Fantasy visualisations and ignoring the elephant in the room

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.

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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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 22.08.20But 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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 22.26.45

The new John Lewis/Waitrose building, mostly out of view, on the left, with a substantial new car park in front of it. The town centre is to the right, with the four lane inner ring road, Albion Way, dividing the two.

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.
Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 22.26.45The 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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 23.12.16Another image again shows this four lane road with no motor traffic on it, and the narrow pavements teeming with people.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 23.13.30

Reality check, courtesy of Google Streetview. Note also the width of the footways here.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 23.16.23I’m not sure what the intention is with these visuals – perhaps the most ridiculously optimistic I’ve ever seen.

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 23.45.04

‘A sequence of paving, lighting and street tree planting as part of a wider signage and wayfinding strategy will link Albion Way with the Bishopric and beyond to West Street and the wider 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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.11.31

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.12.45

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.14.13

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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.18.12

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 –

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.23.37

… 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.

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.26.52It’s high time we had a proper solution for this road, not fantasy visualisations and hopelessly naive attempts to address severance.

UPDATE

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.

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12 Responses to Fantasy visualisations and ignoring the elephant in the room

  1. KristianCyc says:

    You or Horsham cycle forum may be able to speak at a council transport meeting to raise this, anything like that on the cards?

    • Yes – we (the Horsham District Cycle Forum) are holding a public meeting next month, with councillors who responded positively to our Space4Cycling requests. Rachel Aldred and Mark Strong will be speaking, and we’ll be doing presentations on local issues, with round table discussions about ways to resolve them.

      It’s a start of something positive, hopefully!

      • KristianCyc says:

        Sounds good, hope to see some blog pieces about how the political side of things unfolds in Horsham. We’ve got the council on side in Croydon but we are losing a consultation on 20mph limits to the ABD that if it sinks could take the whole road safety agenda with it.

        • Mark Williams says:

          The council cannot `lose’ a consultation in the same way that they cannot `fail’ a road safety audit. The objectors either have sound evidence in support of a case strong enough to persuade the council to change its preferred option, or they merely have a load of easily dismissed speculation and make-belief. In the case of the London rump of the British Driving Society, it appears [to amateur eyes] to be very much the latter—even when the internal contradictions are overlooked. Its dependence on threats of a large increase in motoring criminality should the change go ahead would seem to be quite risky.

          Consultations are not popularity contests—so a large majority parroting the same speculation and make-belief ad nauseam is unlikely to be enough to abort the proposal. Substance of responses is more important than quantity. The problem you’re more likely to encounter is that the permanent civil servants who actually run the council are not quite as `on side’ as the politicians would have you believe. Anyone who has ever cycled through Croydon on their way to somewhere else will have a view on what their road `safety’ agenda has historically been…

  2. One of the ways new wide cycle lanes were added to a 4 lane bridge in Cambridge was to keep three lanes, with a one-lane up, two lanes down (to light-controlled junctions) arrangement. Two lanes were not needed along most of the length of the route, only to organised turn queues at the lights. Motor vehicle capacity was unaffected, and cycling has massively increased.

    More at http://www.sustrans.org.uk/article/inspiring-infrastructure/hills-road-bridge-cambridge.

  3. Mathew says:

    Thats quite interesting.

  4. Matt says:

    Oh dear. I expected better from John Lewis/Waitrose.
    I wonder if we should sponsor some of the JL team to take a study tour with David Hembrow…

    • ORiordan says:

      John Lewis were one of the objectors to the London Superhighway scheme so they don’t seem to have realised yet that their customers may come by bike.

  5. Notak says:

    JL here moved from a city centre location to an out of town ‘mall’ a few years ago. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like them. M&S, in contrast, while opening a big store at the opposite end of said mall, have kept their city centre store – which is right opposite the old JL. Waitrose, at least, have retained two (possibly more) central stores.

    • D. says:

      Same here (might actually be the same ‘here’).

      OT, I know, but I actually find the hardest trips when using a bike are buying DIY stuff – you pay over the odds for a restricted choice in the city centre, or you have to ride out of the city to the local mall development for cheaper prices and bigger range.

  6. Notak says:

    Developers’ visualisations never show realistic amounts of motor traffic. No matter whether they’re constructing houses, offices, retail property or something else, there are never more than a token amount of cars in their mock ups. It’s probably unusual to show none at all, though. Their reluctance to show a realistic amount of cars, buses and lorries doesn’t come from idealism, I’m sure, but from a realisation that the reality is off-putting. Then the agent will drive you to the show home in their car and point out the parking.

    But this is not hypocrisy; it’s our human ability to hold contradictory beliefs simultaneously. You know this amount of driving is harmful, but it’s not really your problem, because you’re only one person. (Okay, it’s a form of hypocrisy, but not in the usual meaning of saying one thing and doing another, because here, we are actually believing what we say.)

  7. Pingback: Entrenching car dependence with brand new development | As Easy As Riding A Bike

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