Category Archives: 20s Plenty

Presentation to Swale Joint Transportation Board

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak today.

I think we are all agreed that the junctions of the A2 with the A251 Ashford Road and the Mall can be improved. But the characteristics of the present problem and, therefore, the nature of a preferred solution are not addressed by the proposed roundabout and its associated banned turnings. I would like to address both problem and solution in this brief presentation. And I would like to suggest a way forward.

The current problem
First, the current problem of vehicle congestion is highly peaky. Most of the time, the junction is free-flowing.

Second, at school peak times there may be more pedestrians using the road space of The Mall than vehicles.

Third, children and other vulnerable road users have no formal pedestrian crossing points – they have to chance it by crossing, often running, between moving traffic.

Fourth, local residents report they don’t walk into town because they are afraid to cross the road, especially Forbes Road and The Mall.

Fifth, there are no formal cycling provisions.

Sixth, planned housing development in Faversham will create more travel demand that can only be accommodated in a safe and convivial way by a significant shift to non-vehicle modes ie to walking and cycling.

In other words, traffic congestion is not the only problem that needs addressing. Road safety – both real and perceived – as well as public health, air quality and social cohesion also matter.

The proposed roundabout
The proposed roundabout is highly expensive, highly unpopular and fails to address the current needs of road users, especially vulnerable road users. It provides no facilities for cyclists and only a deeply substandard, token gesture for pedestrians.

Faversham Town Council is against the roundabout. Ethelbert Road School is against it as are the Faversham Society, local residents and public realm design professionals like myself. Even the local taxi drivers I’ve spoken to are against it.

By banning the right turn out of The Mall, the proposals will encourage traffic to rat-run through local streets or to swing round the roundabout and rush back along the A2 to make up for lost time from having been forced out of its way.

As a result, the overall junction will work less well for vehicles and will make conditions for pedestrians and cyclists even worse than they presently are.

An alternative approach
An alternative approach should go back to the drawing board and follow these principles:
First, it should prioritise vulnerable road users, providing facilities for pedestrians and cyclists.

Second, it should improve junction capacity by slowing vehicle traffic to 20mph so that, as vehicles approach the junction it is possible for more vehicles to turn in and out. This principle is well established elsewhere in the UK. Amanda Russell will speak about the 20sPlenty campaign later but let me here make the point that 20sPlenty benefits vehicles as well as non-vehicle road users.

Third, an alternative approach should involve local people in its design – they are also experts. This issue is now so high in the local consciousness that it shouldn’t be left to those on high to come up with the alternative and then send it out for comment.

Traffic lights
Finally, let me say something about traffic lights. Would they be a better solution to a roundabout? Perhaps, yes – but only if part of a design that benefits pedestrians and cyclists; only if part of a design that slows vehicles and only if part of a design that is co-created with the local community.

In the meantime, my preferred approach is to introduce a 20mph speed limit at and around the junction and monitor the effects of this single, extremely low-cost design change before committing to significant further spend.

Thank you.

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All quiet on The Mall

It’s the first day of half term and the junction of the A2 with The Mall is flowing as freely as I’ve ever seen it. 

Of course some commuters are on holiday but could it also be that a significant proportion of the traffic normally flowing through this junction is parents and carers with children heading to and from schools? Have transport planners considered how this group of people can be addressed and reduced by providing alternative, viable means of getting to and from school? For example, by improving walking and cycling?

Or have transport planners just assumed that they need to accommodate traffic growth “because car traffic always grows, doesn’t it?”

No one doubts that new development in Faversham will generate its own car traffic growth. But what we are campaigning for is the delivery of alternative transport modes – walking, cycling and public transport – that can slow the rate of car growth. 

Providing parents and carers with a viable alternative to driving must surely be a key priority for Kent County Council, which has a duty of care to protect vulnerable road users. So why is there no provision for walking or cycling in the proposed junction plans?

Consultation on the proposals ends at 12 noon today. 

Voice your concern by emailing:

tro@kent.gov.uk

An alternative, people-centred approach to traffic growth in Faversham

At yesterday evening’s Town Council meeting, councillor after councillor spoke in opposition to the proposed roundabout at the junction of the A2 and A251. There were many damning comments from experienced public servants who will, I’m sure, have chosen their words carefully. All of which makes the Town Council’s rejection of the roundabout even more significant.

Cllr Willcox said that he believed the roundabout would only move the problem and that the designers of the scheme had forgotten about the needs of pedestrians. He expressed grave concerns from both an ethical and a governance perspective. He said the scheme did not represent value for money.

Cllr Cosgrove said that the proposals needed to be set in the context of wider development and couldn’t be judged as a standalone project. I quite agree with these comments. He also said that further modelling work was needed. This is undoubtedly correct but let me sound two notes of caution:

First, that such modelling work will likely show that neither a roundabout nor traffic lights – nor anything short of a miracle – will be enough to accommodate traffic growth in Faversham and the wider region if the conversation remains fixed on the subject of moving vehicles. If transport planners continue to talk only about car-based solutions then many of us can tell you now – before tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds of public funds are spent on modelling – “We’re all doomed”. Continue reading An alternative, people-centred approach to traffic growth in Faversham

The way forward for the A2: consult the real experts

Tackling congestion with measures focused only on permitting more traffic is not going to address long term traffic growth in Faversham. What is needed instead is a radical change in movement with a focus on walking and cycling.

I understand I wasn’t the only one at KCC’s consultation event on Friday objecting to the roundabout.

Would members of the Town Council agree with many of us that the way forward is not a roundabout but a design that encourages more walking and cycling?

And rather than spend half a million scarce pounds on the roundabout, wouldn’t members also agree that it is better to invest a small faction of that in holding a series of events with local experts? Not only the professionals and academics like myself who work in this area and are appalled at the crude proposals put forward by KCC but the real professionals:

the residents of The Mall and the schoolchildren of the Abbey School, Ethelbert Road School and elsewhere, who have to run between fast moving traffic every day – the very people who are not served by the roundabout but who are deeply concerned to see Faversham change for the better?

A2 roundabout – it just doesn’t stack up

I’ve just been to the one-day consultation at Faversham Library for the proposed A2/A251 junction works.

I was told:

1. The scheme has been designed to balance the needs of road users.

2. There are no pedestrian or cycling facilities because there is no budget for them. The budget for pedestrians and cyclists is a separate budget.

This isn’t acceptable. This isn’t a balanced response. How could it be when it only serves the needs of road vehicles? When it doesn’t serve the needs of vulnerable road users?

And it gets worse.

3. The junction designer isn’t aware of any pedestrian crossing demand across The Mall.

I suggested he might like to visit one morning and see the large numbers of schoolchildren who have to run between moving traffic to cross The Mall.

Incredible. Inadequate. Irresponsible.

  

Velocity or civility? What kind of future does Faversham want?

This morning I visited the junctions of the A2 with the A251 and The Mall in Faversham, shortly after an accident at nearby Brenley Corner – the kind of event that can create additional demand at these junctions.

However, I found the junction between the A2 and The Mall to be flowing quite freely, and this was at 0815-0845:  the height of the peak hour. There was indeed additional queueing at the junction of the A2 and the A251, as would be expected if people were diverting away from Brenley Corner, but vehicles were moving steadily and, overall, without frustration.

What was most notable was the courtesy shown between drivers. I observed that at least one in ten drivers approaching the A251 from the east would slow down to allow traffic to turn right from the A2 into the A251 and/or to turn left in the other direction.

This sort of civility must have added between two and ten seconds to the journey of the person who chose to slow down, but it would have saved a good deal more time for those who were allowed to make their turns.

Such generous behaviour is common and much more likely to happen when traffic is moving slowly through a junction. A roundabout, in contrast, has the effect of speeding traffic up as it moves through a junction, making civil driver interactions not only uncommon but unexpected. 

In other words, there is a change of driver behaviour and an overall change of driving culture when vehicles move quickly or slowly.

The presence of pedestrians and cyclists has a further civilising influence – the opposite effect to that of a roundabout. By adding more slow movers to the street, drivers take more care and are more courteous.
What sort of future do we want for Faversham? Velocity or civility?

And, as I’ve said before, slow moving traffic does not necessarily take any longer to get to its destination. One driver might slow to allow others to turn and then find that they can themselves then turn more easily at their next junction.

Like the tortoise and the hare, there are different approaches to moving from A to B. What seems obviously to be the better approach to speed may not necessarily be the right one.