Monday 24 November 2014


Even with the polish from last week's post still barely dry, there came a funding announcement from Transport for London for some "bright ideas to radically improve London's streets".

This is the Mayor's "Future Streets Incubator Fund" which was announced in March to the tune of £1.8m. Read the full details for yourself, but the concept was:

From ideas such as temporary public plazas to pop-up street sporting activities, the 'Future Streets Incubator Fund' will help convert more of London's streets into spaces where people can socialise and interact.

There will also be a focus on creating new, greener spaces, boosting sustainable transport, testing new street layouts and alternative ways that roads and streets can be used.

The Mayor and TfL are looking for creative pilot scheme submissions from local boroughs, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and community groups in order to award the substantial funding over the next three years.

The idea seems to have come from the Roads Task Force which provides an update in its report from March of this year (p17).

Now £1.8m is small beer for the Mayor when compared to the wider budget he controls and this is funded at £600k per year for three years, so relatively modest. Funnelled through TfL, we can surely look forward to some real transport innovation;

The fund will champion innovation and will be a great way to temporarily try out new street layouts using low-cost measures.

The full TfL webpage can be viewed here, but the details are rather sketchy and so I will reproduce them below. Before I continue, there are a couple good ideas (in my humble opinion of course), a few which have been done before in the UK (so where is the innovation?) and some appear to be complete cobblers (yes, in my view of course, you are welcome to disagree).

As more details emerge, then I may well have to change my mind, but today, I call it as I see it. One other thing to note is that these have not just been punted in, the process involved organisations giving outline details to TfL so that feedback could be given before they were invited to formally submit bids. In other words, TfL considered the proposals to have merit before the bids were made. 

So, at last, I get round to the schemes - descriptions in italics, my comments underneath each one.

Simultaneous Green
In partnership with the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.
A continental-style simultaneous green signal for cyclists will be trialled [sic] using advanced technology. The junction will detect the presence of cyclists before giving them a dedicated green light in all directions during which they can cross along their desire lines.

Well, it will be no surprise that I welcome this, but why it wasn't included on TfL's off street trials, I will never know. We don't get know if this will be at a "live" site or as another off street trial somewhere in Richmond. There is no detail on whether this will be as part of protected cycle lanes or a pre-green fudge from ASLs. It seems a bit random as this would not be a borough which springs to mind for being at the cutting edge of cycling. Still, they have now massively raised my expectation, so let's see where it goes.

The Bounceway
In partnership with Architecture for Humanity.
The Bounceway will be the world's longest urban trampoline. This iconic and inclusive new public space in the heart of London will boost fitness and fun, and provide a novel form of transport where the journey is the main event. The trial will be part-funded by a crowdfunding campaign set to launch in late 2014.

Pardon. What the hell is this? "A fun and novel form of transport"? TRAMPOLINES ARE NOT TRANSPORT. Seriously, TfL, what the hell are you doing? Do I really need to criticise this? I found this link after a bit of delving - it has a link to Architecture for Humanity and so I reckon this is the concept. Perhaps this is intended to be a public art idea to promote discussion, but there is no way this should in anyway linked to a TfL-run transport project. Nonsense.

In partnership with the London Borough of Bromley.
A flexible lane using intelligent road studs and dynamic signs will switch between loading bays, parking and a bus lane throughout the day. The trial will allow road space to be used more efficiently and the road studs will monitor traffic flow to help improve road reliability.

Well at first glance it seems reasonable. But wait. We can already do this. Bus Lanes can be part time and we can put parking and loading bays in them to be used outside of bus lane operational times. OK, there may be something new here, but it looks like a solution looking for a problem.

Colourful Crossings
In partnership with Better Bankside.
An artist will bring graphic designs to pedestrian crossings and the carriageway on Southwark Street in Bankside. The crossings will show how art can change people's perceptions and use of junctions and bring the street to life.

You what? How can "art change people's perceptions and use of junctions"? Looks like an entire barrel of special polish to me. Southwark Street needs more than graphic designs at crossings and junctions, believe me.

In partnership with the City of Westminster.
E-parking permits will communicate with sensors embedded in disabled resident parking bays to provide better, more targeted enforcement of parking regulations and ensure kerbside access for Blue Badge holders. E-permits have the potential to be used in other types of bays to improve parking management across the Capital.

You have to giggle really, it is no surprise that Westminster has a parking scheme! What is interesting is the blurb confirms that the idea is not innovative as the concept has been used elsewhere. I assume the idea will use road sensors which detect parked vehicles along the lines of the scheme Westminster already runs. In this scenario, I assume the sensor will detect the permit holder's vehicle using a tag in the vehicle. If a vehicle without a tag parks, then enforcement will be alerted and they can turn up and nick the offender. But, why can't they just get on with it for their disabled residents now? 

In partnership with Team London Bridge and the London Borough of Ealing.
Parking bays will be repurposed to provide amenities such as seating, canopies, greenery and cycle parking. These living spaces will give streets a cost-effective makeover and improve the environment for pedestrians and cyclists.

Well, cycle parking in parking bays is old hat. It has been done by Hackney and elsewhere, plus others are looking at the idea. Change parking bays into seating and parklets? There is no innovation here, we can move kerb lines now.

School Streets
In partnership with the London Borough of Camden.
Streets around three schools will be closed at both the start and end of the day to promote healthy, active travel and make walking safer and easier for children. The trial will encourage people to make small changes to how they travel and has the potential to make streets more lively and fun.

I think Scotland might get there first with its parking ban, although this idea seems like a ban on driving. Not sure there is much innovation here as this is a similar concept (I guess) to play streets. We have had these for years and there are quite a few schemes in London already. I assume that this will be a series of roads closed, perhaps as "pedestrian zones" during specific times of the day. The interesting thing here will be whether residents are also banned from driving though these streets as well or if problems get shifted elsewhere! Yes, might be an interesting one to watch!

Tunnel Vision
In partnership with the Brick Box.
A blighted underpass will be transformed using interactive new lighting design and resilient, low-maintenance technology to improve safety and security for pedestrians.

This mob have form (assuming I have got the right people of course) - their website talks of a temporary scheme in Thamesmead, although I guess this must be a permanent way of dealing with a "blighted underpass". Which underpass and why is it blighted would be my first questions. I suspect that the answer is not to shine lights at it. 

Sight Line
In partnership with the London Borough of Islington and the Royal College of Art.
Improvements will be made to road work barriers to help visually impaired people navigate around them. Features include tactile arrows, high contrast signs and real-time digital location information.

OK, this is interesting and could be really helpful to many users trying to get through roadworks. I just hope they realise who will be installing temporary barriers as they don't always get it to perfection!

Cloud Consolidator
In partnership with the Fitzrovia Partnership.
An online purchasing system will be introduced to reduce the number of freight vehicles by combining common orders and deliveries for local businesses.

I am not sure if this is particularly new as deliver consolidation schemes were being looked at for the Olympics. However, the idea makes sense as it could be cheaper for the individual businesses and reduce lorry movements. I await the scheme with interest.

So, there you have it. The Mayor and TfL have run out of ideas and so after an exhaustive search, we have the cream of London's transport and streets ideas. To be fair, there are a few which are worthy at first glance and might go interesting places.

The trouble is, these sort of funding streams bring the showman designers out of their rubber-coated rooms. Then we get trampolines suggested as modes of transport. Sigh.


  1. Some of these are almost as daft as some of the "innovations" I've recently proposed to my better half to relieve the tedium of long commutes, based on the gamification of driving. The front runners are yellow hatched junctions which automatically send back to the previous junction any driver who enters them when the exit is blocked, and disabled parking bays which automatically relocate the car of any non-disabled motorist who parks there to a remote car park, leaving him with the challenge of finding out where his car has gone. We do need to crack teleportation technology first, though.

    1. Heh - I just had visions of this teleporter (just after 10s)

      Mind you, a teleporter will make most of the transport debate irrelevant!

  2. Well, the Bounceway has disappeared from TfL's website along with the Tumblr link I posted above. Perhaps someone has woken up and seen the idea for what it is!