Once you're in the pedestrianised section the bollards don't go away but now are spaced gloriously far apart to allow cars and vans to fit between them. 
On occasion bollard storage spaces are provided to house the bollards that can be removed from the highway to permit access
 The ones in the middle of the road below, for example, can be removed (but not the one that has been knocked into) 
Admire the way that each piece of street furniture has its designated role. The signpost is not a bollard, it's a signpost, so sits away from the space where a bollard is needed. It's the same with the CCTV camera posts, and the bin. 
The retailers have done their part too, adding advertising boards to the cacophony of clutter.

Then, just as you think that there can be no possible addition of any further bollards, you stumble upon the shop below
I take my hat off to the bollard salesperson of the century.

Post Script bollard bonus:
We're not quite done yet. Check out the warning sign (by the 'No Vehicles'. not even bicycles, sign) - 'Bolardiau awtomatig ar waith'
And here it is, a fine retractable bollard (and by chance the photo shows how reasonable it is to prohibit cycling on this narrow, crowded, street with the merest apology of a pavement).

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Towards child-friendly cycling in north Lambeth

The following is my submission in response to the consultation by TfL on the Quietway junction of Cornwall Road and Stamford Street

These are blue-skyish thoughts of mine on ways to meet Lambeth Council's Cycling Strategy on the South Bank

Lambeth wants to encourage more cycling and believes that the only way to do this is to make cycling safe and attractive for a broader cross section of people. Anyone who wants to cycle should be able to – women, children, parents, older people – as happens in Denmark and the Netherlands. Our vision therefore is that:

Lambeth will be the most cycle-friendly borough in London where 1 - 100 year olds feel safe enough to cycle.

To get a child friendly cycling (and walking) environment in the South Bank area there will, in my view, need to be some impact on the immediate convenience pf some other road users .

How can the South Bank be made child cycle-friendly while also allowing deliveries of goods and building materials, taxis to drop off theatre-goers, and people with blue badges or an aversion to public transport to drive to the area?

I've put some starting thoughts on a map. They are moderately large changes, which I think are what is needed to achieve the goal; there will certainly need to be refinements, but I think these could be the bones of a child-cyclist friendly area. They're not based on any existing plans and I welcome comments and suggestions.

Key points with regard to the Belvedere Road / Upper Ground spine are:
  • Improve conditions for pedestrians and cyclists through cutting out as much motor traffic as possible
  • Stop traffic rat-running along Belvedere Road / Upper Ground spine through bollarded closures that allow pedestrians and cyclists through. 
  • Use raising bollards in some places to enable access by residents and for business deliveries
  • Have taxi drop off, pick up and turning points by the London Eye and the Southbank Centre / Royal National Theatre - but no option for taxis to travel along the spine.
  • Replace the huge RV1 bus with a free, child-cycle friendly, easy pick-up and drop-off Fun Land Train (priority to the elderly and infirm; with wheelchair access) - or have the RV1 run along York Road and Stamford Street, supplemented as needed on the spine with electric mobility shuttles as used in airports

It may be worth checking out the Swansea/Mumbles land train / cycle route 

  • Retain access to purpose built car parks; especially maintain blue badge parking.
  • Have a family and tourist friendly two-way, smooth, segregated cycle track along the Belvedere Road / Upper Ground Spine that links to the North-South Superhighway and then turns to continue to Tate Modern and beyond. Going west it can continue to Vauxhall, Nine Elms, Battersea allowing children to follow the river along to the South Bank and Tate Modern.
  • Alongside the segregated cycle track, have a two-way single lane road with passing places for the few vehicles that are entering and leaving the South Bank area.
  • Bring the two parts of Bernie Spain Gardens closer together, with a pedestrian footpath and cycle/fun train track passing through rather than a constant flow of taxis, vans, lorries and minicabs. 
  • Nurture a motor-reduction culture in local businesses - consolidated deliveries; air driers not paper towels etc. 
  • Cornwall Road north of Stamford Street to be a No Through Road, Except Cycles - access to Doon Street, for properties and to the public car park is retained. No loading or parking in this stretch of Cornwall Road (use Doon Street). The layout of the road making it visually predominantly a cycle track while still having access/egress by motor vehicles.
  • Bollards at Cornwall Road south of Stamford Street; access and exit for motor vehicles to the area via Exton and Alaska Streets. Again Cornwall Road appearance as a cycle track, with 'guest vehicles' and the minimum of parking/loading.
  • In the bigger picture, the Elizabeth House etc. redevelopment allows for opportunities such as a segregated cycle track on Waterloo Road for fast commuters using Waterloo Bridge.