All posts by Tim Stonor

Architect & Town Planner | Managing Director, Space Syntax Limited | Visiting Professor, University College London | Director, The Academy of Urbanism | Fellow, Royal Society of Arts | Resident of Faversham

A roundabout for the A2/A251 junction. Really?

Are Faversham Town Council and Swale Borough Council opposing the A2 roundabout? I believe they should be. The roundabout was a bad idea 3 years ago and it is an even worse idea today:

First, in the past 3 years we have seen the 20sPlenty campaign persuade the JTB of the merits of a pedestrian-friendly approach in Faversham. A roundabout is entirely contradictory to this approach. How could the JTB possibly approve a roundabout and remain credible?

Second, in the same period we have also seen how there will be considerable development south of the A2 that risks being detrimentally disconnected from the existing town unless strong pedestrian connections are made. A roundabout is therefore inconsistent with the social and economic interests of the town.

Third, the cost of the roundabout is enormous in comparison with the cost of implementing other road safety improvements that would create greater benefits for the town. The roundabout was costed at “at least” half a million pounds, which is around 100 times the cost of implementing a 20mph limit. Yes, 100 times!

When things go wrong on the motorway then whether the A2/A251 junction is designed as a roundabout, lights or – my favourite – a 20mph limit through the junction, it won’t make a blind bit of difference. What therefore matters is what the junction is like in between times. Is it designed as an expensive, land-grabbing machine for moving cars and suppressing pedestrian and cycling activity, or is it designed as a slow-movement, pedestrian and cycle-friendly piece of in-town public realm?

I think it may be time to get very upset with KCC.

Image

My design for a major junction in central London that balances high volume vehicle movements with high volume pedestrian & cycle activity.

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How should Faversham grow?

Faversham has a once in a multi-generational opportunity to replan its strategic infrastructure. At present the majority of industries generating large vehicle movements are located to the north and west of the town whereas the transport connections they rely on are to the south and east of the town. It isn’t possible to build major transport infrastructure in the north and west of the town because that would damage the natural and historic fabric. So the logical conclusion is to move the large-vehicle-generating industries to the south and east of the town. This does not mean depleting the north and west of the town of employment; far from it – industry is changing and new skilled jobs are emerging. We need to anticipate this change, plan for it and make it happen. We certainly need new buildings and new streets but we also need new training programs. And we may also need new leaders to make this happen…

“There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

George Bernard Shaw

Faversham’s “Pedestrian Zone” is in fact a car parking free-for-all

This is Faversham’s Pedestrian Zone. Filled with cars. Since Faversham Town Council painted #YellowLines around the historic Guildhall, parking officers – by their own admission – no longer consider the PZ valid & won’t ticket anyone parking there.

This is a scandal & the Council should apologise. Until @favershamtc takes a comprehensive look at town centre parking it is doing more damage than good. I predict someone will suggest yellow lines are the answer. No: planters, bollards, benches, gates & a #TransportPlan are!

Westbrook Bridge Crossing

I have offered to help Cllr Antony Hook investigate ways of improving the crossing of West Street at the Westbrook Bridge. He is responding to a number of approaches from people concerned that crossing at this point is unsafe for pedestrians.

Here are some first thoughts, starting with some observations I have made of how people are currently crossing. I then set out a number of design options, with comments on their pros and cons. Continue reading Westbrook Bridge Crossing

Yellow lines tell us no more than we already know

I’ve spent a good deal of time looking into the issue of parking in Faversham’s town centre, first of all campaigning against the proposal to paint yellow lines and then working as a member of the Public Realm Group.

What I understand is that the yellow lines were painted to distinguish between a) where there would be room to park in the evening (single yellow line) and b) where there wouldn’t be (double yellow lines). The view was taken that people wouldn’t be able to judge this for themselves. I don’t agree that people can’t judge for themselves – especially when the consequence is that the public realm of the town is defaced with yellow paint, a public realm that I used to speak about in conference presentations around the world as being rare, remarkable and beautiful for having no road markings.

But this is the view that was taken. And it fits a pattern. For about a century, traffic engineers have thought that they know better than road users, hence guardrailing that stops people crossing roads where they want to and endless signage that tells people things they either know already or didn’t ever need to know.

Anyone can check the logic of the yellow lines for themselves. If you walk around the town centre you can see that the double lines are painted where the road is narrow and the single lines are painted where it’s wide. The yellow lines tell us no more than what we can already see for ourselves. Continue reading Yellow lines tell us no more than we already know

KCC approves 20mph in Faversham? Don’t celebrate yet…

I think we need to be very cautious about this announcement.

It talks about “many of the roads” not “all of the streets”.

It says they “may be suitable” not “are suitable”.

It says no 20mph on the A2. The A2 is possibly the one place where 20mph should be introduced asap, at the junction of The Mall and the Ashford Road, to alleviate congestion there.

It says only 20mph in “appropriate parts of Faversham”. A piecemeal approach is not what we have been campaigning for. Piecemeal is the wrong approach. We’ve covered the arguments for this before so I won’t go into them now.

It says KCC won’t fund this – what does that say about their commitment to the health and safety of vulnerable road users.

In my view this is no time to celebrate. Instead, it’s time to push back and demand an explanation for KCC’s reasoning.
KCC’s email

KCC have reviewed the proposal, as made by Faversham Town Council working in conjunction with the ‘20s Plenty’ group.

In principle many of the roads, which fall within the Faversham town boundary, are potentially suitable for the introduction of a 20mph speed limit; the A2 would not be suitable.

Kent County Council are happy to support Faversham Town Council in their taking this proposal forward, through KCC providing advice and guidance, in order that Faversham Town Council may be able to implement 20mph zones in appropriate parts of Faversham.

KCC would not be looking to fund this scheme at this time.

 

Comments on Design South East’s “More Faversham” report  

I was pleased to see the Design South East report on “More Faversham” and hope very much that it will serve to guide discussion about the future of the town.

I was both pleased and concerned to see so much of the Space Syntax analysis featured. Pleased, because it seems to have resonated with the workshop participants and concerned because I would have liked to have known of its inclusion in advance so that I could have proofed the images and accompanying text. Most concerning is the “Closed” analysis on p13, which is incorrectly described in the text below. This has already alarmed many people when it was discussed at yesterday evening’s Town Council meeting (see my note below). In addition, the image quality on pp10-15 is poor when it could easily – and should – have been much clearer.

I hope the comments below can be addressed in the next draft of the report, especially since issues like p13 can wrongly detract from an otherwise impressive report.
And I hope very much that d:se will be retained to provide continuing, and much needed, support going forwards, both in terms of “big picture thinking” but also in the scrutiny of development proposals through a “design review” process.
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Comments on ds:e “More Faversham” report
p6 should say:
Apart from some challenging topography on the north-west side (Dark Hill and Davington Hill), Faversham…

not:
Apart from some challenging topography on the north-east side, Faversham…

pp10-15 The image quality is poor. Space Syntax can supply print-quality images.

p10 Should say “Space Syntax” not “Space Syntax Ltd”. Add “Space Syntax © 2016” to each image.

p11 Delete this page – it doesn’t add to the argument since similar points can be made for the 3km analysis on the next page.

p13 Delete this page – the purpose of this analysis is not to suggest that the bridge might be pedestrian-only but rather to describe the likely impact on traffic patterns while the bridge is closed for construction. As it is, it is a technical argument that is not relevant to the general nature of the overall document.

p15 rewrite paragraph as follows:
“By combining their spatial scores for shorter and longer journeys, it is possible to categorise streets in terms of which are more important for “walking”, “driving” and “cycling” or a combination of different modes. Red streets score highly for both walking, cycling and driving, and this indicates that their design needs to cater for each type of user. Note that the A2 is in this category. Many of the key walking and cycling routes run north-south, and this could help promoting walking and cycling to the station and town centre from new housing at the town’s southern edge.”

p18 changes in bold italics:

Enhancing the A2 
As growth occurs to the south of the A2, then the role of this major route needs to be re-evaluated to reflect its new place as a main street within the town, rather than as a highway passing by it. Improved crossings, lower speeds and a more pedestrian- and cycling-friendly environment will all be needed to ensure this new town street does not act as barrier, dividing the old and new parts of the town.