Category Archives: Transport

Inadequate proposals for crossing The Mall

KCC’s proposals for a “build out” on The Mall are inadequate. They’re in the wrong place and they’re insufficient to address the real demand for improved road safety in this part of Faversham.

On a daily basis, hundreds of Abbey School students and local residents risk their lives to cross the road as they move between the railway station/town centre and the London Road.

Their principal “desire line” runs north-south along the western footway of The Mall, passing over Forbes Road as it swings into The Mall. Go and see it yourself at 08.30 on a school day but be prepared for a shock. You’ll see schoolchildren racing to cross in the brief gaps between vehicles that swoop through.

An alternative approach is urgently needed. Fortunately, I believe one is possible: a crossing over Forbes Road on the principal desire line.

This crossing would be part of a raised “table” so that pedestrians would cross at grade and vehicles would have to slow to gently ramp up a few centimetres.

The precedent for this approach already exists in Faversham at the Court Street zebra crossing.

I looked at this as part of a report I put together in 2017 on pedestrian crossing improvements across Faversham. Transport planners may apply “old school” thinking to say that this approach doesn’t work. But then how does the crossing at Court Street work?

The JTB is meeting on 9th September at 5.30pm to consider the proposals (see p25 of this report). It should reject them and urge KCC to take a fresh approach, one that draws on the successful experience of transport planners and urban designers elsewhere in the UK and raises the quality of pedestrian facilities for the residents, and especially the schoolchildren, of Faversham.

Scalextrics go back in the box

Notes for my presentation to Swale’s Joint Transportation Board, 24th June 2019

Thank you, Chair and good afternoon, everyone. My name is Tim Stonor and I’m a resident of Faversham. I also design streets and traffic junctions for a living.

I wish to speak about Agenda item 11 regarding the update on designs for the junction of the A2 and A251 in Faversham. Several of the designs that have been under consideration are for very large roundabouts and one is for traffic signals.

The officer’s recommendation is to progress with the traffic lights option. I think this is sensible and, although I speak in a personal capacity, I know my views are shared elsewhere in Faversham and may even be echoed in this room. I’m looking specifically at Mr Whiting, who spoke very well last week at an event in Faversham on the future of transport across the town and heard the views of a packed room against the roundabout options.

I’d like to make two requests:

First, that for the sake of clarity, that if the JTB follows officers recommendations to progress the traffic lights that it confirms that the roundabout proposals will be abandoned. Maybe it’s just me but the briefing paper seems a little vague on this.

Roundabouts are entirely out of place in a town that, as you are about to hear from Amanda Russell under Agenda item 13, is working so hard to encourage people to walk.

Roundabouts send an inconsistent message, and not least on a street that, as a result of development along its southern edge, is moving from being an edge of town street to a street that runs through the centre of the town.

Second, that in following the officers’ recommendation and progressing the traffic signals design, that great care is taken to design the junction for pedestrians and cyclists as well as vehicles.

I’m sorry to say that, as the designs stands at present, there is very little in them for pedestrians.

The single, staggered pedestrian junction is of a design that should be consigned to the 20th century.

As the designs progress, can I encourage KCC officers to work with Swale Borough Council‘s own urban designer. And, in addition, with the urban designers acting for the Duchy of Cornwall, as well as with those of us looking at a crossing outside the Abbey School and along Forbes Road.

Indeed we are considering holding a design workshop to consider the future of the A2 as it runs through Faversham. Is this something the JTB would, in principle, wish to support and to participate in?

Major junction design is never simple but, with care, it is possible to balance the needs of all transport modes: vehicles, cycles and pedestrians.

Thank you for your attention.

Stone Bridge Pedestrian Crossing – road damage creates an opportunity to act

When the Friends of the Westbrook & Stonebridge Pond were working in the Westbrook on Sunday we noticed that there is an area of the road surface on the Stone Bridge that is significantly depressed. I’ve circled it in this image:
Since this will need to be repaired, it occurred to me that we could take the opportunity to implement the footway widening/roadway narrowing work that I’ve proposed in a previous post. This work could even be done on a temporary basis and it would allow us to study whether a permanent solution would work or not.
The depressed area is close enough to the existing kerb that it would, I think, be entirely within the area that would be taken up by a widened footway on the north side of West Street:
What I noticed on Sunday and again when I stood there this morning, is that a widened footway in this location gives pedestrians much better sight lines both south east towards vehicles approaching from Tanners Street and, especially, west down the length of Dark Hill/West Street.
Since it may be that the depression has been created by the gradual collapse of the historic bridge, then taking this area away from the heavy, breaking loading of vehicles may simply be a good idea in itself.
It would be a shame for public money to be spent on a repair that could likely be reduced in cost through an alternative approach.

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.

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!

Stone Bridge/West Street Pedestrian Crossing

I have offered to help Cllr Antony Hook investigate ways of improving the crossing of West Street at the Stone Bridge: the bridge that spans across the Westbrook at the bottom of Tanners Street. He is responding to a number of approaches from people concerned that crossing at this point is unsafe for pedestrians. It’s a highly used crossing point for people walking to and from the town centre. It’s heavily used by schoolchildren, including many young children walking to Davington School:

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Continue reading Stone Bridge/West Street Pedestrian 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

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.

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.