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.
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.