Update on Dulwich Village Junction

When we last updated the Dulwich Village Forum website, we had reached our target of £4,000, raised from the community, to commission traffic consultants Phil Jones Associates (PJA) to carry out the first part of a feasibility study into an alternative design for Dulwich Village Junction that would put pedestrians and cyclists first.

Members of the Dulwich Village Forum then asked local councillors whether this year’s underspend from CGS funds (local projects that hadn’t in the end gone ahead) could be used to complete the modelling, provide a technical drawing and note, and pay for PJA traffic consultants to make a presentation to Southwark and TfL. This was agreed at the Dulwich Community Council meeting on 1 February.

PJA’s presentation to Southwark took place on 15 March, and the minutes are reproduced below. There is also a link here to PJA’s powerpoint presentation.

As you can see, we are now waiting for Matt Hill from Southwark to report back to Councillor Wingfield, who takes the decision on the final design for the junction.

DULWICH VILLAGE FORUM PRESENTATION OF ALTERNATIVE PROPOSAL

FOR DULWICH VILLAGE JUNCTION ON QUIETWAY 7

 15 March 2017

PRESENT

Sue Badman, DVF   (Chair)

Brigid Gardner, DVF

Alex Hamilton, DVF

Phil Jones, Phil Jones Associates (PJA)

Andrew Saffrey, PJA

Matthew Hill, Southwark Council

Richard Wells, Southwark Council

Will Bradley, TfL  (representing Will Norman, Walking and Cycling Commissioner)

Caspar Jack, TfL   (representing Jessica Ellery)

Apologies from Helen Hayes MP, Cllr Ian Wingfield, Cllr Jane Lyons, Cllr Michael Mitchell, Marianne Kavanagh, Barbara Richardson.

1. INTRODUCTION

Brigid Gardner pointed out the advantages of the DVF proposal: dedicated cycle paths, a low-speed environment with less pollution and more comfortable environment suitable for a village community and conducive to more local trading. She demonstrated with ample quotes from TfL’s recent publication Healthy Streets for London that these were very similar to the aims TfL itself now espouses.

She said she recognised that modelling suggested that traffic flow on the N/S axis might be subject to queues in the am and pm rush hours but that even ‘Healthier Streets’ recognised that making a better long-term environment might incur short-term congestion.

2. PRESENTATION

Phil Jones and Andrew Saffrey gave a presentation showing how the three-roundel could work. They provided interesting modelling. This did show that there could be long tailbacks in the assumed rush hours, but PJA made the following points:

(i) rush hours amounted to only around ten hours in the week, whereas the improvements to the general conditions including reduction of delays at the junction itself and air quality improvements would continue around the clock

(ii) it was harder to judge exact effects in a flexible continual-flow scheme

(iii) vehicular traffic statistics had shown a steady decline over the last decade and if this trend continued at the same rate into the future, the modelling showed it could mean the problem would dissipate and

(iv) nobody could be sure without actual trials what alternative action drivers would take to find a faster way through.

Phil maintained that the cycling pathways including the new ‘parallel crossings’ (for both cyclists and pedestrians) would work well. In response to a query as to whether the cycle routes would be excessively long, for going round the junction, Phil clarified that the cycle routes would not be one-way as in the original sketch by DVF, but instead be two-way, in effect making a small local network of QW routes all-round the junction and mostly separated from it, allowing choices of routes and potential shortcuts. Furthermore, cyclists would enjoy priority on the zebra crossings, which is possible with the new parallel crossing authorised in the latest regulation.

Phil also said that a PJA scheme in Trinity Place, Bexleyheath, not dissimilar to ours, worked very well and had received a civic award.

3. DISCUSSION

Will Bradley preferred the original design because it was ready to be built and, in his view, was more likely to encourage cycling by protecting cyclists from motor traffic, and to benefit pedestrians. He also agreed with Southwark’s concern that the modelling of the junction showed the design would not be feasible with the current traffic levels. However, the consensus was that Quietway 7 reflected an earlier, narrower view of how to achieve healthy streets and environments. It was tacitly conceded that the DVF proposal might even be superior and certainly more in keeping with current thinking.

The issue is the old one: that the current plan is ‘ready to go’. TfL wants to sign off the Quietways. The money can only be given for a fully costed plan. In theory it could be agreed that the money could be held over until an alternative plan was ‘ready to go’ but there would be no guarantees – and in current circumstances it is highly risky as TfL is about to lose its large grant from central government.

Southwark believes that their current scheme is ready to be implemented and can deliver benefits in the short term for all modes, and is funded.  While they agree that there are merits to the DVF proposal, it is at the very early stages and to get the proposal to a ‘shovel ready’ state is likely to take in the region of 2 years and significant expenditure. It was not certain that it was deliverable and if it would be acceptable at consultation.

The DVF pointed out that the current scheme had not been acceptable at consultation (70% had rejected it) but that did not seem to have made any difference. Also it did not seem good sense to spend money on something already known to have shortcomings, if delay would result in something better.

It was suggested that a cheap version of the current plan could be built but the problem is that the most expensive part is the signalling and that can’t be done on the cheap.

Since there was disagreement between TfL and PJA as to whether traffic in the area was increasing or decreasing, another idea was to do a trial of the traffic elements of the scheme. This might be for a, say, two weeks’ period with the two main roundels (not the Calton /Court one) and zebra crossings (not the cycle pathways or anything else) painted on the road in order to trial just the traffic flows in the alternative proposal.

It was emphasised that these studies had been crowd funded and represented what could be done within the limitations of time and funding. But certainly further refinements of the proposal and more analysis would be possible.  The potential for this alternative was a much better public realm, better conditions for both pedestrians and cyclists and better air quality.

The main point was whether this sort of scheme was one that the authorities could support and work with DVF and PJA to refine and take forward.

4. ACTION TO BE TAKEN

  • Matt Hill will report back, asap, on the meeting to Cllr. Wingfield including the idea of a possible trial
  • Matt hopes this will result in a meeting between Cllr. Wingfield and DVF and would seek to arrange one.
  • PJA will look into cost (to us) of producing a plan for a trial and the likely cost (for Southwark) of carrying out.

Here is a hand-drawn sketch, based on detailed drawings by PJA, to show how the cycling ring round the junction could work:

DVJ-RingQWMrkdUp

Advertisements

Dulwich Village Junction


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:

dulwich-village-southwark2

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?

  1. 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.

  1. 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
  1. 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.

  1. 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:

roundel-proposal

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:

  1. give pedestrians and cyclists priority over cars
  2. help less confident cyclists
  3. allow traffic to move slowly but continuously
  4. respect all road-users
  5. respond to variable traffic flow at different times of day or year
  6. suit a high street in a village setting in a conservation area
  7. unite the two sides of Dulwich Village rather than splitting the community in half
  8. be free of delays introduced by traffic lights
  9. remind vehicles that they are guests in a residential area
  10. 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.