Saturday, 31 December 2022

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe: Redux Part 3 - Dutch Hills

As 2022 draws to a close, I thought I'd round off the year with a final visit to the Netherlands in the third and final part of a short series. This time, I'm going in search of some Dutch hills.

Large parts of the Netherlands is pretty flat in terms of landform, although the east of the country would take issue with this. Anyone who has cycled there (especially nearer the coast) will also be able to attest to the wind which is often called the Dutch hill, but I'm on the hunt for infrastructure and my travels in the Rotterdam area didn't disappoint.

A large lattice work arched bridge with very long concrete and steel approaches carrying a wide motorway. Viewed from the ground.

You might recall that I mentioned the Van Brienenoordbrug bridge in the first post of this series and it's worth another mention given how high it rises above the Nieuwe Mass river. The photograph above was taken from the northeast side and shows just how long and high the approach viaduct is. I shot a little bit of video to show the steepness as I struggled up on my three-speed bicycle in the wind.

This is a theme for the Netherlands. For its apparent flatness, there are plenty of man-made and natural barriers which need to be crossed. From a cycling (and walking) point of view, the most comfortable solutions don't require a change in level, but where levels are more fixed, such as crossing railways, then localised hills (and dips) will need to be created.

A white train with red doors passes over a bridge. To the left there is a road going under the railway and to the right, there is a cycle track and pavement, but they don't drop as far down as the road. There is a red car on the road.

The photograph above is a road-rail crossing on the edge of Maassluis, to the west of Rotterdam. The underpass connects to a residential extension to the town and was under construction in 2010. 

A cycle track going under a railway with a road to the left lower down.

The photograph above is a closer view of the underpass where you can see the road is dipped much more severely than the cycle track and footway simply because the latter require far less headroom. All being equal with levels more generally, the underpass approach means far shorter ramps and a smaller change in level for those travelling under their own steam than a bridge where all modes have to clear the obstacle in the same way.

A cycle track enters an underpass with brick clad wingwalls sitting in grassy open space.

Sometimes the levels can be a little tricky to work out, but the underpass above and the cycle track running through it is pretty much at the original ground level. It is the tangle of roads of the Rotterdam-Feijenoord junction which are raised with the motors doing the work. What little slope there is in this little piece of the cycling network is very gentle and easy to use.

A square, squat station like building with "Benelux Zuid" written in large white letters along the roof line.

Sometimes, though, the change in level is so great and space is so tight that a bit of mechanical help is needed. The Benelux Cycle Tunnel (above), runs next to the A4 motorway and was built in 2002 as part of a transport upgrade which also saw a metro line added.

An escalator looking down into a tunnel entrance which has a red cycle track leading away.

The tunnel is under the Nieuwe Mass river and has very prominent station-like entrances which give direct access to the employment and residential districts on both sides of the river. Rather than having very long ramps, the tunnel has lifts and escalators (above) for access under the entrances which take you down to the tunnel. As it heads towards the centre of the river, there is a long slope down, but inevitably, this turns into a long slope up which still takes a bit of effort (below).

A two way red cycle track in a tunnel clad with white tiles.

Without the lifts and escalators, the ramps would be incredibly long and for those wanting to access the land on both sides of the river, they would then have to cycle back on themselves for some distance. The mechanical help was very much appreciated!

A cable stayed bridge with a single high pylon carrying cables down to the deck. A cityscape sits behind.

There is a long running and very boring trope we get in the UK that the Dutch cycle because it's flat. It is obviously nonsense. The real reason that the Dutch cycle is that there has been a continual plan of work to provide a cycling network which operates independently of the motoring network. Where the two meet, interactions are carefully managed or they simply share the same alignment such as the Erasmusbrug in Rotterdam (above and below) which was completed in 1996 and creates another hill over the Nieuwe Maas. 

The view on a bridge with a tramway, road, cycle track and pavement.

Well that's it for 2022 and my little Dutch series. This blog will be back in 2023 where I am looking forward to looking at more infrastructure, more places and testing a few more ideas and concepts. Happy New Year to you all.

A big black bike with red panniers in front of a blue and white directional fingerpost.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe: Redux Part 2 - The Woonerf

In my last post, I had a look at how the Dutch use modal filtering at the macro scale to provide for cycling and this week, I zoom right in on one neighbourhood in particular where filtering is the bedrock of community-friendly streets.

Although my blog posts are a little more sporadic these days, this one is very special because it was ten years ago that my first post posed the question "What do we really want?" It's a still a question the UK grapples with, but I know what I want and it's places like the Westerstraat woonerf in Delft through which I was able to walk on my recent trip. I've read that this was the first example of the concept in the country, but I've yet to find an official source; it's at least early vintage though!

Westerstraat sits in the wider Westerkwartier neighbourhood to the southwest of the city and was built in the late 19th century as an expansion to Delft with the rest of the area springing up into the early 20th century. The streets are very narrow and over the years, they have had to face motorisation and modernisation.

One of the issues for the area was a lack of open space given the density of the buildings and the layout and so the community space for many residents was the streets themselves. The problem was that by the 1980s, private cars were dominating the space and through traffic was removing the important community function.

It's slightly tricky to pin down exactly when things changed, but it seemed that in the late 1970s/ early 1980s, through traffic was being removed from the wider neighbourhood using modal filters consisting of a mix of one-way loops for general traffic and closures to general traffic. As you might expect, this allows two-way access for cycling throughout and full permeability for walking and cycling. I'll get onto the details later, but this actually one of the first woonerven (plural) developed in the Netherlands. A woonerf (singular) translates as "living street" or "living yard".

The photograph above is the northeastern end of Westerstraat where it meets Coenderstraat, a connector road which itself is actually modern because for many years it was also a narrow street fronted by the elevated railway which cut through the western side of Delft.

There are some really interesting features at this junction. The main road has one narrow traffic lane in each direction (just out of shot) with a central verge which keeps driver speeds down, but as it is providing a connector function, cycling is separated onto a two-way cycle track skirting the residential side of the street. Westerstraat here is one-way for general traffic going into the neighbourhood (but two-way for cycling) and it's the start of a controlled parking zone (more on that later). you can also see inritbanden the sloping concrete kerb units designed to help reinforce the change in street use to drivers.

The photograph above is the view just entering Westerstraat where you can see the one-way sign (with two-way for cycles and small mopeds) plus a blue sign.

The photograph above is from a different entry point, but it marks the start of a woonerf and is covered by Dutch traffic laws and it means that pedestrians have priority over the full width of the street, drivers must proceed at walking pace. The design of the sign reinforces that this primarily a place for people and their homes. In the UK, we have "home zones", except we don't have that many as the idea didn't get off the ground.

UK Home Zones can be established under S268 of the Transport Act 2000 and include "use orders" which essentially can be used to replicate the Dutch approach. I think they never came into fashion mainly because early schemes were retrofitted and were quite expensive. Of course, a Dutch retrofit is also an expensive undertaking, but my perception is they care way more about it than the UK and residential public realm is seen as important.

The photograph above is the junction with Hovenierstraat which had just been reconstructed when I visited because one could still see the fine sand used between the block paving to "lock" the surface in place. When you look at Streetview, the old paving didn't exactly look shabby, but one of the key differences is that car parking has been removed.

The photograph above is a different view of the junction and it shows that although the area is a woonerf covered by the entry signs, it is actually the design which encourages people to walk and cycle where they wish and it is drivers who are the guests. 

This does mean that the street is being shared, but it is more like a pedestrianised shopping area with occasional access and without removing through traffic, it simply couldn't work. What you can also see is space has been given to cycle parking to try and control it's positioning in planned blocks and a chance has been taken to squeeze in a street tree. You can also just see in the grey and white blocks a ramp leading to the junction to further require slower driving.

The photograph above is the junction with Tuinstraat and the layout is a little different because there are footways here. I am not quite sure why this is the case but just beyond the building on the right there is a little playground and a refuse collection facility (with underground bins) where a little bit of loitering space may be desirable. I filmed this junction so you can get an idea of how it feels to stand in the middle of it.

The photograph below is the junction with Handboogstraat to the left which itself is a no through road for driving, but fine for walking and cycling.

The interesting thing here is that again there has been a rebuild and car parking has been removed in favour of planting in the street and an adjustment in the horizontal geometry. The previous layout had a very narrow and virtually unusable footway to the right with a car parking bay in front. From a driver's point of view, the space ahead was a straight line. The rebuild now requires drivers to actually steer.

Turning north from Westerstraat, the photograph above shows Graswinckelstraat at its junction with Plateelstraat which has also been recently reconstructed. Here, the footway on the left is new and replaces what was a fairly open junction.

The photograph above is Plateelstraat itself and perhaps the new footway on Graswinckelstraat provides both another speed reducing feature and a bit more dedicated walking space to transition to the side street.

At the northwestern end of Graswinckelstraat, we meet Buitenwatersloot and it's from here, the photograph above looks back into Graswinckelstraat, but we are now outside the woonerf. The buildings either side are a fabric shop and a butchers and in fact there is a little cluster of local shops here.

Buitenwatersloot is an interesting street in its own right. There's a canal running down the middle of the street. On the southeastern side, there is one-way motor traffic access and two-way cycling. In fact this street is part of a cycle route which eventually take you to the Hook of Holland. The photograph above is taken from a bridge over the canal looking back at the junction with Van Bleyswijckstraat which connects back to Westerstraat. The bridge is S-shaped with long ramps on each side of the canal and so is accessible to all.

If one continues southeast on Buitenwatersloot a little further, there is no route through for general traffic (above). It turns out that Westerkwartier is actually a low traffic neighbourhood in its own right with several woonerven within. In Dutch design guidance, the woonerf is a sub-cell of a low traffic neighbourhood (give or take).

On the northwest side of the canal, the street is pedestrianised and strictly speaking, not for cycling (but people do). The shop on the left in the photograph above is a bakery which serves the local area - this place is already an 15-minute city!

There is design guidance on the design of woonerven in "Recommendations for traffic provisions in built up areas" which is sort of like the general Dutch road and street design manual. It has been around since the 1990s and in some parts feels a bit long in the tooth, but it is an interesting reference guide and it can certainly help us unpick the design elements of a woonerf. Above is an example where car parking is used to create a chicane (but of course this could be anything other than car parking) and below is an example of where the centreline can be shifted at a crossroads. 

The guidance also talks about the motor traffic flow needed to be under 100 vehicles an hour which is roughly the threshold below which people start to take control of the street on foot and crucially, there's guidance on the maximum size a woonerf should be which reinforces the idea that it's a subcell of an LTN. If you want to learn more about the details, I recommend the short (free) course from Urban Mobility Academy "Designing a Livable Neighbourhood: The Woonerf Concept" which takes about half a day if you undertake the exercises. 

At the start of this post, I mentioned that Coenderstraat used to be a narrow street facing an elevated railway. Until 2015 this was the case, but the Spoorzone (railway zone) project buried the railway as it went through Delft. The project released land on the surface for redevelopment including a new station which is easily accessible to Westerkwartier and helps reconnect this part of the city to the whole.

The other interesting thing is around car parking in the area. There was a backlash from residents when permit parking was proposed in 2001 and a residents' association was formed. Then as part of the railway zone scheme, lots of car parking was removed which prompted residents' groups to commission the Delft Technical University to undertake a study. This was generally a short lived problem as new underground parking was built.

I have been interested in wresting places back from the utter dominance of the car for a decade and my walk around Westerkwartier and in particular Westerstraat has well and truly cemented that interest. While the streets here are narrow, interesting, beautiful, quiet and community-facing, their operation are underlain by simple traffic management techniques. None of this is technical. It is all political.

Sunday, 30 October 2022

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe: Redux Part 1 - All the filters

My last trip to the Netherlands was in the Summer of 2017 and because of both Brexit and Covid, I've not been able to visit since. It was therefore fantastic to be able to visit again over the last few days and explore another corner.

My visit was with my son which fulfilled a promise to take him on a Dutch cycling tour, and being car-free, we took out bikes on Greater Anglia to catch the Harwich to the Hook of Holland ferry. From the mainland, our trip would then be on two wheels covering 130km to Rotterdam, Delft and back with a few diversions along the way.

I was a little anxious about the trip after not being on my bike for nearly three weeks after having Covid myself and whilst it has been tiring, the cycling for transport environment is (mainly) great and so I didn't have expend a whole load of energy dealing with drivers and noisy environments (two issues which are almost ignored in the UK).

In the first of a mini-series, I'll have a look at modal filtering on a macro basis which is where you'll discover that the technique is critical to the country's success. Let's start with the obvious - urban areas. Now Rotterdam and Delft couldn't be any more different. Rotterdam is a sprawling and modern city which embraced the car after the Second World War as part of reconstruction, an approach which was probably seen as a bit of a failure by the 1970s and so the city has been trying to reinvent itself, especially in terms of how transport it dealt with every since.

A wide street flanked by shops with flats above, footways and cycle tracks on both sides.

Rotterdam is very much a motor city with wide streets carrying multilane carriageways with large junctions. Above is Westblaak, the street we stayed on which is a dual carriageway complete with a large traffic underpass at its eastern end. It's a busy street at rush hour and it cuts a swathe through the fringe of the city core making access between the Cool District and the area to the south somewhat awkward for walking and cycling. However, once you get off the main roads, you'll start to see that traffic management measures have been deployed to keep through traffic out. 

A two way cycle track between two lines of trees with a wide footway to the right and a plaza to the left.

Karel Doormanstraat connects to Westblaak and runs north. What starts as a 2-way street for general traffic quickly becomes one-way (two-way for cycling of course) and it is only really of use for accessing car parks and for deliveries. The street is then pedestrianised with a two-way cycle track providing clear space for cycling (above) - for those who would say this would be terrible for business, I'd say that the packed restaurants say otherwise. To the east of this area there is a pedestrianised shopping centre as well as quiet (and filtered) residential streets.

A two way cycle track between tall buildings which has signs allowed limited motor vehicle access.

Running west from Karel Doormanstraat, Mauritsplaats provides local access to a car park, shops and residents and the street becomes another cycle track providing a filter to Mauritsweg / Westersingel, a busier through traffic route straddling a canal. In fact, the first section of cycle track permits very limited traffic access (above) before becoming a cycles only section. Yes, the city's engineers have created a low traffic neighbourhood using one-way streets (with two-way cycling), limited access areas, pedestrianisation, short sections of cycle track and modal filters. This model is replicated all over the city and so while the main roads are busy, the impacts are mitigated away from them.

A two way cycle track on a bridge which is attached to a motorway bridge to the right. A control tower can be seen in the distance and a river can be seen through guardrail to the right of the cycle track. The motorway bridge is held up by large latticework arches above the road deck.

The main roads in Rotterdam connect to a motorway box which is roughly rectangular and 11km wide by 8km deep and as roads generate (motor) traffic, it wasn't surprising to see traffic jams where the main roads met the the motorway box. One just location was just north of the Van Brienenoordbrug bridge (above) where the extremely busy A16 meets arterial roads to the city. I mention the bridge because it's a great example of where the Dutch use the opportunity to add cycle crossings to existing infrastructure which can be seen below with the additional cycle crossing attached to the side of the road bridge.

The underside of a huge motorway bridge. There are additional steel columns and a narrower bridge attached to the motorway bridge here.

I mention this because from a filtering point of view, the cycle bridge connects the areas either side of the Nieuwe Mass river in such as way as to make cycling a convenient mode of transport with general traffic having to go a much longer route to reach those same places. The cycling distance from places either side is about 3km whereas the driven length is double (and assumes there are no traffic jams).

This is where the driving and cycling networks are unbundled and in essence, this is using modal filtering at a much larger scale than we might expect at a neighbourhood level, but the result is the same with access being provided for motors, but by a less convenient route than for cycling. You can walk over the bridge in this case, but the distance is more appropriate for cycling.

The other interesting thing we saw in Rotterdam was linear filtering where service roads have been constructed next to the main roads so that interactions between side streets and main roads are managed. This reduces the "friction" caused by people joining and leaving the main roads and lowers collision risk from drivers slowing down to turn off or having to quickly speed up when joining a main road. 

A red-paved road with shops and flats to the right and a wide road to the left separated with a verge. There are cars parked to the right and there is an exit to the left. For cycles, a cycle track connects to traffic signals ahead.

This technique is shown above on Laan Op Zuid which is to the south-east of the city. A one-way service road provides access to shops and homes as part of a wider neighbourhood which uses filters and one-way loops to stop through traffic, or at least makes it undesirable to drive through because of the route you would have to take. The service road here ends with drivers having to join the main road, but cycle traffic continues onto a cycle track and through a protected junction.

A blocked paved residential road with a wall of vegetation to the right, parked cars to the left and housing to the left of that.

So much for the city where it's easy to filter, what about the countryside? Well, our ride from north from Rotterdam to Delft provided plenty of filtering interest. Of course, there were cycle tracks on main roads, but while long distance traffic would be pushed onto the A13, we were able to use sections of residential streets which were filtered long ago such as West-Sidelinge (above) and via cycle tracks through parks such as below where such a layout is joins Willem Hedaweg.

A two-way red cycle track joins a residential street with a similar layout to the previous photograph.

As we left the suburbs, we joined Deftweg which is a key route for cycling between Rotterdam and Delft. Even here, there evidence of network-level filtering to keep through traffic on the A13.

A red block paved road with smooth cycle lanes on each side. There is a canal to the left crossed by a dark blue truss bridge.

Defltweg itself has rougher block paving with smooth asphalt cycle lanes, the idea being drivers stay in the central (two-way) area and only move into the cycle lanes when they need to. This was probably one of the areas that felt a little more exposed to traffic, but the traffic calming and low flows made it pretty quiet and it felt safe enough, even with a 30mph speed limit. In fact, there were people of all ages cycling along enjoying the countryside.

A red cycling lane passes to the right of a bus stop island to become a cycle track.

A little further north and we reached the city limits of the Rotterdam municipality and before the speed limit increased to 50mph, the cycling infrastructure changed to become a two-way cycle track at a "gateway" treatment where drivers entering give way to drivers leaving the area. You can see this in the photograph above in the distance, which also has a floating bus stop serving a small industrial area and you can see the cycle track getting priority over the access to the site. The two-way cycle track after the gateway is shown below.

A road to the left and a two way red cycle track to the right. They are separated by a grass verge.

Then we get to another filtering technique where Delftweg gives way to Rotterdamseweg at a curious set of traffic signals (below). At this location, we had just joined another two-way cycle track after another on-road cycling section after passing through a hamlet where buildings constrained highway space.

Traffic signals which resemble a pedestrian crossing with a skinny island between each traffic direction. There are detector loops showing in the surfacing and a triangular metal feature set flush to the road on each approach.

These traffic signals come with tilting bollards which can be used to restrict traffic flow. I don't know how these ones are specifically set up, but my assumption is they are probably used at peak times in the week to make it is waste of time trying to use this rural route to bypass the A13. Alternatively, they might be just needed when there is congestion on the A13. The point is, this is a dynamic filter which allows access for those needing it and which could be set at a maximum flow threshold to provide an appropriate level of risk exposure for people cycling in the area where they have to mix with motor traffic.

A close up of the triangular metal feature. A white triangle with the word stop in red within a red circle.

Further north and as we approached Delft, we experienced more of the same with a cycle network which sometimes coincided with the motoring network. Sometimes there were cycle tracks next to the main roads and sometimes we were on filtered streets, mixing with what little traffic there was.

An underpass dips under a railway. There is a red two way cycle track with a light grey footway to the right. There is a Dutch Railways logo and the words Delft Campus on the overbridge.

At the Delft Campus railway station, we found a brand new walking and cycling underpass (above) which has been built as part of an ongoing rail capacity upgrade in the area. The underpass provides direct access to the station as well as reconnecting the areas either side of the railway and providing a better entrance point (the previous being from near a noisy main road. In this case, the underpass is the filter, with motor traffic having to go a different route.

A road with red cycle lanes and people cycling. There is a canal to the right and industrial buildings to the left.

We then cycled along Schieweg (above) which was undoubtedly the worst piece of our trip for feeling exposed with close passes and lots of HGV traffic. Fortunately it was a short experience and a bit further along, the street changed to a filtered neighbourhood which made use of a cycle street (fietsstraat) shown in the photograph below.

A red road with a footway and flats to the left and a canal to the right. There is a traffic sign which explains that motors are guests.

This is essentially a two-way cycle track that can be used for motor vehicle access. The red asphalt signifies the cycle route and provides visual continuity and although the sign says that motors are guests, a cycle street will only work where cycle traffic flows are maybe 3-4 times the amount of motor flows. We turned right across the Abtswoudsebrug bridge which is for walking and cycling only, so yet another filter used to separate out the motoring and cycling networks.

A red cycle track crosses a bridge with white railings. There are people cycling over the bridge. There are also red and white barriers which can close the bridge.

As with Rotterdam, there is lots of filtering going on in Delft and I will cover one particular neighbourhood in a separate post. I started this post with a very wide street and so I shall end it with a very narrow street - Dirklangenstraat - a street giving access between a main road and the centre of Delft, but again it is filtered so the only motors here are those of residents and deliveries/ visitors.

A narrow road with a buff block paved surface with narrow red footways and buildings on both sides. There is an orange bollard in the centre and a cycles only sign.

Streets like this make me smile. So often in the UK people tell me that one of the reasons the Dutch do well with cycling is their wide streets where they can fit things in. Dirklangenstraat is a case study in why that is complete nonsense and all it takes to make a little area of city quiet for cycling (and wheeling and walking) is a single orange bollard. Oh, and the political will to do it.

Sunday, 2 October 2022

Filtering The 1980s

One of my favourite pieces of streets geekery is finding old layouts and features which have been long forgotten, but are back in fashion as something "new".

For me, the contemporary idea of Local Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) is such a thing and so it is always a delight to find old examples of the concept from the days when it was simply known as "traffic management".

I recently paid a visit to East Ham in the London Borough of Newham in order to tick off a particular design of modal filter I had seen mentioned on social media. For those that don't know, a modal filter is simply a catch-all term for a range of interventions which allows only certain types of road transport modes through an area or past a point - literally filtering out the modes which may pass.

The curiosity that I wanted to tick off my list was the crossroads junction of Wellington Road with Market Street where the northern and eastern arms of the junction have been filtered. The features form part of a wider network of filters and one-way streets which removes through traffic from an area bounded by the A124 Barking Road, A117 High Street South, Flanders Road and the A406 North Circular Road. 

A street maps with a pink area showing low traffic neighbourhood. There are two markers representing modal filters.

The map above broadly shows the area of the LTN, although in theory, the area to the south of Flanders Road is another big LTN and could also be argued to be part of the one I have shown with the A13 Newham Way to the far south. The two purple markers are the filters I went to see. There are bus routes running through the area which is interesting because the filters that allow them to pass, but ban other vehicles pre-date the use of cameras and so have to be physical measures, as were the filters I looked at.

A side road junction where the surface has been raised to footway level with a gap running through for cycles. There are traffic signs, trees and houses in shot.

Above is a view from within the crossroads to the east at the filter in Market Street which creates a 60 metre cul-de-sac. The design of the filter is interesting and don't let the modern camera enforcement traffic sign fool you - this scheme predates the use of CCTV for enforcement.

The view along a narrow channel between two paved areas. At the end there is a ramp for cycles to access across an area at pavement level running across,

The filter was created by building the footway out on both sides (above). From there, a further pair of buildouts were constructed, but rather than having a smooth surface, they received "deterrent" paving which in this case are pyramid shaped concrete blocks, a product still available today

A more detailed view of the previous image showing pyramid shaped deterrent paving.

At each end of the deterrent strips there is a ramp and in the central channel which is left, there is a short section of smooth paving where people cross the side street and to allow for cycle access (above); although at 750mm wide and with full-height kerbs on the approach, it's pretty tight and many types of cycle won't get through. It's a product of its age.

Another street with a pair of buildouts from the footway with a skinny central gap for cycling. There are signs and trees and houses in shot.

On the northern arm of the junction on Wellington Road, we have a similar layout, although the total length of the feature is nearly 17 metres, about 10 metres longer than Market Street (above, looking north from the junction).

A slightly closer view of the previous image.

I imagine this feature is longer because Wellington Road comes directly down from the A124 Barking Road and it needed to look really intimidating to drivers because we are essentially relying on traffic signs, the physical layout and (at the time it was installed) police enforcement.

And this brings me to the age of the scheme. Well, it was implemented as an experimental traffic order which came into effect on 15th December 1987 when "Always on my Mind" by The Pet Shop Boys was at No.1 one in the UK. A permanent traffic order came into effect on 15th June 1989, when "Sealed With a Kiss" by Jason Donovan was at No.1 (no, me neither).

This time-frame has the scheme being made permanent at the very end of the 18-month maximum experimental period allowed for in the legislation and in reading the permanent order, we can see there is an exemption for the emergency services and the prohibition is on motor vehicles (so allowing cyclists), two things missing from the provisions in the experimental order, but permissible to allow in making it permanent. It's worth noting the ambulance station on Wellington Road, north of the filter.

I'll leave you with a little video of the filters with me managing to cycle through. 

Sunday, 18 September 2022

Glorious Govanhill

Over the summer I found myself in Glasgow on a city hire bike grabbing a couple of hours for a look around before a work engagement. My ride took me to the Govanhill neighbourhood to the south of the city.

It's worth acknowledging the history, the diversity and indeed the problems the area has, and those are things one cannot possibly absorb while riding through an area. One of the most interesting things from an urbanism point of view is the neighbourhood is one of the most densely populated areas in Scotland, a feat achieved without the use of tower blocks. 

The secret is the use of 3 and 4 storey homes on a grid street pattern, often referred to as "gentle density". While tower blocks often have large areas of open space around them, developments such as Govanhill don't, instead relying on communcal courtyards and gardens to provide outdoor space as well as the streets themselves and sometimes with small parks (such as Govanhill Park in this case).

Glasgow has a 2011 census car ownership of 0.64 per household and the Southside Central ward (which is much bigger than Govanhill) has 0.38 per household or that's 62% of households in the ward which don't have access to cars. Despite this, Govanhill has plenty of cars that residents wish to park on the street and so this is a pressure on public space. 

Fortunately, in the late 1980s/ early 1990s, there was a forward thinking plan to manage traffic and car parking in the neighbourhood which looking back at from the 2020s still seems quite radical. Some parts of the street network have been filtered and a couple of the connector streets were made one-way. This falls short of what we'd consider to be a Low Traffic Neighbourhood, but it isn't that far away.

A view across a junction protected by bollards towards a 4 storey brown stone block of flats.

The most interesting thing about the area for me is in the oldest streets. The retrofit has quietly brought some order into what could have been a pretty chaotic car parking arrangement. From the junction of Govanhill Road with Langside Road (above), one can survey a range of interesting design details.

Another view through the same junction from a different angle. There are trees on paved buildouts which are also edged with black bollards on the light brown paving.

The first thing to note is that the junctions have been narrowed with fairly tight radii and placed on road humps (speed tables) with some surfaced in block paving (some are asphalt). The kerbs are flush here and bollards stand sentinel keep drivers off the footway and help pick out the "safe area" behind the carriageway edge. These days, we'd be looking at the walking desire lines at the junctions and providing appropriate tactile paving.

The extra space at the often includes space opposite at T-junctions (below) which helps keep car parking away from all parts of the junction as well as releasing public space which is often used for tree planting and in the example below, some of this space could be used for other features such as secure cycle parking. The built-out areas mean that car parking is either arranged in parallel to the kerb or perpendicularly, depending on the location.

A wider shot of the first image showing car parking beyond the buildouts.

The simple junction treatments and the use of small element and block paving give a slightly warmer feel to the footway and built-out areas than asphalt and given its age, things are wearing very well indeed. 

A person riding a bike away from the camera. Junction buildouts can be seen on borth sides of the street with trees and bollards.

There are probably some things I might have liked to see done a little differently such as swapping the car parking bay layouts every so often to interrupt the straight carriageway runs (above) and perhaps angling the perpendicular bays in such a way as it encourages (as far as possible) drivers to reverse in as they have a better view as they emerge. I would also have liked to have narrowed the carriageway a little more to push driver speeds down further.

A view along a large buildout to car parking beyond.

The thing that struck me most as I cycled through the neighbourhood was just how familiar it all seemed. The gentle density, combined with the junction layouts (complete with bollards) felt very familar from my trips around Denmark and The Netherlands where managing car parking in this way is fairly common and it has to leave me wondering if this is where the designers got their inspiration?

A drawing of a cross roads where the junction has been made smaller than the approach roads.

That's not just idle thinking, the techniques used in Govanhill can be found in the Dutch design manual "Recommendations for traffic provisions in built up areas", a huge tome which I love thumbing through for inspiration. Raising junctions is something the UK has done for years, but it appears on the Dutch manual showing the narrowing of the junction complete with bollards and inset car parking bays (above). There's also use made of the perpendicular parking as part of integrated traffic calming which in the image below is used to create a centreline shift at a junction, which is a great technique for breaking a dead straight run.

A drawing showing perpendicualar car parking and buildouts to break straight lines of the roads through a crossroads.

The final piece of interest for me was trying to date when the layout was built. There won't be a traffic order for the build-outs, but the local traffic filtering can be dated with a traffic order which was proposed in October 1992 and made in May 1993, which means this layout has probably been there for about 30 years. As ever, nothing in highways and traffic engineering is new.

I'll leave you with a little video of a cycle through the area and I would like to thank Alistair McCay for being my local guide and given me so much insight into the area.