Category Archives: Congestion

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.

Rush (of blood to the head) hour in #Faversham

Spot check at the A2/A251 junctions. All flowing freely. 

The biggest stand-out? Cars being driven too quickly through the junction. Stamping of accelerators. Stamping of brakes. 1 in 50 driving much too dangerously. 

The situation isn’t helped by the super-wide junction “splays” that allow cars to drive quickly around corners. Often much too quickly to be able to avoid someone who might have been crossing at the time. It beggars belief. 

The junction of Athelstan Road and Forbes Road is a prime example. Here, the splay is so generous that cars barely need to slow down when turning left from Forbes Road into Athelstan Road. 

Likewise, the junction of Briton Road and Forbes Road. 

Instead of spending close to half a million pounds on a roundabout that isn’t needed, Kent County Council could allocate a fraction of this sum to junction improvements that reinforce a 20mph speed limit and encourage walking and cycling in Faversham. 

Like trying to boil the ocean, the A2/A251 roundabout is the wrong solution to the wrong need

Another morning spent observing traffic at the junction of The Mall and the A2.

Several characteristics are consistent:

1. schoolchildren were crossing the road by running between gaps in the freely flowing traffic

2. at times there were more people walking than driving along The Mall, mostly schoolchildren

3. traffic was flowing freely through the junction with only one very short period when traffic built up down The Mall, between 0844 and 0846.

Once again, these appear to be normal conditions.

This is not to say that the junction doesn’t have problems. It can indeed be badly congested when there is an abnormal incident such as an accident on the M2 or a temporary closure elsewhere.

If indeed it is the case that the junction generally flows freely – and comments from others support my observations – then the proposed designs are not serving the transport need. They are not helping schoolchildren and other vulnerable road users cross the road.

There is no general traffic congestion need that can be solved by enhancing the capacity of the junction. Nor, given the extreme congestion that can iccur when a local road is blocked, are the proposals going to address abnormal conditions.

Instead the proposals will harm everyday traffic movement by banning turns and sending frustrated drivers on longer journeys down local streets. And they will do nothing for pedestrians or cyclists.

Not unlike trying to boil the ocean, the A2/A251 proposals are the wrong solution to the wrong need.

The reality is that the proposals are not what Faversham needs. Instead, what is needed is support for walking and cycling throughout the town.

Why? Because the future growth of Faversham means that there must be a significant “modal shift” towards walking and cycling rather than more of the same car-focused thinking. Otherwise it is jam today and jam tomorrow.

Air quality and carbon emissions targets should also be pushing policymakers and transport planners in this direction.

Finally, budget constraints mean that lower prices and better value projects need to be pursued.

Walking and cycling projects fit the bill, whether the priority is congestion relief, air quality enhancement, carbon emissions reduction or cost control. A move to a 20mph speed limit will also help more traffic through the junction.

Kent County Council should be responding to the pressing, long-term needs of the town rather than pursuing an impossible quest to solve an intractable problem.

The answers are there but Kent County Council won’t see them until it shifts its mindset away from car-centric thinking.

By writing to oppose the current plans for the A2/A251 junction we can also encourage the change of perspective that is needed:

Reject the inadequate proposals for the Junction of The Mall and the A2

Proposals for the junctions of The Mall with the A2 and the A2 with the Ashford Road have been published by Kent County Council. 

Overall summary
The proposals are unacceptable. They will send more traffic through the congested A2/A251 junction than at present. They will push traffic down local roads. They do nothing to promote pedestrian or cycling movement. Faversham Town Council and Swale Borough Council should oppose them in the strongest terms.

Junction of the Mall and the A2
The proposals have two significant failings.

First, the proposals ban traffic from turning right out of The Mall into the A2. This turning is made by perhaps 10% of all vehicles moving out of The Mall onto the A2. The consequence of the ban is that vehicles wanting to make the right turn will either need to find an alternative route through nearby back streets, thus putting more traffic down these residential streets or, more likely, they will turn left out of The Mall and then make a U-turn at the roundabout. The effect of this will be to put even more traffic through the junction with the A2 and the Ashford Road than is currently the case.

The proposals therefore risk exacerbating the situation rather than reducing it. 

Second, the proposals take westbound traffic turning right from the A2 into The Mall into the same single lane that is used by eastbound traffic turning left from the A2 into The Mall. At present, eastbound traffic and westbound traffic turning into The Mall do so in two separate lanes either side of the central island. The way it works today is that if westbound right-turning traffic sees eastbound traffic that is indicating to make the left turn then this is a signal that the right-turning traffic can also make the turn since the left-turning traffic will be slowing down and creating a gap for the right-turning traffic. As a result, westbound traffic turning right into The Mall today only has to wait for a gap in the traffic that is heading east along the A2.

This possibility is done away with in the proposals since any westbound traffic wanting to make the right turn into The Mall will have to wait until any eastbound traffic making the left turn has done so. This will reduce the efficiency of the junction for right-turning traffic. This is especially significant because westbound right-turning traffic creates much of the congestion in the current situation.

The proposals therefore risk exacerbating the situation rather than reducing it. 

Pedestrian crossings
The proposals make inadequate provision for pedestrian crossings. The only crossing provided is an informal one that connects a small number of destinations to the south east of the roundabout with the town centre. While helpful for those few destinations, the crossing is of limited use otherwise and certainly not an adequate response for the junction as a whole.

The proposals therefore fail to encourage active travel on foot.

Cycle provision
When the lack of cycle provision was raised in the 2014 public consultation, the Joint Transportation Board was told:

“18. Observations were made that the outline designs did not show any specific cycling facilities, this can be dealt with at the detailed design stage and take cognisance of the emerging Swale Cycling Strategy.”

The proposals therefore fail to encourage active travel by cycle.

So what could be done to improve the junction? 

My proposal for the junction is simply to SLOW IT DOWN. I’ve set out my thinking before in this post from October 2015, 20s plenty at the Ashford Road/A2/Mall junction



Why Faversham needs a change of behaviour not another set of traffic lights

In thinking of replacing the pedestrian-friendly zebra crossing on Crescent Road with a signal-controlled crossing, the risk is that we end up designing the town for the minority of times when there is congestion rather than the majority of time when there isn’t. It’s the same argument at the Ashford Road/A2 junction. We need more sophisticated solutions than are being thought about. And we need to promote walking and cycling first, before we promote driving. This is national policy after all.

Why should someone have to walk up to a crossing, press a button, wait for the lights to change and then be permitted to cross the road – especially when the road is empty? That is an insult to pedestrians. And of course what happens is that people don’t wait – they cross on a red pedestrian signal. And then we get equally mad about the situation.

I – and many others – believe the solution is not to wrap ourselves in the municipal infrastructure of traffic lights but to improve the culture of walking, cycling and driving. Introducing a 20mph limit across the town will be a key move in taming driver aggression and encouraging the convivial friendliness on which Faversham thrives. Drivers blame enthusiastic younger people just as they blame hesitant older people, venting frustration as they sit in four-wheeled comfort. They should remember that they too were young once just as they will, most likely, be old and faltering one day soon.

20s plenty at the Ashford Road/A2/Mall junction

Mark Gardner makes a typically good point (Faversham News, Gardner Digs, October 1, 2015) in suggesting that Faversham drivers should grin and bear it at the “modestly” congested junction of Ashford Road/A2/The Mall, rather than submit to the expensive and uncertain outcome of traffic lights or roundabouts.

In fact drivers could go one step further and slow down to a maximum of 20mph as they approach the junction. In doing so they might find, contrary to perceived wisdom, they actually get through the junction faster. Why? Because junctions become more efficient at lower speeds. 

If you don’t believe me, you can try it yourself. Next time you drive through, take five or ten miles off your speed. What you might find is that cars waiting to turn into the road ahead of you are able to do so more easily. Rather than having to wait for you – and perhaps the chain of speeding cars behind you – to get through, they can instead slip in to the road ahead of you. Now imagine what would happen if most people did this. The entire junction would flow more efficiently.

Before we spend tens of thousands of pounds on lights or roundabouts, we could carry out a no-cost experiment by driving at 20, not 30mph through the junction. If this works then, for a modest cost – well below the capital expense of the municipal transport paraphernalia currently under consideration – we could install 20mph signs and begin the transformation of Faversham’s driving culture. At 20mph drivers can nod, wave and smile at each other. Now fancy that.

We might use all five fingers to greet each other and not just one or two.