Friday, 24 May 2013

Nightingale Lane - the start of a positive new approach?

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.


  1. As a thought can they not cut a bit out of the pinch points for cyclists like they have on Burntwood Rd ?

  2. Re. Burntwood Lane, there's a couple of places where the separate lane is long enough to be useable, but everywhere else the lane segments are much too short, and using them involves a mad in-and-out swerve, especially if there's a car parked at the other end. I personally never use those, and tend to stay on the main road instead.

  3. I love the new surface and I support the general principal of trying to make all road users (including cyclists) more aware of their surroundings. If you want to see a great example of how it works, then there is a road to the east of the natural history museum that uses the principle and I think it works very well.

    My issue is that the road scheme on Nightingale doesn't go far enough and we therefore end up in an uncomfortable middle ground. My biggest issue is with the pinchpoints and bujlt out junctions as they force cyclists and cars/lorries deliberately into conflict and it seems like an accident waiting to happen.

  4. Thanks for your comments folks.

    Mark, I'd tend to agree with Mario on the Burntwood Lane 'facilities'. They really aren't up to much on Burntwood Lane.

    Balham Brewery I'm totally with you on the new surface, it is lovely. This scheme delivers on creating that sense of uncertainty precisely because of the pinchpoints which you note seem to be like an accident waiting to happen. If we can agree that more people travelling locally on foot and by bike is a desirable goal, then I don't think that this type of design approach is going to deliver. I think the 8-80 principal is one we should strive towards for all our streets.

  5. Hi folks,

    I know this is veering off topic slightly, but Burntwood Rd really gets me annoyed because it's really dangerous, with lorries swerving right into you almost, and dangerous pinchpoints, and I avoid that road like the plague. Far better to take Magdalen Rd if you don't mind the detour. (I certainly don't). Burntwood Lane is also very busy, I feel sorry for the residents who have to breathe in all those fumes constantly. I wrote to Wandsworth Council in March to tell them how dangerous these cycle 'facilities' are and how they need to totally change the layout, the chief transport Engineer replied saying they matched the design current standards when they were built. I recommended they remove the parked cars, put in wide Dutch-style segregated cycle tracks and slow the cars down with raised tables rather than pinch points. Why do we put up with substandard designs in the UK? We won't achieve mass cycling for 8 to 80 year olds with such terrible cycle 'infrastructure', although of course Wandsworth has done some good things elsewhere.

    I have also asked Wandsworth Council to improve the link through Wandsworth Common. There's the hump bridge you have to walk over, there's no transition onto Bolingbroke Grove, and the entrance to the cycle track from Lyford Rd is not flush.


  6. Hi Richard,

    With the progress being made on the Balham Boulevard scheme, and the trial approach to dealing with rat-running on Fishponds Road (hopefully seeing light before the year end) means that it will become much easier to get the high quality street design that we all deserve.

    The council is improving the route through the commons, and they have scheduled to put a dropped kerb on Lyford Road.