Sunday, 19 March 2023

Cycling In The UK's Motor City - The Coundon Cycleway

At the end of September last year, I headed to Coventry, the UK's motor city to have a look at a project I had been following for some time - the Coundon Cycleway.

The story for me starts back in the Summer of 2020 when I had a chat with Adam Tranter, the Bicycle Mayor for Coventry, about an exciting project which was being developed in the city. I think he is still involved with active travel in the West Midlands

The Coundon Cycleway was a plan to connect the city centre to an area north of the city, via the Coundon local centre and on a route giving direct access to several schools and community facilities with a plan to start at the Hill Street Bridge (over the city's ring road) and end at Norman Place Road by the Bablake Playing Fields which would provide a safe cycling route of some 2.8km.

The reason the project was exciting was both because it was in Coventry, a city with a solid reputation as being car first to the point where it scrapped bus lanes in order to deal with traffic congestion and where it's often referred to Carventry on social media; and that a high quality cycleway was being developed which had the potential to be one of the best schemes in the UK.

I got to look at the plans and was asked if I could provide a bit of a design review. As I am never shy about giving views on design I was happy to oblige and the project manager for the scheme, Peter Howarth, very graciously responded to the feedback and incorporated quite a few suggestions. 

A close up of a 30 degree sloping kerb between a grey footway (left) and a black, unsurfaced cycleway (right)

The council undertook public engagement and decided to proceed with construction which was fantastic news and in April 2021, I had a quick look at work in progress on the way back from a visit to Birmingham where I saw 30 kerbs being installed between the footway and cycle track on Hollyfast Road (above) as well as the very first use of the Charcon Entrance Kerbs being laid outside another entrance to the playing fields (below).

A long view of large kerb units which slope down towards the road to the right. In the foreground, the first kerb is a special shape to transition between a standard road kerb and the sloped kerbs.

I watched the progress of the scheme on social media and was eager to get back for a look, so when my son needed to have a look around Coventry University, I was given a pass to spend a couple of hours exploring.

A green, grey and purple hire cycle sits in front of a bowstring style steel bridge crossing a large road.

I had planned on using West Midlands Cycle Hire and I was pleased to learn that they had some e-bikes in the fleet and so after using one in Manchester a few months earlier, I found a suitable ride and headed to the Hill Street Bridge to start my ride and I have created a map to show the route.
A skinny traffic island set out from the left hand kerb of a street to start a carriageway-level two-way cycle track.

The first 250 metres of the route is still to be completed. The first section in Upper Hill Street is a cul-de-sac and so there's a 175 metre section which is left unprotected for now. It wasn't too busy, but it will be nice to see it complete to give a real sense of protection and continuity. The infrastructure starts just before the junction of Coundon Road with Chester Street and we immediately get a feel for the treatment of the project (above).

The cycle track is a two-way affair on one side of the street which presents opportunities and challenges which is always the issue for debate in setting one's design approach for a project. The the Coundon Cycleway, the two-way approach responds to a localised opportunity and at the higher level it means car parking is largely maintained along the route. While the purist in me would love to tackle car parking, there is a political reality about actually delivering a project.

A side road junction which has a raised area surfaced red over which a shared pavement and cycle track crosses.

At the junction with Chester Street we immediately see the consistent approach taken with side road treatments and accesses with the use of continuous treatments (above) which carry the cycle track and footway across the side street which gives visual priority to walking, wheeling and cycling and which reinforces the Highway Code hierarchy which gives those moving ahead priority (Rules H2 and H3). My message to designers is that this should be your default approach, unless location conditions dictate otherwise.

A side road junction which has a raised area surfaced red over which a shared pavement and cycle track crosses. A white line to split the space has been added as well as a pair of rectangular yellow areas to represent tactile paving.

Personally, I would have preferred the separate walking and cycling space to have been continued across the side streets and for tactile paving to be used on the pedestrian side (above) which could be a simple white line with applied tactiles (which I'll cover later). The ultimate would have been to reconstruct the footway approaching and through the side streets, but investment isn't endless and the treatment does the job fine. Drivers cross someone else's space and the use of the entrance kerbs keeps that space at the walking, wheeling and cycling level.

Close up of a large concrete kerb that transitions between a ramped entrance kerb and a standard kerb.

While we're looking at the continuous treatment, let's pause a minute and admire the kerbs which have made it easy to design and deliver. The Dutch Entrance Kerb by Charcon (part of Aggregate Industries), a unit I have been specifying at every opportunity and which is appearing all over the UK now. Coventry got there first. The photo above shows the special end units which provide a transition between a standard half-battered kerb and the sloping entrance kerbs. Simple and effective.

Another red continuous junction treatment with a grey car leaving the side street over it.

A little further north at Stanier Avenue and I spent a bit of time watching drivers cope perfectly well with the continuous treatments (above). It is almost as if the design principles for this approach which is common in the Netherlands and elsewhere on the mainland are understandable regardless of language.

A footway with a two-way cycle track to the right slopes down into a little arched tunnel.

To the north of Stanier Avenue, there is a railway level crossing which features a tunnel right next to it (above). This is where the two-way cycle track works a treat because the tunnel is now filtered and part of the cycleway. Previously, this tunnel was open to general traffic (subject to the height limit), presumably to bypass the level crossing when the barriers were down.

The arched tunnel made from stone blocks. The surround is marked in yellow and black squares following the arch.

The tunnel itself is compact, but see-through and this is a great example of a bit of opportunism. My only grip here is there are (I assume) original stone setts which are uneven and slippery. They need changing, but that means working by a Network Rail structure and Network Rail are a headache to deal with.

The cycle track with a footway and flats to the left and a planted buffer to the right. There is a pedestrian crossing point with yellowish tactile paving units.

North of the tunnel the street turns from Coundon Road into Barker's Butts Lane and the separation from traffic increases with a tree-lined buffer. It's worth looking more closely at the tactile paving used at the new set of dropped kerbs because it's quite unusual.

A close view of yellowish tactile paving blisters in a grid pattern.

As I suggested earlier, we have "applied" tactile paving on the project which doesn't consist of the traditional concrete tiles, but a clever system that uses a grid of bobbles to form the blisters, over which methyl methacrylate resin surfacing is applied to get the effect above. Supplied and installed as Tac-Grid, the system does away with the need for installing slabs. I've heard good things about the system from a few people and I'll watch with interest to see what it's longevity is like, my guess is when used at junctions, it probably stands up better to any vehicle overrun if laid on a decent surface.

A floating bus stop with a shelter. The road is left and the pavement right with the cycle track between.

A little further on and we have the project's first floating bus stop. I thought the space here was a little tight between the shelter and the crossing point, although the bus doors would stop in line with the crossing point. The shelter with it's back to traffic means alighting passengers have a good view of the cycle track which is edged by the old kerbline. It might have been nice to have forgiving kerbs here, but again, a pragmatic decision was taken to keep costs down and just look at how much space was there waiting to be found!

View of a red continuous treatment from the side road.

Above is the exit of Duckman Court onto Barker's Butts Lane. It's a cul-de-sac, but with quite a lot of of flats and plenty car parking spaces. It's another example of the continuous treatment and because the side street is 7.3 metres wide, it is locally narrowed at the junction to shorten the crossing distance and so physically slow drivers in what widened to some 20 metres at the edge of the main road.

A little T junction in the cycle track with the stem allowing access to the road opposite.

A little further north and we reach the edge of the Coundon local centre at the junction with Thamley Street (above). One of the problems with two-way cycle tracks is they only serve half of a street's frontage. One-way cycle tracks serve both sides, but you need crossing points to allow people to U-turn if they are heading the other way. One way to make access a bit more permeable is to have gaps such as at this location which is opposite the junction.

The cycle track meets a signalised junction with cycle traffic lights.

At the centre of Coundon, the route is crossed by Moseley Avenue and here we see an advantage of two-way cycle tracks because they are easier to thread through signalised junctions unless you are actually rebuilding the whole thing as a protected junction

A floating bus stop with red tactile paving and a rather too small passenger island.

North of the local centre, there's another floating bus stop. I think this one is stingy on space, even though it doesn't have a shelter (the original layout didn't either. Traffic on the other side is actually forming two lanes for the Moseley Avenue junction, so that's where the space is being prioritised. The stop could go further north, but then it would be further away from the shops. It could have been south of the junction, but that would have removed car-parking and sometimes it's about what can pragmatically be built.

A mini crossroads in the cycle track with access to a side road left closed to motors and the main carriageway to the right.

A bit further on and we meet the junction with Pake's Croft and a new modal filter. The filter means that drivers cannot use side streets to bypass the traffic signals at Moseley Avenue through some very narrow streets and as well as creating a new low traffic neighbourhood, it also provides a safe cycling connection to Moseley Avenue Park. Access is provided to the side street opposite and we end up with a tiny cycle track crossroads.

Another red continuous treatment with a large give way marking just before.

Further north still and the junction with Browett Road has been made exit only as part of managing local traffic and keeping through traffic on Barker's Butts Lane.

Cycle traffic lights with the cycle track bending across the road from left to right.

A touch further up and the cycle track crosses from the west side to the east side of Barker's Butts Lane the photograph above shows the signals changing to stop traffic as I approach. The Audi is illegally parked on the buildout, but here you can see car parking has been retained on both sides. I would have liked to have seen a parallel pedestrian crossing here which seems to have been a missed opportunity. It would be fairly simple to add one in.

A steep hill. The two-way cycle track is on the fright hand side of the street with car parking left and a footway with houses beyond to the right.

As the cycle track continued, Barker's Butts Lane gets much steeper (above) and I was very glad to be on an e-bike which was a great combination with the car parking protected space - those using acoustic cycles are going to be wobbling a little bit to get up here!

The cycle track continues up the hill with a gap to the left to access the opposite side road. There are large trees between the cycle track and pavement.

The hill goes on for a while and there are the now familiar gaps to access site streets opposite as we proceed just as here at Laburnum Avenue.

A parallel zebra with a cyclist crossing the cycle side on the left. There are shops beyond.

The cycle track then arrives at a roundabout junction with Scots Lane where Barker's Butts Lane gives way to Westhill Road. The cycle track crosses the Scots Lane arm on a parallel zebra crossing (above), although sometimes drivers were not that attentive and being a linear route, there isn't really cycling connectivity to the other arms.

A floating bus stop with a glass shelter. People are getting on a white bus with a blue cab, including a woman with a buggy.

Just north of the roundabout, there's another floating bus stop with a signalised pedestrian crossing just beyond to create a little local centre interchange for the shops around the roundabout (above).

Same stop. A pair of children scoot past.

As I watched the ebb and flow of people at the bus stop, a couple of children passed me going uphill on their scooters in perfect safety. This is the enabling power of protected cycling space (above).

A two way cycle track with a cycle dock to the right with two cycles and empty spaces.

Just beyond the bus stop, there's a West Midlands Cycle Hire dock outside the Catholic church and school which are more community destinations served by the cycle track and a useful place to pick up or drop off a hire cycle (above).

A red continuous treatment over a vehicle access.

The access to the car park to the complex uses a continuous treatment for consistency (above).

A two way cycle track on the right side of a street with houses far left. The track is protected by a recently planted hedge. There is a grey footeay to the right.

Westhill Road becomes Hollyfast Road and as the route serves and passes the Bablake Playing Fields, I got to see the finished version of what I saw being built in April 2001 (above) which is a really nice to use with a hedgerow protected cycle track (good for catching road spray when wet). Like the rest of the project, the surface was machine-laid smooth and great to ride. The 30° kerb and light grey footway really sets it off as a UK exemplar.

Now the cycle track had it's final surface, I got to test out the kerb by riding up and down it (video clip above). This is why I constantly go on about "forgiving" infrastructure because here the slope meant I wasn't going to get thrown off and the 50mm height meant I wasn't going to catch a pedal. 

Close up of the 30 degree kerb.

The kerb (above) is also going to be detectable to those needing the help and it allows mobility scooter users and others who cannot dismount their cycles to join and leave the cycle track where they want and not where the designer allows them. Perfection.

A parallel zebra crossing over the main road with the cycle track and then pavement to the right.

At the junction with Norman Place (above), the cycle track bends from north to east into Norman Place itself, but a niftily laid out parallel zebra crossing allows people cycling to cross the road to continue north where they are safely reintegrated with traffic (I can't vouch for how much traffic). There is also way to access the cycle track to head south.

A pavement to the left, then the cycle track and a floating bus stop.

The route ends just after another floating bus stop which serves the playing fields (above) and where I had to turn around to head back to the city. And do you know what? When I got back to the Hill Street Bridge, I rode the project again because it is that good.

I have picked up on a few compromises in this write up and one other thing I would have liked to have seen would be a some mid-block gaps in the protection to allow people to cross from the other side to access the cycle track to maximise customer access. But this really is one of my favourite projects and it is both locally useful as well as useful for accessing the city centre. I'll leave you with my second ride because I filmed it!

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Bad Faith

There are lots of bad faith arguments around providing for active travel, reducing air pollution and frankly, any initiative which seeks to challenge the car-brained status quo.

It is very easy to find those arguing in bad faith and in London, the expansion of the ULEZ to the edge of the capital is one such project attracting no end of criticism, misinformation and frankly, hate. Now I have a vested interest in ULEZ being an Outer Londoner living where the local council has done little to deal with air pollution and giving people travel choices, so I'm quite enthusiastic at the promise of some cleaner air. 

On social media, my local neighbourhood groups are awash with comments from people who haven't read anything about the ULEZ because at the basic level, they don't like Sadiq Khan (yes there is often bigotry in there). Of course in some cases, the idea of charging them more for their lifestyle is pressing on some nerves because it's probably the first time they have had to confront the harm they are causing others, even in a small way.

But it's more dangerous than that. Aside from the rent-a-mob who turn up to oppose anything that threatens the status quo, there are darker things going round on social media. For example someone posted this on a local community page that I subscribe to;

Research c40 cities… this isn’t a conspiracy theory it’s conspiracy fact. Sadiq Khan is working for international unelected, unaccountable technocrats.  Our rights and freedoms have been sold-out.

WEF, puppet Sadiq Khan, chair of the subgroup  C40 cities with his puppet master Klaus Schwab, the unelected, unaccountable technocrat, steering the world. 

They have infiltrated the British media, hence why it’s biased. Snap out of it people, we are being herded by technocrats who’ve bought-out our so called democratic representatives. 
Time is crucial…

Now, I subscribed to the group to find out when the baker is back from holiday and suchlike, not to have cranks shove this nonsense down my throat. I robustly called the poster out for peddling conspiracies only to be told how that I was trying to distract people from information and this is what the Nazis did in the 1930s. Me posting a link to Godwin's Law didn't exactly go down well.

This poster also has a lot to say about vaccines, The Great Reset, the fact that The Authorities are coming for your energy inefficient homes next, plenty of Islamophobia and anti-semitism, and of course climate change denial - literally from a few minutes of scrolling. You'll never reason with a person like that and so it wasn't long before I wandered off. Perhaps this is an extreme example, but getting back to the ULEZ expansion it's not exactly helped by the discourse of some politicians in London in the way they attack the Mayor and while that's the rough and tumble of politics, you also see the cranks riffing off what they say because it supports their own tin-hatted position and there is never condemnation from the politicians as it serves their position.

On the bad faith arguments around ULEZ, I recently advanced a hypothesis that the boroughs opposing it would be the ones who had a poor track record on delivering change on the streets they control for walking, cycling and buses. I took the Healthy Streets Scorecard scores and borough rankings and came up with this table;

A table with the data: Borough	HS Score	Ranking (/33)	CO2 Road Emissions Change 2016 to 2019 Richmond (delay)	4.71	15	-20% to -15% Kingston (delay)	3.29	22	-15% to -10% Croydon	3.21	23	0% to +5% Harrow	2.28	26	0% to +5% Bromley	2.20	27	0% to +5% Sutton (delay)	1.91	28	-5% to 0% Havering	1.77	29	+5% to +10% Bexley	1.74	30	+5% to +10% Barking & Dagenham (delay)	1.71	32	-5% to 0% Hillingdon	1.28	33	-5% to 0%

I added a CO2 column as an air pollution emissions proxy with data from Figure 18 of the Travel in London Report 15. I have included links to each borough's position at the end of this post.

For the outright objectors, 5 are Conservative and Havering (my borough) was also Conservative until May last year when the Residents Group took control, although they have an identical position as the Tories did. Overall and with the notable exception of Richmond wanting to delay, the rest of the objectors and delayers have a poor record of delivering local alternatives and in a few cases, these are boroughs who are also doing poorly on general transport emissions. It's actually hypocritical.

For me, their performative pearl-clutching around the poor of their boroughs needing cars is particularly unpalatable, especially as 31% of households in Outer London don't have access to cars. It's also interesting to view these positions against the new research by Dr Ian Walker and his colleagues around "motonormativity" where even non-drivers give driving a free pass because it is what everyone is used to - the status quo. This will also explain to some extent maybe why the conspiracy theorists feel so threatened with a challenge to how they see the world.

This brings me round to another subject which is always guaranteed to get the views polarised and that's floating bus stops. I realise that like a conspiracy theorist, I am shifting subjects a bit here, but I think to a greater or lesser extent, some of the same issues are at play. I wrote about floating bus stops in 2021 and if anything, in the last year or so my stance on them has hardened. This is mainly because there are groups out there who flat object to them and refuse to engage constructively on the subject and who won't offer any alternatives save to say people cycling should be back in the road with motor traffic.

I am not going to rerun the arguments of my 2021 post, but I can't call out ordinary folks for having this position because they do not have enough knowledge and they don't come from a position of authority. However, professionals and organised groups do have the knowledge and authority (to varying degrees) and so by refusing to properly engage or give their alternatives I say they act in bad faith. At worst, they will eventually be ignored and this potentially harms the people they say they represent and advocate for.

I can also bring the conversation round to Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and the disingenuousness of the professionals and groups objecting to them. I railed against this in 2020 and again, my position has hardened against those who who seek to delay or water down schemes, or suggest there is some otherwise unachieved ways of reducing motor traffic on our streets. I am not even talking about the "onesie*" groups and assorted internet cranks (many of who have similar views to the person as the start of this post). No, I am talking about properly constituted or organised groups and professional campaigners and politicians who are acting in very bad faith using people's concerns and worries to advance their own positions and campaigns.

Of course, anyone could lay similar charges at my feet for my view of the world or the view that I'd like to see and that is entirely fair to a certain extent. However, what I continually object to is people who simply will not admit that they want the status quo because it suits their lifestyle. I'd have respect for that because it's honest, although that does then open a conversation around why they need an off road truck to take the kids to school when a hatchback would do the same job.

I think this is really the nub of where we get to. People are used to living their lives in a certain way and change frightens them and maybe they are experiencing loss. Someone not used to crossing a cycle track to a bus stop all of a sudden has that to cope with. Someone used to cutting through side streets in their car now has to stick to the main roads, and a tradesperson with a well-running but older diesel van is facing having to replace it or having to pay more operational costs.

I think it is fine for people to be anxious or upset because they are humans after all. In some cases, they have experienced trauma which has formed part of who they are now. What counts is how professionals, politicians, organisations and groups react to this because anyone who does know better engaging in bad faith arguments don't deserve to be listened to. Even if they think they are helping, they are just helping to maintain the status quo and we can't afford to indulge them any longer.

* Onesie - a term for the local groups who popped up on social media to protest at traffic management being used to get through traffic out of side streets and called themselves "One <insert your town>" because they wanted to drive everywhere, but who are now largely marginal cranks.

ULEZ Expansion - borough positions

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.