Yesterday I spent close to 3 hours looking at Saw Close with Frank Thomson (a.k.a. Mr. Two Tunnels) and attending the public consultation. What was really good was meeting a lady that was blind and seeing her perspective on it.
For those unable to attend it looks like this:
Today the Bath Chronicle posted an article about Saw Close. I wrote a reply and then realised it had gone completely over their word limit, so had to edit it down.
There are some defining principles of shared space that you need to accept before you can make it work.
- You cannot build it where the road is a through road. It must be access only and preferably highly restricted to motorised vehicles.
- You ignore the partially sighted or blind in your design and acknowledge that shared space will stop that group from using the space.
- Shared space is where people walking are the most vulnerable and you need to educate people cycling that they need to be considerate in how they traverse the space. The “Pedestrian Priority, Cyclists please show consideration for other shared space users and warn pedestrians of your approach.” Something like this:
- A recognition that shared space has big problems and that they cannot be fixed easily.
- DfT LTN 1/11 specifically requires a safety audit of a scheme after implementation. This needs public engagement from users of the space and they NEED to be listened to and changes made.
My full response to the article I wanted to post:
Having visited Saw Close then attended the consultation and having really detailed discussions with a blind lady that attended, she was rather surprised that, as chair of CycleBath, I had an issue with shared space in general and the idea that people cycling and walking can share this space comfortably. Shared space is all about individuals interacting respectfully with each other, achieved through eye contact and deferment to the most vulnerable. How this is achieved when you have no eyesight, nobody has answered. The initial proponents of shared space admitted they “forgot” about people with sight problems. It’s fundamentally hostile to people with visual disabilities and, as the lady stated, she avoids Seven Dials because it is impossible for her to negotiate safely.
It was difficult for me to just focus on Saw Close without discussing the fundamental problems with Seven Dials. In simple terms, Saw Close will simply work as the space is access only for motorised vehicles. It’s a destination area and does not fail Seven Dials does. The are two problems with Saw Close. The “road” through the space narrows to 3.1m encouraging people cycling, should a car be coming up the space, to ride on the pavement area. This is a minor issue due to the lack of cars in the area. The other is that there is a scenario where the loading bays that end outside Flan O Brian’s are full of 12m trucks unloading, a person is cycling down the space, and a car comes around the corner forcing the person cycling between the trucks and the car. It’s very narrow at this point.
The real issues are within the Seven Dials space. Partially sighted people have trainers that take you into a space and teach you how to negotiate the space. They gave up. The use of the ribbed pavers to mark the edge of the pavement and where the road begins. A blind person cannot tell which side of the paver they are standing on. Something a 6cm dropped kerb would allow them to do. However a dropped kerb would impact the heritage look of the space. The bike stands that are used to prevent cars crossing from Monmouth Street to Westgate St become awkward walls of spiky metal.
In fact you can see that the bike racks create a funnel affect for a high footfall area pushing people cycling and walking into a small area. Yes, as a cycling advocate, I am suggesting we move the racks and replace them with bollards.
We need signs that expressly state that pedestrians have priority. We need to change Monmouth Street to be access only by moving the bus stops to James St West and installing rising bollards for access only by residents and businesses. Deliveries can then be made via Kingsmead Square. You could even consider “slow rising bollards”, where a vehicle that wants access to Monmouth Street has to wait 45 seconds before the bollards lower.
The shared space should be 10MPH for vehicles. The beginning of the shared space should have a speed table to force cars to slow down rather than taking the corner at speed.
If the council is unable to be open and recognise that Seven Dials has failed for the most vulnerable users of the space then it is time that it put pedestrians back in control and paint a 5m wide zebra crossing in the middle of it.
I know that the council is about to begin a safety review of Seven Dials, however as far as I am aware, it is not doing this in conjunction with stake holder groups or the general public. It feels like it’s a rubber stamping exercise.
More importantly Seven dials was delivered using £1.2M of Cycle Ambition Fund Money, with a £243k underspend that was returned to Bristol, then re-returned to BaNES. This money is still in the council somewhere and it is imperative that it is used to fix Seven dials for the most vulnerable users. Don’t even get me on to the fact that Seven Dials delivered no benefits for cycling. They didn’t even repaint and clearly mark the Westgate Street contraflow and failed completely to deliver the most vital part of the original £1.2M bid, a cycle contraflow from Monmouth Street down Westgate Buildings to Lower Borough walls.
However this is not about cycling, this is about the truly vulnerable. The people with sight issues, the people that are absolutely terrified to use this space and avoid it like the plague.
Finally, there is the issue with the “silent” cycling in shared space, something that is extremely uncomfortable even if you have sight, let alone, if you are partially sighted or blind. It requires good considerate behaviour by the person cycling and use of bells. Signs need to be put up in shared space, including any shared paths. “Pedestrian Priority, Cyclists please show consideration for other shared space users and warn pedestrians of your approach.” I do not in anyway condone aggressive cycling in shared space or even on shared paths. One of the reasons that CycleBath wants the council to create segregated space for cycling by taking space away from the carriageway and not compromising footpaths, as they recently did on Upper Bristol Road. Sharing space sucks. Mixing vulnerable road users with less vulnerable is not a good approach. It needs to stop.