Designing Roads…

I’m not a civil engineer nor a highways engineer, but I’m sat in the middle of a village where we’re probably due to double in size in the next decade, and the main and only through road is historically narrow and crossed by a railway line with a blind bended hump backed bridge. Traffic is already an issue, with speeding motorists, practically zero police presence, and peak time congestion which is only going to get worse as all these hundreds of new rural commuters get into their cars.

As chairman of the parish council and of the village neighbourhood plan group I am put in the position of trying to second guess the “experts” from the developers and the local authority. The proposed expansion of the village, from a thousand houses to about two and a half thousand, is inevitably going to impact the viability of the main road as a safe and effective route for villagers and through traffic alike. The expansion is radical, and I suggest the solutions need to be radical too. This blog is of course personal opinion.

Screen Shot 2017-11-22 at 15.51.06The Joint Spatial Plan (JSP) of the new West of England Combined Authority (WECA) encompassing South Gloucestershire, Bristol, North Somerset and Bath and North East Somerset (BANES) has stated in policy 7.9 that the Wotton Road (which links Gloucestershire to the M5 motorway at junction 14) should have a “comprehensive environmental enhancement scheme’, but nobody seems to know if that’s a new road surface or hanging baskets on the streetlights!

There is talk of reintroducing chicanes into this narrow highway, but twenty years ago these were tried and removed after serious congestion in Charfield impacted the whole region, and there’s more traffic now than twenty years ago. At the neighbourhood planning meetings we’ve discussed the viability of introducing roundabouts at all new road junctions with the Wotton Road, incorporating existing junctions where they fall adjacent. This would certainly slow traffic but would take away valuable green verges in favour of concrete and tarmac. Radical, radical… hmm…

Shared space is an interesting concept. Radical certainly. Opposed by some in areas where it’s been tested, particularly the blind but also other vulnerable groups who find sharing space with vehicles intimidating. But could it be finessed? Rather than putting up more and more street furniture and obstacles to the flow of traffic, simply to remove nearly all of them and lower the entire village speed to 20mph…

The issues of partially sighted persons failing to identify safe passage could be addressed through textured paths throughout what was previously pavement. Road surface normally assumed to be vehicular could be laid in red, which would both guide drivers and advise them of a potentially hazardous area. Pedestrian lights at the primary school would probably need to be retained, but all other road marking and signage could be removed. At the entrances to the village, something along the lines of

Screenshot 2018-07-05 13.59.46

Allied with ANPR Average Speed Cameras through the Wotton Road this would potentially have the effect of enhancing the road for both pedestrians and powered road users alike. Traffic would flow, albeit more slowly, without halting at roundabouts or traffic lights (barring the school crossing). Congestion would likely decrease, or at least accumulate outside the village boundary on the B4058 and B4509, on country lanes.

Imagine a village where the traffic gently passed through, gave way to pedestrians, smiled rather than scowled at cars trying to pull out. Where children and the elderly felt safe to walk on the pavement, where currently 30mph HGVs suck them into the road as they pass… I don’t know nuffin… I’m an electrical engineer nor a road planner. But tell me why this wouldn’t work?

No, really, I’d be interested in hearing from you all. Have you tried this somewhere? How did that work for you? What are your fears, hopes, concerns… Am I the mad one, or the only sane man radical enough to suggest this? Hey, we were first in the county to turn out our streetlights at night, first to go fully LED lighting, now everyone does it. And if you’re wondering where we are, http://charfieldparishcouncil.org.uk/

5 thoughts on “Designing Roads…

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  1. Is there anywhere that isn’t expanding so rapidly at the moment? Same here. It’s really scary. The roads are sooo busy already (and some of them have already been expanded and new ones are being built) and the 9000 additional houses in South Ribble with their two cars each aren’t all built yet.

    Your scheme sounds like a lovely idea, but how many drivers can you imagine would stick to 20 miles an hour and not be broiling at giving way to pedestrians? I dunno… it would be nice to think the world would slow down in that way and people could take precedence over the car… could it revolutionise not only infrastructure but our way of thinking? It would certainly be interesting to try it!

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    1. I presume the first few weeks would be a feeding fest for the “average speed” cameras and, like the new 40mph limit on the Bristol M32, drivers who still had licences would be more carful… 😉

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  2. A tram to Bristol 🙂 (yes, I know, I have my head in the clouds…) of course the really radical solution would be to stop building on greefield sites and start dealing with radically under used, weekend, and empty housing…

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    1. Trams, what a fabulous idea. Bristol had them for more than sixty years you know, before the Luftwaffe had their say in 1941. The new fangled metrobus is a poor (but extremely expensive) excuse for what we once had. And it doesn’t get as far as us, much less you. The likelihood is that finally the station closed by Dr B will be rebuilt and have hourly or half hourly trains on the Gloucester Bristol run stopping at Charfield, but that’s been talked about for decades, and will if anything increase traffic with out of village commuters driving in and out each morning and evening… I suppose if it was easy then even planners might have sorted it. 😉

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  3. Shared spaces?

    As a deaf person I cannot see it working.

    Even in so called pedestrianised town centres when a few vehicles are allowed all day(disabled vehicles), and the larger lorries for loading to shops up to about 11 am, however, even so there are still smaller delivery vehicles all day.

    They use their horn at me. I cannot hear it. So then they get impatient and shout (I cannot hear that either) and they get very close. I am talking about so called pedestrianised areas. It has been very frightening. Yes I did look round before I crossed over, but I am slow at walking on my sticks. There were some cobble stones at the sides next to the shops but I cannot walk on them because they wreck my ankles, and I am in agony. Equally my mobility scooter is going bump bump bump over the cobble stones (which designate the area between ‘pavement’ and ‘road’, although it is all at the same level so there are no curb edges) and I am in very urgent need of frequent toilet stops…

    No one appears to make the assumption that the person they are beeping their horn at could be deaf.

    Okay so make those shared roads one way only. Could that help? At least in that way I am not constantly looking all round tiring myself using my eyes even more than usual, because I cannot hear what is going on around me. I really do have to use my eyes far far more than a hearing person. A hearing person doesn’t realise how many hearing clues they get which makes for a far easier life. My answer is no to that because I was on a one way pedestrianised town centre (where there was both pedestrians and limited traffic – goods vehicles and disabled vehicles and a limit of 10mph), on my mobility scooter and a van came round the corner (I cannot hear unseen traffic…actually I cannot hear the traffic anyway, but unseen traffic coming my way is even more dangerous) at a much faster speed than 10mph, and going the wrong way up a very clearly marked one way street. I am now on my mobility scooter so I can get out of the way , but that is only if I can see them.

    A few days ago I was somewhere else, different pedestrianised town centre, it’s a one way street, clearly marked, 10mph on this stretch, and I am looking to my left before I cross on my mobility scooter , when suddenly a man clamps his hand on my shoulder and scares the living daylights out of me. He had been shouting me from behind, realised I couldn’t hear so slaps his hand on my shoulder. He pointed the other way. A white van man was driving fast the wrong way down and he was on his mobile phone.

    When pedestrianised town centres first happened I thought it was fantastic for me as a deaf person, but then over the years, they have become far more as the shared spaces you are talking about.

    I don’t know what the answer is. Your area most certainly cannot take that huge influx of new housing and cars.

    Something needs to be created at the design stage. Something revolutionary. I do have ideas, had them for years, but my problem now is I need my own vehicle to carry my mobility scooter around. And my initial years ago ideas wouldn’t work for me now. It is not until you encounter a change in health and circumstance that you realise a ‘one size’ cannot fit all.

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