There are a lot of people wading into the London Road issue. Many of them believe, now they are elected, that they are able to come up with quick fixes to a broken design. Mostly this is focused around removing the “dangerous” cycle build out that was specifically requested by transport experts to protect people cycling along London Road. As an amateur who spends most evening reading up on best practices I’m going to try and have a go at fixing London Road.
To begin detailed analysis we need to try and understand what has been delivered. As the council doesn’t feel the need to generate 3D models of the streetscapes it can become extremely difficult to visualise what the final scheme will look like. The council officers also allowed residents and business groups to design out cycle provision which then was redesigned in AFTER a major protest from people.
The process of selecting a design was then given to a council officer (who thankfully has left). Cycle Bath petitioned strongly for protected cycle lanes and use of bus islands at the time, however these were rejected by the officer. I cannot impress upon you how much power Highways had in forcing this design. We tried. We really tried. Nigel Sherwin had multiple meetings to try and iron out a better design.
The key bit to take away from this is that the council officers initially LET the local residents and businesses design out all of the existing cycle path.
I could go on at length about the design and how bad it is but honestly I’ll let the pictures do the talking….
There are some serious fundamental problems with this development and they are not because of “the sticky out bit”.
My proposed solution
People can criticise and jump on the band wagon but the reality is to truly fix London Road you need to start by working out what the actual problem with London Road. I’m going to cheat by identifying that the actual issues are outside the scope of the Bathgate scheme. It’s the traffic lights. They need replacing with “dutch” roundabouts.
With the traffic lights removed you suddenly gain a left/right turn lane. This frees up an immense amount of space for loading bays, parking bays, wider pavements, and bus islands.
With two roundabouts in place either end, I would only allow side roads to turn left. I would block the ability for motorised vehicles to turn right. This would solve the issue of people having to pull across lanes of traffic with a minor delay for residents in cars.
Now before people go on about what a disaster for congestion this would be. This type of scheme has already been done in the UK and is wildly successful. It’s called Poynton. Watch it and learn. It’s amazing.
So where do we go from here?
In reality the Snowhill junction is bad. The design only allows one car to turn right before other cars need to drive into the cycle lane to get round them (as shown by the two crushed cones).
Council officers need to come up with a vision document for Bath. You don’t “just” deliver a little section without recognising that there are big issues each side of the development. The development was designed to fail before even one spade was put in the ground.
Mostly however, I feel the council officers, and particularly the upper management of BaNES need a serious kick up their arses and trained in modern street design.
Councillors need to start looking further afield at other cities around the world and how they are solving their congestion issues. Hint, it isn’t making it easier to travel around the city by car. It’s about giving people the ability to safely cycle and walk. To be able to use public services easily.
The councillors could do an exceptionally simple thing to solve all this. Implement the cycle and walking audit tools as provided in the Welsh Active Travel Design Guidance. Get officers using these tools when delivering projects. Dictate that certain schemes must reach 35 out of 50 on the cycling audit tool. They take about 5 minutes to fill out. 10 minutes time on a £1.5million scheme does not seem unreasonable.
Note I had one senior officer state that they would only use these tools IF they were instructed to. I’ve had officers tell me that Newbridge Park and Ride was only a car scheme with a school and river path right next to it! The stall street scheme has a shared cycle and pedestrian path outside a pasty shop and a couple of benches! Apparently WE the public should have picked up on this. Well excuse me, WE the public are not paid to be experts in street design. This type of silo thinking has to stop.
If councillors want to change BaNES for the better they need to come up with simple ways to get officers making better schemes. I would strongly urge that the councillors implement key performance indicators around those two audit tools and would even go so far as to require the use of the Welsh design guidance or look to London and their design guidances because whatever the council officers are using right now is bloody awful and will get people killed.