Sunday, 22 January 2012

It's all bollards!

I am always amazed, again and again, by the sheer car-centricity of Great North Road. It's a monumental hangover from yonder, a blistering boil that needs draining.

Let me focus on just one section of 'Not-So-Great' North Road: Gosforth High Street. It's a place for people, a place where people do their shopping, and (more recently) started to embrace the contintental cafe culture. People meet, people chat, people shop and people are people. Milling, going about their business.

Yet something weird's going on on Gosforth High Street.

On closer inspection, the place is not fit for people. Too little space is devoted to people doing all the things that people want to do. Traffic speed is 30 mph, and it's littered with bollards.

Bollards and guard railing.

Gosforth High Street suffers from 'alien invaders' destroying the fabric of the place and taking away space from the faithfully returning customers, the locals. Too much space is taken up by drivers, littering the shopping street with their cars. Double yellows are quickly ignored, because "I just dropped off this video", or "I just wanted to pick up this pizza". Chop, chop, just passing through. Not a quality visit to the place, was it.

Evidence on this video clip: tell-tale bollards, deterrent to inconsiderate pavement parking.

Retailers will always say more parking is required; and Mary Portas is now perpetuating the myth. Sustrans actually debunks that approach. If not convinced have a read of sustrans' Retail Vitality studies. It's eye-opening stuff. A way out of our car dependence. I have suggested to my local councillor to consider a sustrans-style study for Gosforth High Street. Let's see. Retailers take note.

So, what's required?

We must look at space differently. See the social aspect of it, allocate it fairly, understand how space works. And shops work, and their customers. Get into the heart of a place. On Gosforth High Street too much space is wasted on private car through traffic and the mis-informed belief that 'all' shoppers are drivers, and bring 'value' to the place. By our silence, we are allowing people-deterring practices and behaviour, delivering demise to our high streets.

Let's be radical for a moment and shut down Gosforth High Street to these silly private car journeys.

Alternatives are actually available. To name one, there's of course the A1 bypass, if you wanted to travel through Newcastle altogether. Then there is the Regent Centre Park & Ride if you wished to travel to Newcastle city centre. And when Gosforth High Street is your destination, the high street doubles as a popular bus route, an alternative travel choice to the unnecessary car trips that blight the place. And that's before we haven't even mentioned cycling and walking yet, catering well for a two mile radius.

But the safe provision for these travel modes is not there.

When it currently looks like this
Gosforth High Street, Newcastle, UK
Gosforth High Street, Newcastle, UK

Gosforth High Street should probably look more like this
Novelstraat, Utrecht, Netherlands
Nobelstraat, Utrecht, Netherlands

Note, that there's ample space for this transformation. It's only a question of space allocation. Space is clear, and it has continuity.

A relatively recent funding application from the council to the DfT marginalises cycling on Gosforth High Street. If the £5m are spent, cycling will be relegated to the winding back streets, and that's not an advert to cycling and doesn't get people cycling, does it!

The cycle route should be clearly visible.

As the leader of Newcastle City Council said when asked whether cycle provision was a bit barmy: "To be frank, that's one of the reasons why I stopped cycling in Newcastle because you never knew from one minute to the next whether you are going to be on the road, the pavement or the cycle lane. And I think this is one of those things which we got to get right." [Ref.].

Nick also says on his own website "I really enjoyed cycling round the city centre, but it was a reminder of the many hazards that cyclists face. Cycle lanes disappear mid-route, traffic light timings can be difficult and potholes can be really uncomfortable. These are all issues that the Council should consider as part of its approach to transport planning, and I am delighted to back the call for cycling to be more integrated with the Council's activities." [Ref.].

What an enlightened man! With this new and exciting political support for cycling, I keep pointing out to the council that clarity and continuity are the most important aspects.

Nick's right, we have to get this right.

Here are some examples:

Intuitive paving design
Continuity over a property exit

Intuitive paving design
Continuity over a car park entrance

Elephant's feet
Clarity over route
Elephant's feet
Continuity at side street

1 comment:

  1. That IS a lot of bollards. I particularly like the way things like this are all over the pedestrian area - thereby protecting the pedestrian space from the occasional interruption of someone parking their car on it but also permanently taking up a significant proportion of it. Crazy carry on.