Letter to Lib Peck Lambeth Scrutiny Committee Cressingham Gardens

On Monday 9th May the Lambeth Scrutiny Committee met to discuss Cressingham Gardens. I attended purely as an observer to better understand how the scrutiny process worked. In my view, the Lambeth scrutiny committee is not fit for purpose and should be reviewed as a matter of urgency. Under the circumstances I felt obliged to write to Lib Peck Leader of Lambeth Council and put my concerns on record.

Lambeth scrutiny meeting
Letter to Councillor Lib Peck

Councillor Lib Peck
Leader of Lambeth Council
cc Lambeth Democracy, Councillors Scott Ainslie, Matthew Bennett, Edward Davie

Dear Lib

On Monday  I attended the Lambeth Scrutiny Committee meeting on Cressingham Gardens. I was doing so only as an observer having no direct connection with Cressingham Gardens indeed I have never even been there so am not in a position to comment on the rights or wrongs of Lambeth’s proposal or The People’s Plan.  I would however like to share some observations and concerns about the scrutiny process that I witnessed that night.

What I was expecting to see was something akin to appearing before a select committee in Parliament where individuals invited to appear would be properly interrogated on decisions made.  Although they would be given questions in advance to act as a framework, the actual questions asked may be very different. On select committees the Chair has a particularly important role in this respect in ensuring that the right questions are asked and that important decisions are given proper scrutiny.

Based on what I witnessed on Monday, the scrutiny process may tick some boxes in terms of its stated aims but it falls well short of the standard I would expect if good evidence based decisions are to be made.   Some good questions were certainly asked and points made by councillors and the public.  However, the prepared responses should have been probed properly. 

What I took away from the meeting was that;

  1. Lambeth had been accused of coercion,
  2. Officers/councillors have been accused of lying
  3. Financial information of Lambeth’s proposal has been misrepresented
  4. Lambeth’s proposal has a negative NPV
  5. To avoid risk of potential bankruptcy an SPV would be set up.
  6. Tenants whose homes had been threatened with demolition were given only 20 hours (later extended to a few days) to consider complex financial information

 As a local resident looking for reassurance that my Local Authority is making good decisions I was NOT reassured by my first visit to a scrutiny committee.  In my view council officers were let off the hook and their decisions were NOT adequately scrutinised.  

Lambeth has many good points but its record on housing management is not one of them. To diversify into property development is a very VERY high risk strategy.  That decision is so far as it applies to Cressingham Gardens did not get due scrutiny at the meeting.  Not even close. In my view, the current scrutiny arrangements appear not fit for purpose and should be reviewed as a matter of urgency.

I have included some specific comments on the meeting below for consideration

Kind regards

Michael Keane

COMMENTS ON SCRUTINY MEETING

1. Handling of hecklers
There were some basic errors made at the beginning of the meeting and control was lost almost immediately. The technique that I’ve seen work best is to announce the ground rules and make it very clear that if anyone heckles or speaks disrespectfully then they will be asked to leave.  By all means the Chair should give a warning for misdemeanours but hecklers should have been handled more robustly.  Had an early example been made by asking a heckler to leave, the meeting might have run more smoothly.

2.Time allocated to speaker – was it 2 or 3 minutes?
The Chair stated that speakers only had 2 minutes whereas speakers had apparently been told they had 3 minutes.  Once the discrepancy was noted it would have been prudent to check what speakers has actually been told. The approach taken by the Chair was confrontational and invited further heckles.

3 No time allocated for general questions from the floor
If the public were satisfied that the scrutiny committee were going to ask probing questions then there might be less need for questions from the floor. Given that this was not the case and feelings were running high it would have been prudent to allow means for some questions from the floor.  In my experience asking for questions to be written down allows everyone – including the quiet ones – a chance to have their question(s) answered without needing to identify themselves which brings me to the next observation

4. Claims made of intimidation
This claim has been made before in other forums and where this is the case those making the claim should be required to provide evidence to the Chair  The way this point was raised at the meeting was in my view confrontational and invited further heckles.  If my home was under threat of demolition I would like my voice to be heard. Choosing to raise my voice in public is hardly as intimidating as threatening to demolish someone’s home.   In any public meeting it is up to the Chair to manage the meeting and make sure people get heard.  The method outlined at (3) above is one approach to make sure everyone gets heard. 

 

5. Focus of questions
As is the case with Select Committees I think it important to probe decisions made by council officers and follow wherever that leads. That did not happen on Monday. Not even close. It becomes rather contrived if questions the Committee are limited to those for which advance notice was given.  There were some obvious follow up questions to probe the prepared response but these were not asked.

 

Oval ward bin survey

Complaints are often made about street bins not being emptied. This pilot survey took place at lunch time on Friday 25th March (a bank holiday).  31 bins around the Oval Ward (by no means all)  were checked and assessed as to whether they were satisfactory in terms of being emptied and whether any rubbish remained nearby.

  • 7 of the 31 bins (23 %) were unsatisfactory in that either bins were filled to overflowing or rubbish/bags were nearby

A survey on a single day especially a bank holiday may not be typical however having lived in the area for some 20 years the conditions seemed fairly typical.  Although not specifically included in the survey, the following points were noted:

  • Some of the  bins appear to have been placed in relatively low foot fall areas whilst there were no bins in some high foot fall areas
  • There also appeared to be an excessive number of bins in some areas
  • The type of bin was not always best suited to the area it was serving
  • There were some problem spots for litter with no bins nearby

Although the council may be responsible for collecting waste, this does not excuse fly tipping or littering whether that be by residents or people passing through the area.  We should not lose sight of the fact that it is careless behaviour of some and plain anti social behaviour of others that contribute to the problem of waste on the street.

Never the less Lambeth is responsible for waste removal and pays a contractor a large sum of money for doing so.  It is in everyone’s interest if that contract offers value for money.  Based on this pilot survey there is clearly room for improvement.

Surfing London – modes of commuting

Few Londoners are 100% cyclists or drivers or bus users etc.  We all have preferred methods of commuting and no doubt these change over time depending on where we happen to live and work. As I comment on transport/safety issues from time to time this posting sets out my own personal circumstances.   As a general rule I try to present a balanced view but on occasions allow myself to surf a little and comment from different perspectives – cyclist, driver, bus user etc. 

As I approach retirement, I thought it worth taking a look back through my working life in London and ponder the different ways I’ve commuted to/from work typically;

  • Bus user
  • Cyclist
  • Driver
  • Passenger (taxi etc.)
  • Runner
  • Train user
  • Walker

At different times I’ve favoured particular modes of commuting but these days I seem to surf them all and the trend looks set to continue.  I’m sure many others are in a similar situation.

For the last 20 years or so I’ve lived in the Kennington/Oval/Vauxhall area of London – where south west meets south east London.  Nearby Oval junction is perhaps the busiest for cyclists in London.  Also nearby is Vauxhall – a major transport interchange with the second busiest bus station in London after Victoria.  Perhaps as a direct consequence of passing through Vauxhall pretty much every working day for 20 years I take a keen interest in transport and road safety matters.

I claim no right to speak on behalf of any particular group whether they be cyclists, drivers, bus users etc.  However, I do take the trouble to review evidence and present a balanced view on issues that attract my attention.  Sometimes it might seem I’m part of a particular lobby; cycling, driving, taxi user, bus user etc. but I’m not. What I try to do is follow where the evidence leads and share thoughts on line. Sometimes the evidence might support my preconceptions but as often as not I have something to learn.  The world is complicated and Vauxhall seems to have a little of everything – good, bad and downright dangerous.

The chart below shows the numbers of collisions at or near main junctions around Vauxhall over a five year period.  I was surprised how many there were in the bus station area (20 of which 4 were serious).  In hindsight this should be obvious given the number of passengers crossing the road within the bus station area but this just illustrates how preconceptions are sometimes not supported by the facts.

 

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Cycling around Vauxhall Gyratory

Having recently acquired one of those Garmin GPS watches, I thought it worth revisiting an experiment I did a while ago – cycling around Vauxhall Gyratory. This evening, starting at Bridgefoot,  I cycled around the gyratory 10 times as illustrated in the following screen shot. And before you ask, no I wasn’t cycling all over the place – I stuck to the inside lane but clearly the GPS is less well behaved than I am 🙂

 

Vauxhall gyratory

Many people cycle through Vauxhall every day but I suspect relatively few take the trouble to do laps and analyse the results. Having done this experiment before, I knew the inside lane was the safest so I cycled that route again.  The last time I called off the experiment when I started using the outer lane and cycle lanes which I found to be too dangerous particularly when there are lots of pedestrians around like today when the cricket was on. Here is a summary of the findings:

  • One lap of the Vauxhall gyratory on the inside lane is about 800 metres.
  • The 10 laps took 31 minutes – an average of 3 minutes 6 seconds
  • Speed varied between 0 and 31kph (see blue histogram) with an average of about 16kph
    (I wasn’t using cleats nor was I racing – just cycling at a sensible speed)
  • There are seven sets of traffic lights/crossings on the way around and I was typically forced to stop at two on each lap
  • While cycling the first 4/5 laps, I seemed to get caught at the same light each time – red at Brunswick House and near Motor cycle shop.  Then I sped up slightly and got into another rhythm this time always stopping at the MI6/bus station and Royal Vauxhall Tavern lights.  The blue histogram shows when I stopped and if you look carefully, you can see the rhythm of the traffic lights.
  • Sticking to the inside lane is relatively safe and while cycling the laps I only felt threatened at one time  – when I was by chance surrounded by motor cyclists waiting to start from the lights

Over the last year I’ve been doing lots of analysis of traffic flows around Vauxhall and working with other members of the local community to come up with a better solution for Vauxhall.  TfL have consulted on their solution (a two way version of the main gyratory) but I think there is something much better – closing off South Lambeth Road section of the gyratory to through traffic.  Strange as it may seem, this appears to smooth traffic flow and improve road safety significantly.

Admittedly Vauxhall is not designed with cycling laps in mind but I wanted to use today’s experiment to reflect on TfL’s solution.  With two way working,  the inner lane I used today would have to be cycled in a clockwise direction.  The main difference would be that clockwise traffic – including cyclists  – would for the most part be limited to two lanes.  This seems to me that doing laps on the inner lane would be a little less safe with TfL’s solution.

TfL are planning to provide a ‘safer’ alternative with cycle lanes around the outside of the gyratory – an enhanced version of what is already there. Although CS5 is certainly promising on Vauxhall Bridge, I can’t see myself cycling laps through the tunnel by the motor cycle shop, coming out near RVT and then trying to cross to South Lambeth Road.  That means that I’ll probably be joining two lanes of traffic when cycling laps in a clockwise direction.

I’m not a particularly fast cyclist but as this experiment shows, I can cycle on the flat faster than 30kph (~19mph).  I’m unsure what the traffic light phasing is going to be at junctions but I am probably one of those cyclists who will choose to stay with the traffic if the cycle lanes are too slow.

 

 

 

 

How many possible crossroad junctions are there?

My quest to find the best designed busy crossroad junction in London led me to ask what I thought was a very simple question. How many possible crossroads are there? The answer surprised me.
There are more than 8 trillion possible crossroad junctions! If you don’t believe me, look at the detailed calculation at the end of this post.

The reason why there are so many possibilities is because the following need to be taken into account:

  • Number of lanes feeding into junction along each of the four arms;
  • Number of lanes  leaving junction along each of the four arms;
  • Whether or not there is a pedestrian island on each arm;
  • Whether or not there is a central roundabout;
  • Whether or not there is a cycle lane and if so what type at each corner of the junction;
  • Whether left, right or straight ahead are allowed from each arm.

Below are three of the eight trillion plus possible crossroad arrangements.  As that were not enough, taking into account different traffic light phasing arrangements, driving on right side of road, bus lanes etc. would increase the number of possible arrangements towards a quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) and beyond.

 

Cross roads

 

 

With real life junctions there are constraints so the range of possibilities at a particular junction narrows very quickly. If there is only space for a single lane in and out of each arm then there are merely 6,000 or so possibilities and many of them can be quickly ruled out if it is deemed certain left/right turns etc. must be allowed.  However, when the wider road network and nearby junctions are considered the range of possible solutions quickly expands. This is certainly the case with the Vauxhall gyratory which has 6 key junctions to consider excluding the bus station entrance and exits.

When you start to look closely at a junction and surrounding road network you quickly realise there is no single solution.  It seems to me that assumptions are made and once a lot of design effort has been invested in a particular solution it becomes difficult to see any other approach.  It seems to me that the number of possibilities is so vast that anyone who claims to have found a perfect solution is probably mistaken.  Even if by chance the best solution had been found it would be difficult to prove it.

Given so many possibilities, perhaps my quest for the best designed junction in London is a futile one.  It seems to me that particular solution could be optimised for any of the following

  • Junction capacity
    Maximising PCUs (Passenger Car Units) per hour but AM, PM off peak and night time solutions probably different
  • Road safety
  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Drivers
  • Buses
  • Public realm
  • Environment

Perhaps there is an ideal solution that balances all these factors but let’s not pretend that finding it is easy.  The one thing this exercise has taught me is that traffic engineers and public realm designers do not have an easy job . The search for the best designed junction in London continues.

 

Calculation for the number of possible cross road junctions

As most real life junctions adhere to certain standards/custom and practice, there will be far fewer actual cross road junction arrangements compared with the number of mathematical possibilities.  When calculating the number of possible arrangements of a cross road junction the following assumptions have been made:

  • A mathematically possible cross road arrangement doesn’t mean it is a practical one;
  • This calculation is for driving on either left or right side of road otherwise final answer should be doubled
  • Flyovers and underpasses are excluded
  • Direction matters in real life junctions so each rotation is different otherwise divide final answer by four
  • Similarly, reflections are different in real life junctions otherwise divide final answer by two

Here are the key elements of the calculation:

  • Number of lanes feeding into junction along each of the four arms
    The possibilities for each are are 0 lanes (no entry) to, say, 4 making 5 possibilities for each arm
    5^4 =625
  • Number of lanes leaving junction along each of the four arms
    As above the possibilities for each are are 0 lanes (no entry) to, say, 4 making 5 possibilities for each arm
    5^4 =625
  • Whether or not there is a pedestrian island on each arm
    2^4=16
  • Whether or not there is a central roundabout
    2
  • Whether or not there is a cycle lane and the type at each corner of the junction
    Lets assume 4 possibilities on each arm; no cycle lane, partial on one arm, partial around corner, full segregation
    4^4=256

So far we have 625 x 625 x 16 x 2 x 256 = 3,200 million possible cross road arrangments but we have yet to consider whether vehicles entering a junction are allowed to go left,  right or straight ahead

  • Whether left, right or straight ahead are allowed
    Lets assume 7 possibilities for each arm; L, R, S, LR, LS, RS, LRS
    7^4 = 2,401

That give us 2,401 x 3,200 million = 7,683,200 million,  say 7.7 trillion

Of course the possibilities don’t end there.  There are numerous traffic light phasing arrangements to consider, bus lanes at side of road or in center etc.  There there are further variations like allowing buses and cyclist to turn left/right but not motor vehicles.  It would easily be possible to justify a quadrillion or more but the number is large enough to illustrate an important point.  There is a vast number of possible cross road arrangements, let’s say 8 trillion plus.  If there is a perfect junction out there perhaps it is yet to be designed and built.

Analysis of collisions around Vauxhall

Key findings

Analysis of the 234 recorded collisions around Vauxhall Gyratory for the five years ending February 2014 indicates:

  • About 65 (28%) involved a pedal cycle
  • About  47 (20%) involved a pedestrian
  • Of the collisions involving pedal cycles, drivers appear to be at fault in some two thirds of cases with most of the remaining third being due to cyclists
  • The MI6 junction had 33 recorded collisions (8 serious) and one nearby fatality by the pedestrian bridge (57 year old man on Saturday 12/01/13 at 23:34)
  • There were 20 collisions (4 serious) in the bus station site mostly towards the north – Vauxhall Station end of the site.
  • The south bus station exit junction at Parry Street had 10 collisions (3 serious)
  • Provisionally, the distribution of collisions along Harleyford Road section of the CS5 does not appear to justify having a segregated cycle lane at that location and MAY increase overall risk for other types of collisions (see discussion)
  • The full two way alternative scheme for Vauxhall gyratory appears to offer additional safety benefits over and above the partial two way TfL scheme

The proposed introduction of two way traffic should theoretically reduce the number of collisions due to slower traffic speed and better lane discipline.  However, it remains to be seen which design for Vauxhall would deliver the most safety benefits.  Later in this article there is a preliminary comparison of the TfL (partial two way working) proposal for Vauxhall and the alternative (full two way working with South Lambeth Road closed off to through traffic).

Discussion

TfL has provided a detailed list of the 234 recorded collisions for the 5 years ending February 2014 and the following map which shows the locations and severity of the collisions (The numbers in blue are reference nodes for the location, NOT numbers of collisions).

Vauxhall Route (60 months to 28-Feb-2014)

The detail in the above map makes it a little difficult to see what is going on. The following is a simplified view focusing on the number of collisions at/near each main junction. Figures in brackets are serious collisions. As most collisions occur on the TfL controlled Strategic Road Network (SRN), this has been simplified and highlighted in yellow.
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The figures in the diagram do not correspond precisely with the official reference nodes and exclude the relatively less frequent collisions occurring away from the main junctions.

CS5 and Harleyford Road
The relative infrequency of collisions along Harleyford Road involving cyclists calls into question whether having a segregated cycle track on this section offers the best value for money if the intention was to reduce collisions involving cyclists.   Provisionally, the only apparent recorded incident (6 November 2011 at 8:28) was one collision of a cyclist travelling along the pavement which collided with a vehicle coming out of a private driveway.  This information should have been made available to the public during the consultation. It remains to be seen whether the segregated cycle way along this section will increase or decrease overall risk of collisions – even to cyclists.  TfL have proposed to reverse the direction of the smaller gyratory which could result in an increased risk at the Durham Street/Harleyford Road junction.  The Kennington Lane and Kennington Oval feeds into the smaller gyratory will both be single lane.  As vehicles transition to the faster one way two lane sections of the smaller gyratory risk will increase.

Note: I am generally in favour of segregated cycling but it does not do the case for safer cycling any favours if money is spent addressing a relatively low risk area at the expense of a high risk one particularly when it is nearby.  In particular,  there is a far stronger business/safety case for having a segregated cycle lane along Clapham Road by Fentiman Road – a known black spot.  In spite of warnings, TfL will introduce a no left turn at Oval Station as part of the Oval Junction scheme even though it will increase the risk (more left turns) at an arguably more dangerous Clapham/Fentiman junction.  Here is a time lapse taken on the ninth anniversary of a cycling fatality at that junction

 

Vauxhall bus station
The relatively slow speed of traffic within the bus station site should reduce risk of collisions but the volume of pedestrian and bus flows and potential for conflict means that risk cannot be entirely eliminated. Current proposals from TfL are insufficiently detailed to form a judgement on whether the proposed layout will be safer.  However, as risk of collision is a function of distance traveled and the proposed layout does not minimise distances traveled by buses through Vauxhall then risk of collision involving buses is likely to be less than optimum.

Parry Street/Bondway junction
Approximately half of all collisions at this location involve buses.  Under two way working, the number of buses using this junction are expected to increase and therefore the risk of collisions involving buses is likely to increase. Compared with the alternative scheme, the  TfL proposal will result in relatively higher traffic flows along Parry Street thereby increasing in collisions at this location.

MI6 junction
The existing junction is relatively complex.  Two way working allows the junction to be reduced to a relatively simple cross road.  This should reduce the risk of collision at this junction

 

Comparison of TfL (partial two way working) proposal for Vauxhall and the alternative (full two way working with South Lambeth Road closed off to through traffic)

The alternative scheme should result in reduced collisions relative to the Tfl solution at the following junctions:

  • RVT junction because of reduced traffic flows and simplified junction (3 instead of 4 roads joining)
  • Harleyford Road/Durham Street because of reduced right/left turns (depending on direction of smaller gyratory)
  • Kennington Lane/Durham Street because of reduced right/left turns (depending on direction of smaller gyratory)
  • Parry Street/South Lambeth Road because of reduced traffic flows, reduced right/left turns and simplified junction
  • Parry Street/Bondway because of reduced traffic flow along Parry Street

Both the TfL and alternative schemes should result in reduced collisions at Brunswick House and MI6 junctions.  As the alternative scheme places greater load on these junctions, collisions would be relatively higher.  This is in part offset by increased right/left turns under the TfL scheme.  For example.

(i) Under the alternative scheme,  traffic from Wandsworth Road heading towards Kennington would continue along Wandsworth Road and make one right turn.  In contrast, under the TfL solution, vehicles undertaking this journey would turn right into Parry Street, left into South Lambeth Road and right into Kennington Lane

(ii) Under the alternative scheme traffic travelling from Albert Embankment heading towards Stockwell would continue along Wandsworth Road, turn left into Parry Street veering right into South Lambeth Road benefiting from the changed priority and lower traffic volumes

 

Source of data

Transport for London (TfL) do not routinely publish collisions data when consulting on their schemes. If this information were made available the public would be better placed to judge schemes and provide more informed comment. As an informal request to TfL for data used by the Transforming Vauxhall project team did not yield results, a Freedom of Information request was made to TfL asking for (a) the collisions map, (b) a detailed list of collisions and (iii) traffic movement (origins and destinations) data used by the team. All three pieces of information were provided albeit longer than the statutory deadline given that the information should have been readily available.

The most dangerous local junction?

[Updated 25/11/2015]

The junction of Clapham, Fentiman and Handforth Road is a candidate for being one of the most dangerous local junctions.  On 15 December 2005 at 8:25  a young Japanese artist, Naoko Condo cycling to Docklands was killed.  There have been many collisions at this location before and since. Here is a time lapse of the junction taken between about 8:00 and 8:40 on the ninth anniversary of Naoko’s death.
clapham-road-roadworks-05

The following factors combine to make this a dangerous junction

  • staggered junction,
  • proximity of pedestrian crossing,
  • proximity of bus stop,
  • mature plane tree on corner of Clapham/Fentiman that limits visibility,
  • high numbers of cyclists and vehicles passing by particularly in mornings,
  • multiple vehicles turning,
  • use of the route as a ‘rat run’

The proximity of tClapham Fentiman AADFhe crossing makes Fentiman the preferred route for turning right onto Clapham Road in the morning as the number of vehicles including cyclists passing along Clapham Road make it difficult to turn right from other nearby junctions.

I was surprised to see how many vehicles turning right into Fentiman actually come across the road from Handforth Road.  I didn’t count but it seemed in excess of 90%. I was expecting to see relatively more coming along Clapham Road but that proved not to be the case.  Perhaps the portions change over the course of a day.

There are a number of TfL initiatives that  have/will impact directly or indirectly on Fentiman Road and other surrounding streets.  Here is a provisional assessment

  • Oval Junction Improvements
    No left turn at Harleyford Street will result in increased left turns into Fentiman. As more commercial than private vehicles seem to turn left into Harleyford Street I would expect proportionally more commercial vehicles to be turning left into Fentiman
  • Impact of TfL CS5
    Removal of the bus lane in Harleyford Road/Kenningtion Oval appears to have resulted in increased congestion on that route to Vauxhall. Some vehcles are likely to seek alternative routes including along Fentiman Road.  The knock on effect may increase tail back to Camberwell New Road so I would expect increased left and right turns into Fentiman depending on the alternative route vehicles take.  The longer term impact is less clear because it is evident that more people are now taking up cycling so car usage may reduce. 
  • Impact of TfL removing Stockwell gyratory
    Provisionally, the current layout encourages vehicles to head down South Lambeth Road whereas the new layout appears to encourage more to go down Clapham Road.  The overall impact may not be noticeable but in theory increased numbers of vehicles may opt to cut through from Clapham Road via Albert Square, Dorset road and to a lesser extent Fentiman. It will probably just be local traffic but there will probably be a small percentage increase arising from those missing the left turn at Stockwell into South Lambeth.
  •  Impact of TfL transforming Vauxhall
    The current TfL proposal for two way working around Vauxhall is likely to compound the problems of CS5 making congestion even more likely on Harleyford Road and as a result more vehicle may use Fentiman.

Possible solutions:

A simple no right turn into Fentiman would be the most effective way of reducing through traffic and should more than offset the expected increase in left turns.  HOWEVER, such a ‘no right turn’ would simply displace traffic onto Claylands, Richborne Terrace or Dorset Road so does not reduce overall risk it merely redistributes it. In my view, the first priority is to get traffic on the strategic road network (red routes) flowing smoothly as then people will be less tempted to choose rat runs.  Lots of left and right turns increase risk so if traffic can be kept moving along relatively straight routes.  Some of the existing features of the road network and TfL plans seem to encourage rat running.

Here is a possible solution:

  1. The following improvements to ‘Transforming Vauxhall’ (main gyratory becomes two way) are made:
  • South Lambeth road section of gyratory is closed to through traffic to make way for shared use public piazza
  • Mini -gyratory (Durham Street, Kennington Lane. Harleyford Road) two way throughout

Although not supported by TfL these two changes seem to be attracting public support and have so far stood up to scrutiny from residents, drivers and cyclists.  The suggested improvements should smooth traffic flow through Vauxhall resulting in faster journey times for most vehicles compared with either the current gyratory or TfL’s proposal.  As the improvements should improve flow along Harleyford Road there should be less need to use Fentiman as a cut through.  Traffic along Fentiman should reduce in both directions.

  1. The proposed 24 hours per day no left turn into Harleyford should be changed to no left turn for a fixed period say 7am to 10am

This won’t help Fentiman in peak hours but would provide respite at other times.  In my view it is not beyond the wit of junction designers to find a traffic light phasing that works around the Oval junction.  Applying blanket 24 hour bans on turns where the evidence only supports them for a relatively short period are not in my view justified.

 

Thoughts on CS5 and why it needs to change

If you want to comment on the CS5 proposals, you have until Sunday 14 December 2014. Here is the official link:  https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/cs-5-harleyford-road/consult_view but please read this article first.

If someone from TfL knocked on my door and offered to build a cycling superhighway just for me to get to work I would pretty much put it where CS5 is being proposed.  The only problem is that too many would suffer particularly local children who attend schools in the area and thousands of bus passengers who pass through.  I could only support CS5 with the following changes:

  • The Harleyford Road/Kennington Oval section of CS5 should retain the bus lane heading towards Vauxhall i.e. CS5 starts at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) junction with more modest cycle lane provision on South Lambeth Road, Harleyford Road and possibly Kennington Lane
  • Ideas from the local community are taken into account in respect of two way working around Vauxhall gyratory area namely (i) closing off South Lambeth Road to through trraffic  and (ii) making Kennington Lane, Durham Street and Harleyford Road two way throughout 
  • Provision is made for cycle lanes through two way Durham Street linking into Tyers Street (two way traffic on Harleyford  Road and Kennington Lane reduces traffic on Durham Street to point where shared use can be considered)

This article compares CS7 (Clapham Road) with proposed CS5 (Harleyford Road/Kennington Oval) and  concludes that there is a far better case to have segregated cycling on Clapham Road than on Harleyford Road.

This is TfL’s third attempt to get CS5 around Vauxhall right and yet again their solution falls well short of what the area needs.  They should really LISTEN to the local community.

Impact of removing bus lane

The current approach of CS5 along Harleyford Road results in the following:

  • Increased journey times for all road users (except cyclists)
  • Adverse impact on thousands of bus users heading from Oval towards Vauxhall and beyond
  • Adverse economic impact -additional fuel consumption, loss of time etc.
  • Increased C02 emissions and reduced air quality
  • Increased risk on other local roads (particularly Fentiman Road)

The section of road from the Oval to Vauxhall (Harleyford Street/Kennington Oval/Harleyford Road has a bus lane servicing bus numbers 185, 36 and 436.  At peak times 21 buses per hour  take advantage of the bus  lane – say up to 2,000 passengers per hour.  The current CS5 proposal will effectively make the 21 buses per hour heading for Vauxhall join a stream of relatively slow moving traffic.  Not only would the buses be significantly slowed so too would other traffic.  This has an adverse environmental impact

I estimate that for every 1 minute of average delay in traversing the 0.9km stretch from Oval to Vauxhall approximately 5 tonnes of CO2 will be released annually into the atmosphere along with other pollutants.  That excludes the additional contribution from (i) vehicles taking alternative longer routes to avoid congestion and (ii) the further traffic congestion shoiuld queses tail back into Camberwell New Road.  This is NOT a theoretical risk as it already happend.  Taking out the bus lane will just make such events more likely.  Unlike many cycle routes CS5 is unlikely to reduce CO2 emissions.  Given the strategic importance of the road network in the area and the major building expansion it seems likely that CS5 will be a net contributor to CO2 emissions – perhaps as much as several tens of Tonnes of CO2 per year.  The biggest losers will be bus passengers

Assessing economic impact can be contentious but it shouldn’t be ignored.  Delays do cost money if only fuel consumption, wear and tear on car engines and wasting time.  I estimate that for every 1 minute of average delay along the 0.9km stretch from Oval to Vauxhall as a result of the bus lane being removed there will be an annual adverse economic impact in the order of £1.5M per year

Integration with other proposals

A further cause for concern in the current proposal is a failure by TfL to adequately take into account another of their proposals affecting the area namely ‘Transforming Vauxhall’.  For example:

  • TfL’s CS5 proposal does not take into account their own proposal to reverse the direction of the mini-gyratory. As a result the CS5 suggestion to relocate a bus stop to Durham Street becomes problematic
  • The introduction of two way traffic around the main Vauxhall gyratory means that the CS5 detail around Royal Vauxhall Tavern would be less than optimal and does not reflect the needs of the majority of cyclists using the junction either now or with two way working.

Stationary traffic,  e.g. cars with engines idling at lights, contribute approximately 1.2g per minute CO2.  The removal of the bus lane will result in increased congestion and delays on most journeys. TfL acknowledge this

A possible solution

I don’t allow myself the luxury of criticising something if I’m not able to suggest a better alternative or at least an approach that merits further exploration.

A quick survey yesterday confirmed 20 years of Vauxhall commuting experience and previous observations that more cyclists head down South Lambeth Road than towards the Oval so there is a case that CS5 should continue into South Lambeth Road from the RVT junction and not up Harleyford Road.

In my opinion the current CS5 approach along Harleyford can be improved on as follows:

  • Closing off South Lambeth Road to through traffic will make this a much safer route for many cycle journeys.  The majority of cyclists coming under RVT viaduct already use this route
    (Those currently heading for Brixton via Oval may well switch to South Lambeth Road reducing demand along Harleyford Road)
  • For those heading towards Camberwell and Peckham, a more modest cycle lane provision should be considered along Harleyford Road retaining the bus lane
  • Two way traffic throughout the mini-gyratory will allow cycle lane provision on Durham Street linking to Tyers Street.  This is something that school children and adults would benefit from.  The current design of CS5 does not help the children at St Annes Primary School or St Marks.  The relocation of the bus stop near the Oval by some 40m further East away from the crossing by Ashmole Estate will encourage children from Archbishop Tennisons School to cross what would be a very busy road. 

I don’t pretend that the solution is easy but there is little point TfL providing a solution through CS5 with benefits say 2, 500 cyclists per day at the expense of 6 times as many bus passengers which will include proportionally more younger children and older adults for which cycling may not be an option.

Yes we need cycling provision on Harleyford Road but we need a bus lane as well 

 

 

 

 

Proposed CS5 Harleyford Road compared with CS7 Clapham Road

TfL are currently planning a new Cycling Superhighway (CS5) through Vauxhall.
If you want to comment on the CS5 proposals, you have until 14 December. Here is the official link:  https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/cs-5-harleyford-road/consult_view but please read this article first and this one on an alternative solution for Vauxhall

Between 2015 and 2016, the Oval Junction will be undergoing significant improvements from a cycling perspective but I was surprised that TfL did not extend the scheme further down Clapham Road given the number of cyclists that use the road and the relatively high number of collisions particularly at the junction of Clapham and Fentiman Roads.  Sadly there was  one cyclist fatality there in 2005.

Based on the following information where would you choose to remove a bus lane and replace a segregated cycle lane?

Clapham Road

  • 13 buses per hour (towards Elephant and Castle)
  • Bus lane
  • AADF in 2013 of pedal cycles was  4,038
  • Relatively high number of collisions particularly at Fentiman Road junction

Harleyford Road/Kennington Oval

  • 21 buses per hour (towards Vauxhall)
  • Proposed no bus lane
  • AADF in 2013 of pedal cycles was  2,204
  • Relatively low number of collisions

The chart below shows the Annual Average Daily Flows (AADF) of pedal cyclists along CS7 Clapham Road and Kennington Oval where CS5 is proposed to start on its way towards Vauxhall and onwards to Pimlico.  In 2013 there were about 80% more cyclists on Clapham Road compared with Kennington Oval and yet the latter has been chosen for segregated cycle lane treatment.

 

.Clapham Kennington Oval Cycles

 

Comments on CS5 consultation

I would not normally comment on language used in consultation documents but in this case I’ll make an exception.  The on line consultation includes the following statement:

  • “Latest analysis shows reduced journey times for all road users, including motorists and bus passengers, compared with the previous proposal (see Traffic impact below)”

That seems convincing to me so sign me up for CS5.  Hang on a minute, what’s this

  • “Analysis based on the initial designs showed that the completed scheme would mean longer journeys at busy times for most motorists and bus, coach and taxi passengers along the route.”

The first statement is qualified but by referring to “Traffic impact below” it is not unreasonable to expect the latter to provide some evidence in support of the first statement,  In this case, it is the complete opposite.  Let me paraphrase

  • Here is a daft idea
  • Here is a significantly less daft idea (see below)
  • Both the the daft and significantly less daft ideas are both daft

 

Impact on local shops and Tyers Street of reversing Vauxhall’s mini-gyratory

Vauxhall’s mini-gyratory refers to the one way sections of Kennington Lane, Durham Street and Harleyford Road. This section is currently clockwise.  TfL current proposals for Transforming  Vauxhall include reversing the direction of these streets but there is an alternative approach

Impact on local shops

Local shops on Kennington Lane benefit from footfall generated by some 25 buses per hour from four bus routes:

  • 36 (~9 mins),
  • 185 (~10 minutes),
  • 196 (~11.5 minutes) and
  • 436 (~9 minutes)

Reversing the direction of the mini-gyratory means that the bus stop will be on the other side of the road away from the shops.  Anything that takes footfall away from a shopping parade is likely to have an adverse impact on local shops.  In addition, there may be more collisions as a result of pedestrians hurrying from shops across the road to the bus stop.  The critical point though is not simply moving the bus stop to the other side of the road.  Passengers getting off in the evening at the current bus stop will have to get off somewhere completely different not just across the road.  That means that the pattern of footfall in mornings and evenings will change completely.

Update:
It has been pointed out that pavements are narrow on the shop side of Kennington Lane and those waiting at bus stops can make is it difficult for pedestrians to pass.   Agreed. In my opinion the shops and local residents would benefit from a make over of the parade.  Reversing the direction of the gyratory will not help. Two way traffic hence a quieter Durham Street will provide more opportunity to improve the local public realm.  

Widening the pavement in places where there are lots of pedestrians is clearly part of the solution.  We recently widened the path at St Marks Churchyard used by the Oval Farmer’s Market by just 600mm.  I was surprised how that simple change seems to have resulted in much higher footfall.  Since we widened it, the number of market stalls has increased from the low 20s to more than 30 each week.  Pedestrian space is clearly important for at least some types of businesses and this is likely to be true for the shops along Kennington Lane. 

How do vehicles get into Tyers Street,and Vauxhall City Farm etc?

Another impact of reversing the mini-gyratory is that motor vehicles would be unable to enter one way Tyers Street.  Perhaps this is a good thing but it appears to have been overlooked by the designers.  If the entrance is opened up such that vehicles can enter from Durham Street, Tyers Street would then be the best route to enter the congestion zone rather than turn left and navigate two busy junctions.

CS5

Plans for CS5 require a bus stop for Oval bound buses to be relocated onto Durham Street.  However, reversing the direction of the mini-gyratory makes this impossible

Conclusion

For the reasons above, reversing the direction of the mini-gyratory seems to be unwise.  The community alternative – two way through Kennington Lane, Durham Street and Harleyford Road eliminates all of these problems