Horsham’s going up in the world, because we’re getting a John Lewis, which opens next week.
That means the town’s existing Waitrose supermarket – located pretty centrally in the town centre – is now moving out beyond the town’s four/five lane inner ring road, to join John Lewis on a joint site.
It could be worse, of course – the site is at least still within the town, unlike Tesco’s current location, the supermarket having decided to bugger off beyond the town’s bypass in the late 1980s, some two miles from the town centre, and pretty difficult to access if you don’t have a car – so difficult you might as well not bother.
But of course the town’s inner ring road still presents a significant obstacle. While it’s going to be pretty easy to drive to John Lewis and Waitrose, anyone who wants to access the site on foot or on bike from the town centre – and indeed from most of the town, to the north and east of the new location – is going to have get across those four lanes of motor traffic.
The visualisations I have seen are not inspiring. In fact, they are pretty much the epitome of screwing over people walking and cycling in the interests of preserving motor traffic capacity.
In more detail. The main pedestrian movement will be from the top right of this picture – that’s the pedestrianised centre of Horsham. The obvious desire line from this point to the new superstore is marked in red. The routes people will have to take instead are marked in blue.
The crossing at the top of the picture is an existing, staggered, crossing; the one at the bottom will be new, but it’s not entirely clear whether it will even be signalised (see UPDATE at bottom of post).
As for riding a bike to the new superstore? Hahahaha. Oh, seriously. No, no idea. Presumably you just have to cycle on that road. The footways will remain too narrow for acceptable ‘shared use’, but that’s probably what we’re going to get.
Back in 2013 – when these plans were being announced – Horsham District Council were claiming that
The creation of a new vehicular route or the major redesign of Albion Way [the four lane inner ring road] in this area will be encouraged to make the environment more inviting to cycles, buses and pedestrians. A new vehicular route would enable the reduction of traffic on the old section of Albion Way and allow for better connections between this area and the town centre, in particular across Albion Way to West Street.
But that seems to have all been pie in the sky – no substantial changes are being made, and all four lanes of motor traffic are being kept. This road will remain very hostile to cycling. Bear in mind that it currently carries 20-25,000 vehicles a day. The severance here is considerable, and will remain so.
Other visualisations plastered in the vicinity of the development are completely crazy. They show hordes of people ambling across this four lane road, with absolutely no motor traffic on it.
Reality check, courtesy of Google Streetview. Note also the width of the footways here.
Presumably the intention is to create the impression that the town centre is ‘connected’ in some way to this new site on the other side of the road; that it will be easy to amble from one side to the other. There was talk at some stage of a ‘shared space’-style area across these four lanes of traffic – that this idea was even seriously considered just goes to show how much councils are willing to stretch credulity to maintain motor traffic flow while pretending to address severance.
The planning application documents described the use of ‘materials’ to create some kind of continuity for pedestrians across this road, visually connecting the new development to the town centre.
But you can’t polish a turd. A four lane road carrying a great deal of motor traffic isn’t going to melt into insignificance simply because some of the surfacing materials have been changed.
A long-term plan for Horsham must involve addressing this inner ring road – it is, frankly, a big mistake to accommodate so much motor traffic right in the town centre when the town itself already has a bypass, that actually predates the construction of most of it. The signs aren’t promising, however – new development outside the bypass will involve a lower speed limit (down to 40 mph from 70 mph), and multiple new junctions with signals, on the bypass itself, which I suspect will make the bypass less attractive, and push more motor traffic through the town centre, as I argued here –
With lower speed limits, and delay at these sets of lights, driving through the town itself will become an increasingly attractive option, clogging up the town with traffic that should properly be taking the bypass. Driving through the town is already nearly as attractive as using the bypass for many trips; adding multiple sets of traffic lights and lower limits may tip the balance.
And there doesn’t seem to be a strategic plan for motor traffic in Horsham – the function of roads is being eroded or blurred, perhaps in the vague hope that it will all sort itself out.
There needs to be some kind of vision for Albion Way, that involves motor traffic reduction, and better provision for walking and cycling. As it happens, the construction works taking place right now for this development involve reducing this four lane road to just two lanes.
That space on the right – on the town centre side of the road – could quite happily be repurposed for a bi-directional cycleway, something like this.
Such a design would reduce the dominance of motor traffic on this road in the town centre, create more breathing space between pedestrians and the road, as well as opening up cycling as a transport choice for ordinary people, the people currently struggling their way around it on the margins, like the woman in the picture at the header of this blog, or this family –
… and indeed those people who aren’t even bothering to cycle in the first place, even though they might want to.
Motor traffic levels have fallen by around 20% since the millennium on Albion Way.
Thanks to Horsham Cycling Forum for some pictures of the site – they’ve spotted that (unsurprisingly) there’s going to be no crossing directly opposite the entrance, at all. But the road has been resurfaced with some fancy tarmac.
Unsurprisingly, no pedestrian crossing, but magic traffic-calming yellow chippings will keep us safe on Albion Way pic.twitter.com/eI7OuoHVyR
— HorshamDistCyclForum (@CycleForumHorsh) June 15, 2015