Improved Street Design

These are some examples of attractive street furniture arranged properly, including some examples that illustrate the Shared Space approach.

 

Kensington - note surfaces

Kensington - note surfaces

Kensington - note simple straight over crossings, no 'cattle pens'

Kensington - note simple straight over crossings, no 'cattle pens'

Kensington is many times busier than Acocks Green, but has almost no barriers. It also has excellent accident statistic, with reduce rates since removing the barriers.

Better streets 4

Kensington - smart and simplified appearance in a busy urban environment


Better streets 2

Solihull

Better streets 1

There ARE ways of stopping traffic without using vast amounts of ironmongery

Smart, simplified street sign - Kensington

Smart, simplified street sign - Kensington

Note how neat this is, how quiet, and restful, and how few signs are being used – even though this is a very busy area.

A Kensington rubbish bin.

A Kensington rubbish bin and plant display combined.

Note, neat, simple, quiet bin attached to a pole. Not in the middle of the pavement. Note how easy it is to see this very attractive plant display, which is also not in the way.

Buses ... Kensington has plenty of them!

Buses ... Kensington has plenty of them!

All of this can be done with a lot of very busy bus routes, with many, many buses an hour, note!

Kensington is Family Safe!

Kensington is Family Safe!

Kensington - neat coverage of drains

Kensington - neat coverage of drains

Kensington - side streets have cars and pedestrians mingling freely

Kensington - side streets have cars and pedestrians mingling freely

Kensington - bicycle storage in road

Kensington - bicycle storage in road

And a little PowerPoint we made, to compare with Acocks Green: From Acocks Green to Kensington – Powerpoint Presentation

And … Kings Heath High Street, Birmingham – a sister suburb of roughly the same vintage of Acock Green, about three miles away.

July Saturday in Kings Heath

July Saturday in Kings Heath

Kings Heath does not have Shared Space. Essentially it has an ordinary good, old fashioned suburban high street. However, we thought the comparison with Acocks Gree was interesting. There are lots of cars here. There are no barriers. There are also plenty of buses. We point this out because one Acocks Green councillor has a theory that we need barriers in Acocks Green because of our buses. We saw no cars on the pavements either. We point this out because another fear that is sometimes voiced is that if we remove barriers in Acocks Green people will park on the pavement. Instead, apart from hanging baskets there are also lots of big wooden boxes of flowers (often quite attractively painted in different shades of green) on the edge of the pavement. Some of these incorporate notices telling us what is going on in Kings Heath, which we thought was a nice, friendly, touch.

Kings Heath - Same Saturday in July - Another View

Kings Heath - Same Saturday in July - Another View

Another double decker bus in barrier free Kings Heath - we often saw 3-4 at a time.

Another double decker bus in barrier free Kings Heath - we often saw 3-4 at a time.

Simple Bicycle Parks in Kings Heath (Also note good paving.)

Simple Bicycle Parks in Kings Heath (Also note good paving.)

Counting Flowers on the wall?  In Kings Heath we did.  Again, a tad more stylish than plonking troughs on ugly barriers?

Counting Flowers on the wall? In Kings Heath we did. Again, a tad more stylish than plonking troughs on ugly barriers?

7 Responses to “Improved Street Design”

  1. Nick Booth says:

    This morning a friend of mine took this photo of people campainging against shared streets:

    http://twitpic.com/7lwer

    It shows people with guide dogs, who must clearly be concerned about there own safety if the street furniture etc goes. How does this approach allow for that?

    • Julia says:

      Hi Nick

      I’m slightly puzzled by this picture, to be honest. I am not sure what ‘Shared Streets’ are! I presume they mean Shared Space, but I find it a bit worrying when people take to the streets to campaign without checking their terminology. It makes me wonder if they are under-researched in other ways too. I think The organisation Guide Dogs for the Blind began with a reasonably supportive attitude towards Shared Space. They sent a speaker to a workshop I attended in 2005 who stressed the importance of consultation and of using suitable surfaces which could be “read” by visually impaired people. Some time after that, I am not sure when, Guide Dogs for the Blind started to mount a vigorous campaign against Shared Space. I think there was possibly a change of personel, but I am not sure. I can understand visually impaired people wanting to feel safe, and I can understand that new schemes like Shared Space may sound frightening at first. However, Birmingham Focus on Blindness, who are the main group looking after the concerns of the visually impaired in Birmingham, sent a speaker to a Shared Space Workshop we ran in Acocks Green in 2006. His view was that Shared Space would be fine in Acocks Green as long as there were clear indications where the road area used by cars began. Generally in Shared Space schemes there is an indication of some kind. The BFOB speaker suggested solid markers like trees, flower tubs or ornaments, as opposed to small, spindly, bollards. Usually there is also some sort of guttering, and, indeed, different surfaces.

      However, perhaps the most important factor in Shared Space to be born in mind is that traffic goes more slowly. The relationship between driver and other street users is changed. This does NOT depend only on eye contact, as has sometimes been suggested. Drivers also take note of road users generally, in a way they do not, say in general main road situations where traffic is moving fast. Shared Space is also about having ‘civilised streets’, something we do not have at present in most parts of Birmingham, and certainly not in Acocks Green. Finally, as far as I know, no visually impaired person has ever been killed or seriously injured in a Shared Space environment, as a result of the Shared Space factors in that environment.

  2. […] journalist and Guardian writer, Simon Jenkins.  See our ‘take’ on Kensington on our Improved Street Design page, […]

  3. Val Slade says:

    Hi Val

    Sorry for the delay in reply. I wanted to leave this until I had time for a proper reply. Your three comments, which arrived separately, but in quick succession appear to be much on a continued theme, so I have grouped them together, below, but left the original posting headings. My response will appear as the next comment.

    Julia

    Improved Street Design

    Julia. I can assure you I am not under researched on shared space/streets/naked streets or whatever you want to call them. I can also assure you that Birmingham Focus does not represent me or many other blind and partially sighted people. I’d be happy to come and talk to your group about the real issues facing real blind people like me.

    Val Slade

    Submitted on 2009/09/29 at 11:19am

    Shared Space

    This is very interesting. The Exhibition Road scheme hasn’t even started yet! Research in Holland suggests accidents are reduced becuase fewer people use the area, so footfall is considerably less. They are actually takiing them out and have had to replace crossings. Shared space can work, but only in areas where the traffic is extremely light. It will not work on a busy main road.
    This is very interesting. The Exhibition Road scheme hasn’t even started yet! Research in Holland suggests accidents are reduced becuase fewer people use the area, so footfall is considerably less. They are actually takiing them out and have had to replace crossings. Shared space can work, but only in areas where the traffic is extremely light. It will not work on a busy main road.

    Val Slade

    Submitted on 2009/09/29 at 12:53pm

    Improved Street Design

    I’ve had a good look round your website and I think you make some very good points. On my many visits to Acocks Green I’ve certainly seen a lot that could be improved. Sorry to say this but I think you are missing the point of shared space. A true shared space is where everyone shares the entire space, so no nice plants, seating, bins etc. What you seem to be talking about is the more open approach thats been taken in Kensington High Street. Again this is an area I know well, and I think there have been some great improvements there. But the road and pavement are two very seperate areas.

    I’d be happy to come and talk at one of your group meetings and would be happy to do some visual awareness training with your members. This would hopefully give you a better understanding of what its like for a blind or partially sighted person.

    I do wish you luck with your plans for Acocks Green, but do think your road layout is the least of your worries. On my last visit to Acocks Green I saw a group of youths smash up a bus shelter in board daylight on and the busy Warwick Road. However nice the area looks you’ll not get people to visit if that happens.

    Val Slade

    Submitted on 2009/09/29 at 12:53pm

    • Julia says:

      Hi Val

      Well, firstly, we don’t want to call the concept of ‘Shared Space’ ‘naked streets’. You won’t find us using this term, which could actually lead to confusion because, in line with Ben Hamilton-Baillie, who coined the term ‘Shared Space’, we are not necessarily advocating‘naked streets’. We agree with Ben that there can be a place for some street furniture.

      Thank you for pointing out that I had failed to correct a previous web person’s confusion between Kensington High Street and Exhibition Road. I thought I had taken all those out ages ago! I have now corrected this. I think it is fairly obvious though, from other references on the site, that the three year period of improved safety refers, in fact, to Kensington High Street, around which The Focus Group had a guided tour, last September, and not to Exhibition Road, whose opening we are eagerly awaiting. The latest news on the first phase of Exhibition Road is here http://www.rbkc.gov.uk/exhibitionroad/news.html.

      I am not quite clear which research in Holland you are referring to, or quite what you mean by ‘taking them out’. Would you like to clarify this a little more? Re ‘extremely light’: – I guess we all have our own definitions, but for traffic, around the island in Drachten, in Holland, the town with the most famous and successful example of pure Shared Space, with almost zero accidents, the figure is 22,000 vehicles per day. I don’t think most people would call that ‘extremely light’. Check out Ben Hamilton-Baillie, Shared Space, Reconciling People, Places and Traffic at http://www.hamilton-baillie.co.uk/_files/_publications/25-1.pdf We have a broadly similar layout, with an island, in the middle, in Acocks Green. Whilst we could argue also, about what constitutes a ‘a busy main road’ I think, more to the point, is that traffic flows in Drachten and Acocks Green are similar, or, probably slightly lighter in Acocks Green. ‘Shared Space’ is designed for main roads. Where a similar approach is used in a non-busy suburban area of housing it is usually called a ‘home zone’.

      I am a little puzzled about where your definition of ‘Shared Space’ comes from: ‘ no nice plants, seating bins etc’ Would you like to share with us the source for this information? Our own ideas about what Shared Space entails come, in particular, from our chats with the coiner of the phrase, and main British Shared Space designer, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, on his visits to Acocks Green. Part of Ben’s philosophy is that people should think of their street space as they do their living room. They should ask themselves about things like colour, lighting and ornamentation. However, ultimately, Shared Space is just that. It is a philosophy, rather than something which has strictly laid down criteria for design.

      You are correct that the road and pavement in Kensington are two separate areas. Kensington is not full Shared Space. Indeed, I have sometimes described it to people as ‘Shared Space lite’, myself. For comments about Kensington in relation to full Shared Space you may find helpful the video on our site on Shared Space in London, and the interview there with Daniel Moylan, Deputy Leader of the RBKC and the main instigator of the Kensington High Street scheme. See also our own account of our visit to Kensington, when we met Cllr Moylan, and our photographs of what we saw, on our website.

      You say that you saw a group of youths smash up a bus shelter on your last visit to Acocks Green? You imply that, for this reason, we should concentrate on vandalism as an issue, rather than Shared Space. There are already several organizations in Acocks Green calling for measures to address vandalism. Whilst we are as concerned about vandalism in Acocks Green as everyone else is, we do not feel that yet one more organization calling for end an to this kind of behaviour is particularly likely to have great impact. Instead, we aim for a fresh approach, and some lateral thinking. Contacts in areas where there has been a radical redesign which has led to a much improved appearance, e.g. Leamington, tell us is that respect for the area, and general conduct, improves when the area looks better.

      Thank you for the offer of your services. I am not sure that ‘training’ would be appropriate since studying your background on the internet Shared Space is clearly an issue you feel very strongly about, and you are very involved with the anti Shared Space lobby in this country, whilst, as you, yourself, concede, not all organizations for the visually impaired share the same viewpoint. It might be possible, at some point, to arrange for a debate, perhaps involving pro and anti-Shared Space campaigners, in which you could take part.

      Best wishes

      Julia

  4. garry garbett says:

    I would like to know when plans to change Acocks Green will come into effect because I, like you, agree it would make people /youths appreciate The Green more and I, for one, would like to put the village back into Acocks Green.

    • Julia says:

      Hi Garry

      There are some minor improvements scheduled to go ahead in the near future. The Dudley Park Road bus lane is due to go before April, 2010, for example, and the bus stop ouside Braggs is being moved, to reduce congestion. Over the next few months we will be studying carefully the provisional suggestions of the Warwick Road/A41 team for Acocks Green – which have come out of the first round of questionnaires and general opinion collecting. You can view those on the Warwick Road/A41 website, which I have now put a link to on the right, under ‘Other Local Sites’. We will be commenting on their ideas in due course. It is also your right to do the same. No-one yet has a definite date for when any of this, or the related plans to improve The Green itself, is actually likely to happen, but, hopefully, there will be more news and developments this coming year. Watch our website and other websites like The Warwick Road website, and Acocks Green Neighbourhood Forum for news.

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