Why is the junction changing?
As part of Southwark Council’s plans for a network of routes to help less confident cyclists, there are plans for a ‘Quietway’ to run down Calton Avenue and Turney Road. This includes a new design for the junction at Dulwich Village:
This design has been approved in principle. But Southwark promised, just a few weeks ago, to listen to what the local community has been saying for nearly two years, and to consider an alternative proposal.
The views expressed below have not been formally approved by residents’ associations or local businesses or schools. But they summarise many of the issues raised in community meetings, in emails to the council, and in public consultations run by Sustrans and Southwark.
What are the objections to Southwark’s design?
The community has already said no
Roughly two-thirds of those who responded to the recent public consultation objected. You can see the result of the consultation here:
(Find ‘Details’, then ‘Documents’, and scroll down to Appendix D, page 15 Dulwich Village Junction – Responses to Consultation Questions.)
You can also see the results of a survey of residents in Court Lane, which leads directly to the junction, showing that 92% of those who responded had little or no confidence that the proposed changes to traffic had been properly modelled.
The design doesn’t put pedestrian safety first
Southwark’s design for the junction, where there are two schools for primary-aged children:
- introduces staggered zigzag crossings (removed from Townley Road junction because they were so unpopular with parents and children)
- changes the priority from Court Lane to Calton Avenue, straightening the road and so speeding up traffic approaching the lights
- sets road-users (pedestrians, cyclists, motorists) against each other by making them rush to cross in their timed phase
The design doesn’t help less confident cyclists
The point of the Quietway is to create a network of routes for less confident cyclists. This design creates several potential conflicts between cars and cyclists – please see the list of technical problems in the section at the end.
There should be a trial before construction starts
There are concerns that reducing three lanes to two, and changing the priority from Court Lane to Calton Avenue, is likely to increase traffic queues and rat-running, which in turn will increase air pollution and the risk of accidents. The Dulwich Community Council has asked for pre-construction trials.
There are also concerns about how the Quietway and new junction design will be affected by the increased congestion and parking difficulties that have been seen on Turney Road and Burbage Road since the introduction of the North Dulwich Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ).
What could be the alternative?
Many people in the local community are asking Southwark Council/TfL to consider an alternative design that puts pedestrians first, with:
- zebra crossings for pedestrians and a delineated lane for Quietway cyclists
- continuous traffic flow, with respect for the most vulnerable road-users, by using roundels rather than lights
- a low-speed environment for all road-users
Here is a rough sketch of what a design like this could look like:
A design like this keeps traffic running slowly but continuously and adapts perfectly – and cheaply – to any variability in traffic flow.
(As we all know, traffic through the junction is sometimes heavier east to west, and sometimes north to south, and there are peaks of congestion at different times of day and year. This YouTube clip shows how heavy traffic on Calton Avenue, part of the Quietway, on school mornings forces cyclists and pedestrians to share the pavement.)
Creative solutions like this have been applied to junctions in other parts of the country. Please look at the YouTube clip about a ‘shared space’ solution in Poynton in Cheshire.
What are the advantages?
A ‘low-speed environment’ junction like this in Dulwich Village would:
- give pedestrians and cyclists priority over cars
- help less confident cyclists
- allow traffic to move slowly but continuously
- respect all road-users
- respond to variable traffic flow at different times of day or year
- suit a high street in a village setting in a conservation area
- unite the two sides of Dulwich Village rather than splitting the community in half
- be free of delays introduced by traffic lights
- remind vehicles that they are guests in a residential area
- be easy to trial, and possibly cheaper to build
Is it possible to get Southwark and TfL to consider a design like this?
Southwark and TfL have finally, after months of persistent persuasion, promised to give a design based on roundels and zebra crossings proper consideration.
Expert traffic consultants Phil Jones Associates have agreed to carry out an initial assessment which will show whether a design like this is feasible.
Members of the Dulwich Village Forum tried to find funding for this initial assessment from a variety of different sources, including Southwark and TfL. In the end, because there is so little time before plans for the Quietway and junction are finalised, crowdfunding (raising money from the community for a one-off project) seemed the best option.
The total cost of the PJA assessment is £9,000 including VAT.
The first part of the assessment – the feasibility study – costs £4,000 including VAT.
And finally (for those interested in the detail), a few more technical problems with Southwark’s design that haven’t yet been answered
- The official proposed traffic light arrangement is more complex because of the separate cycling elements. Relying on complicated control systems rarely gives good resilience and should be avoided unless there are compelling reasons for them.
- Calton Avenue and Turney Road are busy and congested during peak hours and, with the current and expected parking arrangements, are not wide enough to allow separate cycle lanes. So it’s essential that there is a low-speed environment along the routes and across the junction. However, the official proposal creates a competitive stop-start situation between different road-users and different traffic streams, as everyone races for the lights.
- Irregular and unstable traffic flow where Calton Avenue and Court Lane meet – a problem that has been going on for a long time – will be made even worse by removal of one of the three approach lanes to the Dulwich Village traffic lights, and will reduce capacity by about a third.
- If Calton Avenue is given priority over Court Lane, Quietway cyclists will be crossing strong traffic flow in and out of Court Lane, but without stop lines to warn and create caution. There is the potential for collisions particularly for the inexperienced. The official proposal at this point appears to have been arranged only for experienced cyclists while ignoring the inexperienced.
- The official proposal is for segregated cycle approach lanes to the Dulwich Village crossing on the Quietway axis only, leading to separate cycle signals. These are understood to give a window of green time, with all other traffic stopped, before a red light stops the cyclists and the rest of the traffic flows. The purpose is to try to regulate cycle traffic to minimise risk of hook collisions with motor vehicles. However this arrangement will introduce delays for the cyclists, while main traffic has its turn. Experienced cyclists may wish to avoid these delays by going with the main traffic, depending on the stage of the traffic lights cycle. This creates instant decision points before the start of the cycle lanes, with the risks associated with sudden switching of lanes.
- In addition, cyclists in their green phase may nevertheless be required to stop at special red lights at light-controlled pedestrian crossings on the far side of the junction, which will create uncertainty and confusion.
- The official proposal will add a cyclists-only phase in the Calton Avenue-Turney Road axis. While it’s possible that a more sophisticated and better-controlled lights sequence could mitigate the delays this will cause, it cannot totally avoid them, as it’s inherent in segregated traffic control. Delays are likely to increase.