The other week I had a very constructive meeting with some council officers regarding another local scheme.
In discussion it transpired that one of the officers had implemented the Nightingale Road scheme. The officer explained that they have seen it in action and it seems to be working as intended. The concepts underpinning the scheme have been brought in from overseas.
I've given some thought to this new approach, and I believe that there are some exciting positives which we as a local community, council and councillors can learn from.
Given that a lot of people have been critical of the scheme I was interested to learn more. I'm a strong believer that we should allow our local representatives and officers the opportunity to trial good ideas from elsewhere. Indeed, this principle is one that I would like to see encouraged. It would allow us to borrow from best practise examples of street design from other parts of the world, so that we don't have to re-invent the wheel.
If you aren't familiar with the area, I took these pictures the other evening. Apologies for the quality of the photos, but you get the idea.
I would highlight the following. The road surface has been smoothed which is great. The width of the carriageway is quite wide. The build outs create a number of "pinch-points". Arguably for significant stretches of the road there is enough space for cycle tracks, particularly if we could reallocate the limited number of car parking bays which exist along this road.
From what I understood, the principle of the new layout is to increase the sense of danger that people have when using the road, thus making road users act in a more responsible manner. The evaluation of the scheme will involve an analysis of RTCs (Road Traffic Collisions), road traffic speeds and volumes and comparisons to pre-scheme collected data. As well as correspondence/comments received from the local community and ward councillors.
Sadly, if we are looking to create streets where people aged from 8 to 80 can view walking or cycling as safe and attractive options I don't believe this type of street design is going to deliver.
From comments received from people who do currently cycle many have commented that they don't feel safer. This is likely to result in fewer people cycling along this route, which statistically is going to drop the number of people on bikes involved in RTCs. I don't think that this type of design presents cycling as an attractive option to travel short trips when compared against other transport options.
We need to adopt new approaches locally to our street design, and be prepared for the council to make mistakes. We also need to ensure that we learn the right lessons, and measure the results of new schemes properly. I hope that the views I'm expressing here can be included in the mix when this scheme is reviewed.
The meeting for which I was principally with the officers for was to discuss a new approach to dealing with rat-running. I'm hopeful that it will work. In the event that it doesn't I'm also hopeful that we will all have learnt from the experience, and can apply the lessons to other streets in our borough.