Sunday, 21 April 2019

Gap In The Hump

Those who have followed this blog for any length of time will know that I am a fan of the little design details which make all the difference.

This week, I want to share a little road hump layout which was designed by a former colleague who not only cycles, but who has a member of their family who has been using a wheelchair.

The location for the hump is an entrance/ exit to a car park (about 45 spaces) which serves a local park complex. The access point is only one vehicle wide and go drivers have to use give and take to get/ in. Some people also walk and cycle through the gate if it is on their desire line.

There has been a long standing problem with the behaviour of some drivers leaving the site not doing so slowly enough and people walking past on the main road are put at risk. Visibility is not wonderful and so driving needs to be walking pace.

A pedestrian's view across the entrance.

In order to make sure people drive out slowly, an off-the-shelf modular hump system was used to place humps where motor vehicle wheels would run, but with a 1.1m gap between them for people walking, using wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs as well as people cycling. For reference, my Christiania cargotrike is 0.85m between the outside edge of the pair of wheels.

I suppose if I was being completely pedantic, I might have gone for yellow end pieces for maximum conspicuity, but the design works very well with drivers having to slow to a crawl because the humps are quite severe otherwise.

Even a relatively narrow Mini cannot escape

The humps are set back from the gates at the distance the front of an average car sticks out beyond the driver's position to ensure the emerging speed is very low. Just before the rear wheels go over the humps, a driver should have a good view of people walking past.

The humps set back from the gate.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Footway Parking Ban Comes A Little Closer

I was writing this to be an article for Highways Magazine except I realised that I had covered the subject only in September. Not wishing to waste my effort, I've posted it here because my last rant was back in 2013.

The ban which has come a little closer is only in Scotland as the Scottish Parliament has voted in principle to ban footway parking after a consultation which saw 83% of those responding supporting the proposal. There has been a long-running campaign by Living Streets for the ban, which the charity wants rolled out to the rest of the UK. The change in Scotland is far from delivered however, because there are those who want to water the idea down with exemptions for their own particular view point, such as allowing deliveries to take place for up to 20 minutes.

My view is straightforward and that we should ban footway parking and give the space back to people on foot. If there is a supremely compelling reason for it to be considered in a particular location, then it should be designed and signed by exception. I’ve heard all of the arguments before about emergency access and people having nowhere to park their cars, but that’s tough. Emergency access routes can be protected with double yellow lines. If the only way people can store their car is on the footway, then that should be their problem and not that of the person trying to get past with their wheelchair or buggy who are forced into the road or the visually impaired person who has to try and negotiate the selfishly placed obstacle.

It’s not just about access for pedestrians, footway parking destroys surfaces, obstructs access to utility chambers and degrades the walking experience, because even when space to squeeze past is left, the simple ability to walk in pairs along the street having a conversation is lost.

Footway parking across the UK is a total mess which comes from our highway laws which broadly allow people to do what they like unless it is otherwise regulated (either through national legislation or local traffic order). Enforcement from a civil point of view relies on having traffic orders and signs in place and the response from police forces is highly variable and relies on the use of obstruction to target the badly parked. London and Exeter are the curious exceptions where footway parking was banned many years ago by primary legislation. There is a compelling case to sort this out across the whole of the UK.

There have been plans in the past, but it has always been a ‘fear’ of the resources the police and local councils would need to enforce it and that as usual, it was for local authorities to make their own decisions which in reality means that view have pushed on with local bans. We can of course install bollards to stop footway parking, but this comes at a cost and erodes the very space we are trying to protect.

How did we get here? As usual, we didn’t especially go out to design in footway parking into the fabric of our streets and indeed, many streets predate mass motorisation anyway. It’s a symptom of wider problems in society where the perfect storm of high levels of car ownership meets selfish attitudes from people more worried about their wing mirrors being clipped than a child walking to school. And so the cycle continues until every part of available space has been given over to our cars.

Footway parking should not be something which is up for debate. As with so much about our streets, the conversation needs to be moved on to one where we acknowledge we have a problem and work to solve it. Polite campaigns haven’t dealt with the problem and leaving it to local councils and the police has been, in the main, an abject failure. We are dealing with a cultural problem in which those with power and a large physical presence on our streets exert their will on those without a voice or power.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Back to Traffex

This week, I made a return visit to the biennial highways industry trade show, Traffex, which for someone like me is always a geek out.

In previous years, the show had a distinct split between the companies promoting their products and companies promoting technology and as ever, this was the case this year with plenty of kit on show.

There was the chance to get up close and personal with some of the things we can see each day on our streets (and understand how they work) as well as the more unusual items such as roadworks lorries with crash cushions which you never get the chance to have a good look around.

There were lots of bollards and other products on show and at least for cycling, there were some mini-mock ups of protected cycle lanes using bolt-down units for quick roll out as shown by Rosehill Highways below;

There was an impressive stand from HS Roads who were showcasing safety barriers and vehicle restraint systems, including a steel bridge parapet system clad to resemble brick. This was interesting because brick parapets are notoriously bad at restraining impacts from large vehicles, but they are often in urban settings which need a different visual treatment than motorways.

On the technology side, there was lots of systems using ANPR and vehicle recognition to automate enforcement of moving traffic contraventions such as the rolling video from Videalert showing people ignoring banned turns;

The new component this year was the subject of mobility and what the future might look like with stands showing off hydrogen fuel cell works vehicles, autonomous vehicle systems and lots and lots of very advanced technology. 

However, it's not about 'stuff', there needs to be thinking behind it and so it was a pleasure to be a guinea pig in a round of Mobility Lab UK's Mobility Scenario Game where I was role playing as a single parent taking direct action to stop CO2 emissions within 5 years. 

The game provides a challenge, gives you a character and how you are going to meet the challenge. You then pitch your solution to the games master to see who is going to win the round. A bit of fun with a serious message!

Sunday, 31 March 2019

ALARM 2019

I wouldn't say it's a tradition, but I have kept an eye on the annual Asphalt Industry Alliance Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey (ALARM).

For those who have missed the survey before, it's a survey of local authorities in England and Wales which seeks to quantify the current state of the carriageways of local roads and so excludes footways, bridges and lighting. Last year was encouraging as the maintenance backlog had reduced from £12bn to £9bn, although it was a mixed picture. This year, it's still a mixed picture with the backlog sitting at £10bn.

As ever, we have the key headlines in a graphic (above). Against the continuing backdrop of the motorway network expansion and other strategic (and so not local authority roads), the two-tier funding approach continues where we build and maintain large roads from national budgets and with local roads being funded through a mix of council tax and bidding for central funding pots.

Interestingly, the funding mix for England (excluding London) has remained the same as last year with Wales getting a little more central funding. London, however, has seen a huge drop in central funding and this will be a direct result of the Government removing Transport for London's revenue support of £700m a year. 

The proportion of funding spent on reactive maintenance is also interesting. Now, I am not entirely sure where the ideal 16% comes from (it is generated by the ICE and CIHT), but in theory, preventative maintenance is more cost-efficient than reactive maintenance and so a high proportion of reactive maintenance is an indication of underlying problems as reactive work rarely deals with the root cause of failure. Wales seems to be doing well, England is going the wrong way and London has maintained its high level of reactive maintenance.

Structural condition is improving in England and Wales, although it's worth keeping an eye on the 'poor' roads with less than 5 years remaining because they'll end up sucking in money from a structural point of view. The roads are deteriorating in London, although it is a complex picture and my feeling is the 'poor' roads are going to be local streets rather than the TfL network and borough 'A' roads.

The ALARM survey can only be a snapshot, but it shows that the highway maintenance backlog is remains stubbornly high. Throw in the £6.7bn backlog for bridge maintenance and the continued cuts to local government which tends to hit highway maintenance hard, the ride ahead remains bumpy.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Controlling Parking Over An Area

I suppose this is a bit of a recap this week as I have covered parking control before, but I am currently doing some research for another design guide and I though it might be helpful to group some techniques together in one place.

One of the irritating things about UK parking management is that the underlying (general) position is that people can park where they like unless otherwise indicated which means we have to go through a legal process and spend money to establish control. Of course, there are some exclusions to my sweeping generalisation, but it doesn't matter for this post.

Specifically, I'm interested in controlled parking over an area rather than any 'spot' treatments and so we have three main ways to achieve this;
  • Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs)
  • Restricted Parking Zones (RPZs)
  • Permit Parking Areas (PPAs)
Each type of scheme is required to have traffic orders in place to be enforceable and in establishing traffic orders, a level of consultation is required which includes the UK quirk of us only having to consider written objections (and that's another debate).

Controlled Parking Zone
The CPZ is probably the most well-known area parking management approaches. At its core, we have a system whereby drivers are informed about the controls by large traffic signs as they drive into an area and these controls are reinforced by yellow lines (known as 'waiting restrictions') which prohibit parking during the operation times and signed parking bays which allow parking, depending on who has been given priority.

Zone 'entry' sign 

Zone 'exit' sign

Each motor traffic entry and exit point requires the appropriate signs (as above). The entry sign will generally have the time of operation in the panel at the bottom (which should reflect the operational of the bays and yellow lines); a lack of panel means the CPZ is in continuous operation. 

There are variations on the "Controlled" aspect which can be changed to "Pay and Display" and other items and loading can also be banned within the zone. Section 14 of Chapter 3 of the Traffic Signs Manual gives some of the more detailed advice.

It is possible to have yellow lines with different times of operation, but this then rather makes a CPZ pointless as they would have to be signed (apart from double yellow lines which don't need to be signed) and lots of waiting restriction time plates are needed which adds clutter. It is also possible to have bays operating at different times the the CPZ and because each bay has to be signed anyway, it doesn't make any real difference to the clutter.

Bay within a CPZ - this variant is for resident permit holders.

However, in my view, it is far easier for people to understand if the zone, waiting restrictions and bays all operate at the same time with items such as double yellow lines, bus stop clearways and specific controls being included. Less complication is always better and people will be able to understand what is expected of them more readily.

Restricted Parking Zone
It is usual to see RPZs used in town centres rather than residential areas (although they can be used anywhere) and this is because they were originally designed for historic centres where it was felt that yellow lines would be unsightly or where materials (just as cobbles) don't take paint very well.

RPZ entry sign with no waiting allowed unless it is in a signed bay.

Like CPZs, RPZs have entry and exit signs, but the yellow lines of the RPZ are replaced by upright signs placed at regular intervals. Bays (for whatever purpose) are provided where parking and loading (and other activity) can take place and unlike CPZs, RPZs allow us to use materials in the surface of the street to 'mark out' the extent of the bay. Section 15 of Chapter 3 of the Traffic Signs Manual provides more detail.

RPZ 'repeater' sign which replaced double yellow lines and loading plate which replaced 'kerb blips' of a loading ban.

A loading bay which is marked out in a rectangle in front of the door/ windows with a loading bay sign (with arrows) at each end of the bay to show the extents.

Parking Permit Area
A relatively new idea, the PPA allows us to dispense with road markings altogether unless we need to explicitly control parking differently. The PPA essentially allows anyone with a permit to park anywhere passed a certain point which is marked with entry and exit signs. It is optional to provide repeater signs within the area and my view is it is worth providing some for clarify.

PPA entry sign.

PPA repeater sign.

The PPA is intended for self-contained areas such as cul-de-sacs or places with low through traffic, but additional bays can be provided for non-permit holders if referred on the entry signs and by marked and signed bays within. For example, we might wish to provide some pay-and-display parking in a side street subject to a PPA to serve shops on a main road which is otherwise restricted. Section 13.10 of Chapter 3 of the Traffic Signs Manual gives more information.

These three systems are obviously suited to different situations, but they are useful tools to deal with area-wide parking management. I would always advocate keeping things as simple as possible because when we don't we create doubt and as well as being potentially unfair to the driver, we run the risk of any parking tickets being overturned at appeal. We must manage parking in our urban places and it's important to have an appreciation of the different ways we can achieve the same goals.