Category Archives: Congestion

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.

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A new link between the M2 & A2: issues & options

There has been increased discussion about a new link between the M2 and A2 in Faversham. I looked at this a couple of years ago, studying two options and considering the issues these raise. 

The first option, Option A, runs between Junction 6 in the south east and the Western Link in the north west. The second, Option B, runs approximately north-south from the Western Link to a new junction on the M2:

The first issue to consider is the length of each route since longer routes will typically be more expensive to construct. Option B is shorter:

The second issue is the cost of the junction at the M2. Option B requires an entirely new junction whereas Option A makes use of the existing Junction 6:

The third issue concerns the impact of each route on historic buildings. Option A runs close to St Peter & St Paul Ospringe:

The fourth issue to consider is the design of the route itself. A fast suburban highway or a slow-speed urban street? Both can carry the same volume of vehicles. It’s a question of visual character, of safety, of air quality, of pedestrian and cycle friendliness and of junction capacity. Slower streets beat faster roads on every count. 

Option A could be designed as a street serving buildings either side of it. These could include industrial, job-creating buildings eg warehouses, located closer to the motorway, that would free up the current warehouses on the north-west side of town to be redeveloped as housing. Option B could also be designed as a slower route, with buildings along parts of its eastern edge and even some on its western edge.

The fifth issue concerns directness and topography. Option A is indirect with multiple level changes whereas Option B is straight and generally level:

The sixth issue is the impact of each option on the environment. Both pass through high quality landscapes but Option B passes close by, and partly through, the Syndale Conservation Area:

For this reason I developed a variant of Option B, which avoids the Syndale Conservation Area:

Technically Option A in red is a boulevard (because it is an orbital route) not an avenue (which would be a radial route). So I have called it “Faversham Boulevard”.

Option B in blue and Option C in red are closer to being radial routes so I have called these “Faversham Avenue”.

It need not be an either/or choice between Faversham Boulevard and Faversham Avenue. Both could be constructed, which would give the town resilience in the event that one of the motorway junctions were out of action (eg because of accident/repair).

There might also be a new public square where the two routes meet. 

After all, it’s what towns have done for millennia. 

But is the link even needed in the first place? Is the answer to traffic problems to keep building roads? Don’t new roads just generate more traffic? My view is that, if it is just a road that is built then, yes, it will just create more traffic. However, if it is a slow-speed street, lined with buildings and providing connections into neighbouring developments then it is an entirely different and potentially beneficial proposition. 

As settlements grow they need to provide new main streets to add to the existing network of primary routes. Secondary routes then connect off the primary network, interlinking to form a network of local streets. This hierarchy of primary and secondary streets allows new commercial uses to be focused on the main streets so that they can both be accessed by local people and can benefit from passing through traffic. It’s how traditional towns work. 

Just building secondary residential streets and bypasses is not traditional and does not make commercial sense. 

Far from seeing these new routes as bypasses or relief roads, my view is that any new, primary link should be designed as part of Faversham’s network of main streets, designed for all modes of transport, lined by trees and buildings, with vehicles moving at a sedate and people-friendly pace, not thundering through. 

Therefore, rather than displacing the problem of traffic onto “relief” roads we need to embrace it and transform it by building main streets. 

Now is the time for a 20mph speed limit in Faversham

http://www.courier.co.uk/faversham-campaign-for-20mph-speed-limit-seeks-60k-council-funding/story-29573216-detail/story.html#GIISZ2M52UgmGS1A.01

Kent County Council typically over-designs and over-costs transport projects. In contrast, a 20mph speed limit can be implemented at a fraction of the price of conventional, car-centric solutions such as the hugely costly and unnecessary A2/Ashford Road roundabout.

Faversham has a clear “urban footprint” with a small number of ways in and out – and therefore a small number of places that need gateway signage. The Town Council has already identified the need to upgrade the gateway signage to update and improve the existing signs. It has already identified funding to do so. Adding a 20mph roundel to the gateway signage should now be part of the sign designer’s brief. By combining budgets in this way, more can be done with available resources.

Faversham needs more joined up thinking as well as a more joined up network of routes that are safe and convenient for walking and cycling. Now is the time for action.

Future generations will judge us on what we do next.

Notes from Swale Joint Transportation Board, 7th March 2016

20s Plenty comments
1. (missed name) Supports 20mph. Was an air ambulance paramedic. If there’s a crash at <20mph then a child gets up. A crash at 30mph there are fatalities.

2. Cllr Baldock – supports 20mph. Wants it borough-wide. Set limit first. Create zone second. (I didn’t fully understand this – by zone did he mean there would be associated works eg paving?)

3. Cllr Simmons – supports 20mph. Complimented presentation. Compact nature of Faversham suits it. Limited number of ways in to the town makes signage simple. People drive slower with 20mph limit even if all don’t drive below 20mph. Risk of delay if remit is borough-wide. Do Faversham first.

4. Cllr Henderson – v strongly supports 20mph. Don’t risk delay by making borough-wide. Do Faversham first. Faversham is not a through place like Sittingbourne so it will be easier. Congratulations on effective campaign, which has convinced Town and Borough councillors. People drive around 10mph slower with 20mph limit.

5. Cllr Harrison – impassioned people have had their say. Don’t make seat of pants decisions tonight.

6. Cllr Willcox – supports 20mph. Trial it in Faversham. It could be self-financing if it saves deaths.

7. Cllr Mulhern – v fully supportive. Motion tonight is to set up a working group, not to make a snap decision. Supports borough-wide but start in Faversham. His father was killed on a road crossing by a slow-moving vehicle so there will always be accidents.

8. Cllr Gates – supportive of what the Town Council says and does. 20 is plenty. Do one place at a time to learn from mistakes.

9. Cllr Truelove – supports 20mph. There’s a risk of snagging if it goes borough-wide.

Vote
8 in favour of Faversham working group.

6 in favour of borough-wide working group.

Worth noting that no one spoke against either motion.

Roundabout comments
1. County Engineer – a contingency allowance of c£50k had been made for diversion of services. Estimates have come back at c£400k. They are looking at mitigation steps to reduce the sum. In the past, 6-figure sums have been found to be 5-figure sums. Nevertheless the narrow window has been missed for removal of vegetation so the project can’t proceed this year. A decision has been made to put the project on hold.

2. Cllr Gates – wanted traffic lights because they provided crossings. One option had a crossing over the Mall and a crossing over the A2. Don’t alter the look of the entrance to historic town. Provide cycle paths. Provide controlled, lighted crossings. Local people in favor of lights, albeit narrowly. Look at it again. Benefits need to be not only for cars but also people and cyclists.

3. Cllr Prescott – supported lights. Others wanted roundabout. Engineer will now know where the utilities are. This will help in designing a new solution.

4. (missed name) – Go back to the drawing board. Roundabout not conducive. Not appropriate in a place where there’s pedestrians. Problem with the vote last time was there were 2 traffic light options and 1 roundabout option. Traffic light vote was split.

5. Cllr Mulhern – supports roundabout because has seen how effective they have been in Essex in helping flow. Best is to do nothing because we weren’t looking at Perry Court before. Ashford Road isn’t on mains drainage and works may need to take place. So shouldn’t do a roundabout before then: premature.

6. Cllr Henderson – thank goodness it’s on hold. 20mph will create more junction capacity so – should be tried first. We need solutions that promote walking and cycling.

7. Chair – KCC may come back with new proposals.

Double success for Faversham! 20s Plenty supported & A2/A251 roundabout rejected

20mph speed limit
The Swale Joint Transportation Board this evening approved a motion to set up a working group to look at how a blanket 20mph speed restriction can be implemented across the whole of Faversham. The JTB expressed a strong view that the working group should also investigate a borough-wide 20mph limit.

This decision is a significant success for the 20s Plenty for Faversham campaign, and for Faversham Town Council, which supported the campaign.

A2/A251 roundabout
It was also reported to the JTB that the proposed, and highly unpopular, A2/A251 roundabout is on hold because cost estimates for services diversions have come back at around £400k against a budget allowance of around £50k. The 20s Plenty campaign spoke afterwards with Kent County County Highways Engineer and requested a working session before any new recommendations are made so that local views can be input and a solution can be co-created.

Thanks go to Faversham Town Council, The Faversham Society, the 20s Plenty for Faversham campaign, Ethelbert Road School and the many local people that have opposed the roundabout.

Both results demonstrate what can be achieved when people in Faversham engage in reasonable discussion, broad consultation and concerted action.

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.

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