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TOPIC: Creating livable environments

Creating livable environments 31 Jan 2016 16:55 #1979

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
Knowing that I had something general to say about the organisation of urban streets I looked through the various planning headings on this site, and was surprised to find that as a community we haven't had a separate discussion of that sort. Which matters because, for people who haven't come to grips with the scope of the possibilities, there is a danger that they will say "Not in my backyard." before thinking it through/experiencing the benefits or detriments.

This line of thought developed because Myrna and me have just come back from Kendal (by the skin of our teeth, because as you will have heard, the North has been lively with gales, rain and flooding) where there is experience of road and street design worth sharing.

As most will know it's an old town with many narrow and/or twisting streets, though one or two are long and more or less straight. Also there are myriad alleyways called Yards between the buildings which are helpful if you are walking and looking for a shortcut. Indeed by its nature Kendal seems capable of fostering walking and cycling rather than driving, and the town does seem to be furthering that by creating a network of very pleasant pedestrianised streets; clearly important if tourism is to be a mainstay of the local economy.

There was no sign of empty shops - except those raided by the recent floods - so I'd guess that the plan is working.

So what happens to the traffic? Apparently about two years ago the remaining streets in the heart of the town - some of which are part of the tourist area were converted to a one-way system, often two lanes wide with no parking spaces (SOGL please note), and sometimes with longish sight-lines. Clearly a layout which is an open invitation to speed, so the council has attempted to persuade drivers out of that by various treatments to the carriageway surface. For example: colour changes or strips of granite or concrete blocks (about as wide as a pedestrian crossing) set into the carriageway at right angles to the traffic with a dip in the pavement to encourage people to cross there. In fact the sort of ideas reported in various national journals which some of us have hoped would be helpful in Palmers Green.

But on Kendal's evidence I'd say it all depends. When there are lots of people on the pavement, and therefore a regular need for people to cross the road, the measures did seem to be effective, but otherwise drivers just kept on going at speed as if no carriageway changes had been made. No help if you'd like your kids to walk to school early in the morning before there are many shoppers on the streets.

Which does make me wonder whether the success of schemes, including formal Shared Space schemes, depends on pedestrian/cycling density as much as the look and feel of the area. If so there's clearly a potential chicken and egg situation in which traffic limits the use of streets as social areas, and the lack of pedestrians provides a licence to drive quickly.

Slowly, very reluctantly, I'm beginning to think that, where calming tables are not a realistic option, speed cameras are a necessary tool in the early stages of creating liveable streets and a mindset which accepts a 30kph speed limit as a matter of course.

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Creating livable environments 01 May 2018 12:59 #3812

David Hughes David Hughes's Avatar Topic Author
Yesterday (30 April 2018) I had occasion to walk along Aldermans Hill from The Triangle westward, and of course passed the work to create continuous pavements at the foot of four residential streets on the Lakes Estate. These are raised slightly above the side street carriageway to emphasize the need for driver caution.

And one of them had been completed. Wonderful! But then a 4x4 came down the side street and drove over the hump just as I, and a pedestrian coming the opposite way, were about to cross. So the driver not only ignored the Highway Code which gives pedestrians priority at these types of junction, but also ignored the hint implied by the hump. Talk about 'driver sense of entitlement'.

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