Entrenching car dependence with brand new development

A few months ago I commented on the new Waitrose/John Lewis retail site in Horsham, principally in relation to the way the visualisations of the (then yet to be opened) new development ducked the problematic issue of a very busy road severing the site from the town centre, but also on the potential difficulties of getting to the site by bike and on foot.

Now that the site is open, it is quite obvious that, yes, walking and cycling have been completely failed by the planning process. As I hope to explain here, cycling to Waitrose and John Lewis is effectively impossible, except for those who want to cycle (illegally) on footways, or for the tiny minority of people who are prepared to ‘negotiate’ with motor traffic on a dual carriageway carrying 20-25,000 vehicles per day.

To set the scene, here’s a video I’ve made showing the ‘legal’ cycling route to Waitrose.

To repeat some of the points made in the video – this isn’t an ‘out of town’ site, it is just outside the town centre, separated from it by the road I am cycling on. The route shown in the video is the one that will have to be taken by the vast majority of people who live in Horsham if they want to legally cycle to Waitrose – only a small proportion of the town’s population live in the ‘opposing’ direction, and they too will have to cycle on this dual carriageway, as this is the only access for the supermarket.

There is heavy traffic in the video which actually makes the experience of cycling to the store slightly less hostile, principally because of reduced vehicle speeds. At less busy times, moving out into the outside lane (as I do in the video) is much less easy because motor traffic will be travelling at or above 30mph.

The video also shows someone cycling on the footway, from the supermarket. This isn’t legal (and I don’t think it should be – the footways, as currently designed, are too narrow). But it is exceptionally common. People want to cycle to Waitrose, but faced with the choice between a four lane, high speed, high traffic road, and trundling on the pavement, people are unsurprisingly opting for the latter.

Not setting out to to break the law - just being failed by highway engineering

Not setting out to to break the law – just being failed by highway engineering

Cycling has been squeezed out on these kinds of roads for decades, and this new development has done nothing to address this root problem. The only silver lining on the cloud here is that, in undoubtedly attracting more ‘ordinary’ people on bikes to find their way along this road to the supermarket, the problem is now increasingly visible and less easy to ignore.

My video also shows the stupidity of planning entirely around motor traffic – from start to end of the video, my trip is only around 300m as the crow flies, but it takes me three minutes to cover this distance, in large part because to even get to the front door by bike (which is where people cycling should be going) I have to go out of my way to a roundabout, and then negotiate my way through two levels of a car park. There is no direct access to the front door by bike.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 11.57.45

Some amazing open goals have also been missed here – whether by Waitrose themselves, or by council officers, or both.  Mainly, there are no access points into the site from the surrounding area, only the road I cycle on in the video. This is incredibly frustrating.

Standing in front of the main entrance, it is quite easy to see the main road to the north. The silver car is travelling along this road, and the white building is on the far side. It is a distance of only 80 metres or so from where I am standing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 15.43.17

But there is no walking (or cycling access from here – instead, you have to go take the long way round, the motor traffic route. I’ve marked this obvious (missing) connection on the visualisation of the site – the red line.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 11.39.45

This is looking north, across the site, to the road running east-west (left-right). But there is no connection through to the west, either – a housing estate clearly visible, and a passage there to the side of the supermarket, but… fenced off.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 15.53.41

This missing connection would run here – again, marked in red.

waitrose-1

Again, the absence of this connection means a walk of a few metres is converted into one of several hundred.

Nor is there access at the south-west of the site. The development looms behind the housing here (circled) but again, no direct access, no connection with an existing path running along the river.

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 12.13.29

The overall impression is of a development that has been plonked down, with no thought or consideration, no attempt to connect it up sympathetically with the surrounding area, by foot or by bike.

The three missing connections described here, in red - with the only existing access (from the major road) marked in blue

The three missing connections described here, in red – with the only existing access (from the major road) marked in blue

Anyone living to the south, west, or north of this site has to go some distance out of their way to get to it. Combined with the hostility of the road you are forced to walk along, or cycle on, this development has entrenched, indeed worsened, car dependence within the town, which is pretty appalling given that this was a blank slate, in 2014.

The final insult - useless bike parking, which is (of course) placed as far away from the entrance as possible

The final insult – useless bike parking, which is (of course) placed as far away from the entrance as possible

This entry was posted in Car dependence, Horsham, Horsham District Council, Infrastructure, Town planning, West Sussex County Council. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Entrenching car dependence with brand new development

  1. ORiordan says:

    I don’t think Waitrose/John Lewis give a toss about people on bikes anyway. They were one of the objectors to the London superhighway scheme.

  2. The Horsham cycle forum objected strongly to the access arrangements for this site, as did the Horsham Society -but to no avail.
    The developers spent 6 paragraphs explaining how accessible the site is by bike and said ” the whole of Horsham town centre [is] situated within a short cycle of the site”
    WSCC, the Highways authority said “The proposed development would be on a brownfield site in an edge of centre location within a short walking and cycling distance of the main central shopping area. It is also very close to Horsham bus station in Worthing Road. Horsham railway station in North Street is slightly further afield being about a 15 minute walk away north of the town centre. The development is therefore considered to be in a sustainable location and would allow customers to access the site by a choice of transport modes combining trips with other shops and other facilities nearby.”
    What neither acknowledged is that to get to these (substandard) cycle facilities, you need to ride on the dual carriageway and by the time you get to them, you have already reached the far end of some of them.
    This is a systemic failure where developers’ warm, fuzzy claims are not challenged by either the planning authority or the highways authority. Neither have officers with the time, expertise or responsibility to deal with cycling issues. Cycling is at the bottom of everyone’s list as there are no legal standards to be met and no statutory requirement to consult (unlike for example with crested newts or archaeology). Highways are mainly concerned to maximise motor vehicle flows. Councillors are either desperate to get the development passed (and therefore refuse to hear about any shortcomings) or are trying to get it rejected because of far ‘bigger’ concerns. Few councillors cycle.

  3. T.Foxglove says:

    It is incredibly difficult to get alterations to these schemes as well.

    The best time to influence change is when the developer conducts a public consultation but it requires a proper understanding of the location & what is proposed to be able to offer constructive comment from looking at a few artistic impressions stuck on posters in a church hall, something most people find difficult

    Once in the planning system you are reliant on the existing planning policies supporting your case and that the planner & highways engineer will seek to apply them, which doesn’t always happen.

    • You might think the best time to influence things would be at or before the developer’s initial public consultation and, indeed the cycle forum did engage at every opportunity.
      The problem is that these ‘consultations’ are really beauty shows to butter up the public and let people feel they are having their say.
      We didn’t receive any response to our comments and suggestions or manage to get a meeting with the developers (Westrock, not Waitrose). The developers knew they did not have to respond to us because their plans had the support of the councils and because there are no effective legal requirements to consider cycling and no local policies holding the developers to a reasonable standard of provision.

  4. bz2 says:

    Never mind cyclists, how do pedestrians get there? It’s a city centre location, there must be thousands of people within walking distance. Few will want to do that journey on foot, though, given the detour they have to take.

  5. canamsteve says:

    Ridiculous! I do wonder about the people who “design” access to these retail areas – even for automobiles. It is as if they have decided the most circuitous routes will somehow be safer. Pedestrians – let alone cyclists – are barely thought of. Often pedestrian walkways are placed where they don’t impact on car parking spaces, so they lead to dead spots not even near the doors. Of course, then no one uses them.

    I recall an old saying that a wise architect leaves the landscaping until after a building is finished, then puts the footpaths where the traffic patterns show usage.

    How do pedestrians (or walked cycles) access this area? There do not appear to be any crossings or signals on the roundabout. I imagine nearby homeowners lobbied to prevent any access through “their” residential area?

    • Notak says:

      I recall an old saying that a wise architect leaves the landscaping until after a building is finished, then puts the footpaths where the traffic patterns show usage.
      I’ve not heard that before, but it sounds quite sensible (although I expect it would be wise to have at least some idea of where you expect people to go before).

  6. Clive Durdle says:

    Check transport assessment and design and access statement. Are pedestrians, cyclists, disabled and older cyclists considered? Who are the consultants? Check what their sites say about inclusivity and access for all.

    Is problem at implementation?

    As it is john lewis might be some embarrassment .

    How did council implement their public equality duty?

    • I quoted from the Transport Assessment (carried out by Motion for Westrock) in a comment above.
      The issue of pedestrian access was quite a hot topic locally with many objections from the public. The Horsham Society and a significant number of councillors were also rightly concerned that this would act as an ‘out of town’ shopping centre which happened to be located in the town centre.
      As a result, the existing two-stage pedestrian crossing from the town centre is being changed to single stage and there is/has been a study into the feasibility of a second pedestrian crossing opposite the main pedestrian access. These are both improvements, but, even if the second crossing does get built, they will only scratch the surface of the problem of pedestrian flow between here and the rest of the centre and they do nothing at all for cycle access.

  7. Bob Currell says:

    Is there an email address for the admin/author of this site please?

  8. paulc says:

    Compare and contrast with the access to the new Morrisons Superstore that was built in Gloucester recently:

    Easy access via wide shared use paths, Toucans (sadly three stage and with a narrow pig pen in the middle) to cross the very busy Metz Way, although you can ride over the various stages if you time it right…
    https://goo.gl/maps/kG2Vg

    And here is the very expansive (and convenient) bicycle parking, two types, covered and uncovered right outside the front entrance:
    https://goo.gl/maps/gxeyD

    space there for some 66 bicycles if you put two to each hoop… and I can park my bike with cargo trailer without having to decouple the trailer from the rear axle…

    there is also a possible access from the other side via Blinkhorn’s bridge lane:
    https://goo.gl/maps/QzKX0
    although Google is not showing that as a bicycle route and opencyclemap hasn’t caught up (must do a scout with my GPS and camera)

  9. fonant says:

    Quite appalling urban “design”, but sadly not at all surprising from West Sussex County Council, who are institutionally motorist.

    WSCC are spending nearly £5 million of dedicated “sustainable transport” money on repaving an existing pedestrianised shopping street in Worthing. A project justified by the idea that it will get 4,000 more shopping trips to Worthing every day. Worthing can thus look forward to even worse congestion and lack of parking for years to come, with nothing at all being done to encourage people to travel into town by means other than private motor vehicles.

    • Cyclestrian says:

      That sounds like a project worth bringing to the attention of the NAO for a value-for-money investigation,

      • fonant says:

        I’m working my way through the authorities, making official complaints.

        The DfT appear uninterested. It was originally their money, but government diverted it to the LEPs via other government departments, so the DfT no longer have it.

        The Coast to Capital LEP say that they can spend transport money on whatever they like that generates economic growth, and, laughably, that repaving a pedestrian street is “sustainable transport” because shoppers walk and walking is a sustainable mode of transport. They say that the project has transport benefits, even though the writers of the project funding application didn’t bother to mention them. On the issue a successful outcome meaning 8,000+ more shopping trips to and from Worthing every day, they maintain that all these trips will be local people, and very few will be people using cars. So we seem to have magic “urban realm improvements” that are attractive to locals but no-one else!

        WSCC, who are officially in charge of how the LEP spends its money, investigated and said that the project provides value for money and is sustainable, carefully ignoring the rather-important word “transport” completely. When I pointed this error out to them, they said that their original decision that it was OK to spend sustainable transport money this way was unchanged. They like the idea of the vastly increased rates and rent for Worthing shops that the repaving project promises (which will make it even harder for smaller shops to trade here).

        The fact that this is “sustainable transport” funding according to the LEP’s own documents, and that it was awarded by the Local Transport Body, and that the project explicitly has zero transport benefits according to its own documentation, doesn’t seem wrong to them.

        The truth is that the LEPs have been given millions of funding to improve local transport by central govermnet, but they have spotted that they can spend the money instead on projects to benefit Big Business (who basically form the LEP along with the local councils) and there is no oversight to stop them. Since similar things are apparently happening with LEP money elsewhere in the UK, the Tories are presiding over yet more unaccountable funding by unelected bodies that only benefit Big Business. In a third world country this woud be called serious government corruption.

    • Mark H says:

      WSCC don’t set a good example at all, and Horsham’s neighbour Crawley are just as bad. Crawley council spent millions redeveloping their shopping arcades – to prioritise motor traffic over other forms of transport. They also liked to move the cycle parking as far from the shops as possible (so they could get the cars even closer) and in some cases made sure it was illegal to cycle to the cycle parking.

      WSCC is one of the few councils I know of that banned cycling in cycle lanes in Crawley too, preferring instead for cyclists to mix it up with cars in 40 mph roads.

  10. Peter says:

    Having been a loyal Waitrose customer for over 25 years I have now switched to other stores in the town, which I can all safely reach by bike.

    I tried cycling to the new Waitrose store once, never again.

  11. Rachel M says:

    This kind of thing makes me so cross. They’re either morons, or morons. There’s really no other explanation. I’m one of those cyclists who breaks the law and cycles on the footpath because I have two kids in the front of my bike and it’s safer for them. I wouldn’t go through that roundabout on my bicycle with kids on-board. I wonder how long it will take for people who design these things to work out that women don’t want to cycle in heavy traffic with cars, trucks, and buses.

    • Kevin Love says:

      And men do?

      • Rachel M says:

        Well no, I suspect not. I just meant that women in general are far less likely to cycle in traffic than young men. If the British government wants to increase rates of cycling in the population beyond young men in lycra, then they need to build off-road cycle paths.

      • pm says:

        It seems that some cyclists do, and those are disproportionately (if perhaps not quite exclusively) men. Those cyclists being the kind for which the whole point of the activity is to demonstrate technical skill and and ability to overcome fear. As opposed to just going somewhere.

      • Notak says:

        I’m not sure the gender split in “lycrafication” is quite as imbalanced as that. It works in combination with age rather then being a straight male-female binary. If you look at road clubs, sportives and audaxes, you’ll see lots of young women, and quite a few middle-aged and old men, but few old women.

        As for the British government and their intentions, I think some of them at least do see the need to reduce motor dependence and broaden cycling; but they are stymied by the need to win elections, so rather than take action at national level – which is of course the only (or rather the lowest) level where many actions can be taken, such as fiscal ones – they try to nudge LAs to deal with it. Success in this is… varied.

        • pm says:

          I agree in that I don’t think its at all clear-cut with regard to left vs right. In fact I think its quite complicated in all sorts of ways

          E.g. compulsory helmet laws can be opposed for libertarian-right anti-nanny-state reasons or for somewhat different anti victim-blaming reasons, many free-market right-wingers are quite aware that motorists are effectively subsidised, but their solutions to that (privatising roads, essentially) might not be good news for other modes of travel either, cycling can be seen as the domain of the poor who can’t afford a car but also as a status-thing for the wealthy and healthy and conspicuously ‘Green’, and so on…

          • pm says:

            That was supposed to be a reply to your other comment.

            • Notak says:

              I’m not sure which comment you meant to reply to – possibly it was the one in which I sceptically (but appreciatively) quoted Joe’s statement that cycling and walking would lead to egalitarianism? Or maybe it wasn’t one of mine at all.

              But in any case, all those seemingly opposed reasons certainly exist. Road pricing, for instance, could be a green move or as an incentive to build more motorways and car parks, depending on how it is implemented. And so on.

  12. Joe says:

    None of the designers, planners or councillors are morons; there is a deliberate political agenda being played out here. Most of the local politicians are tories and their whole raison d’être is to ensure the public are sucked into the vicious cycle of pay-to-travel, pay-to-deal with the health consequences. That’s why the Tory government are dismantling the NHS to move towards private health care.
    There is no profit in members of the public being able to cycle. No VED tax, no fuel tax, no VAT, no expensive servicing, reductions in expensive infrastructure requirements etc etc. A public that decided to walk/cycle would spell the decline of Capitalisation and the rise of Egalitarianism.
    There is only one way to get what you want – you have to vote for it, and you have to vote this lot of hyenas out. Pass it on.

  13. Notak says:

    Oh wow!
    <citeA public that decided to walk/cycle would spell the decline of Capitalisation and the rise of Egalitarianism.
    I feel that although you have started with a grain of truth, you have passed beyond optimism into delusion. It’s nice (and necessary) to dream, though.

  14. Cyclestrian says:

    JLP is sensitive to social media campaigning – a small amount of tweet-nagging worked to get more cycle parking at our local Waitrose. Things can be changed. I’d recommend replying to every tweet/FB post made by @waitrose or JL with a link to this or similar blog posts and photos showing the problem. Ditto the local council. Especially if they are wanting to promote something outdoors, wholesome or healthy. Also bear in mind that trolleys make excellent cycle parking right next to the store entrance.

  15. Sadly this sort of nonsense is far too common with two-tier authorities. Remember that whilst it is Horsham DC that decides the application, it will be the County Council who approves the highway design. In these instances, the case officer at DC will often find it difficult to challenge the upper-tier authority on road design (rightly or wrongly), particularly if they are under political and time pressures. This is one of the key reasons why so much awful highway design is perpetuated.

    • fonant says:

      I don’t think the two-tier issue is the problem: it makes sense for highways matters to be handled over a wider area than individual towns. Having the county council as the highway authority means less fragmentation of highway responsibility and planning, and should ensure that the authority can afford enough staff with the detailed highway-specific knowledge needed.

      The problem in West Sussex is simply that the Highways and Transport department is institutionally motorist. Their only aims are to increase the volume and speed of motor traffic. WSCC Highways really dislike providing for walking or cycling because these modes “get in the way of” cars and lorries. A WSCC traffic signal engineer once said to me that he’d love to remove pedestrian phases from traffic lights in Worthing, because the pedestrians held up the traffic. I thought he was being sarcastic, but he was being completely serious! He really couldn’t understand that making it easier to walk and cycle would solve his motor traffic congestion problems.

      • I think you are further describing the problem I’ve outlined!

        In practice, responsibility IS fragmented and there is often too little communication between upper and lower tier authorities. Given that county council’s have no responsibility for place making, it can be a good environment for car-fixated dinosaurs to persist and thrive. As the name suggests, upper tier authorities and will often hold the whip hand in collective decision making.

        I take your point about having sufficient authority size to maintain a decent number of officers, but road design is absolutely integral to the process of planning and designing our towns and cities, so separating it off from the rest of the process is in my opinion, massively problematic. In practice, bad highway design is the element most likely to fuck up any attempt at decent urban design.

        • fonant says:

          Ah, yes, you make a very good point about the major conflict between “maximising motor traffic” and “place making”. I had missed that aspect.

          WSCC couldn’t care less if Horsham or Worthing or Crawley are motor-traffic-blighted hell holes, they just want more motor traffic because they think this automatically leads to economic growth. And for a Tory council, economic growth trumps everything else, including the environment for human beings to live and work in.

          The sad thing is that we can already see that more motor traffic causes economic disaster, while reducing motor traffic leads to happy populations. Compare:

          A) The Netherlands, where motor traffic is deliberately kept away from people and where communities thrive in pleasant surroundings. You can drive into a Dutch town if you need to and park for free because the demand for motor vehicle parking is so low.
          B) Detroit in the USA, where urban motorways and the associated congestion and pollution have led to people leaving the city in droves and the city being killed as a place that people choose to live and work in.

  16. Andrew L says:

    It’s sad that the design was approved as is. I don’t cycle in Horsham as there is no safe link from where I live (Crawley – but that’s another story) but I can’t fathom how this got passed. Even the pedestrian access is terrible and it’s a shame that WSCC didn’t take this development as an opportunity to sort out the debacle that is Albion Way.

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