Auckland Road in Utopia

It looks like Auckland Road will become the backbone of an experimental ANPR controlled Healthy Streets scheme. But instead of a watered-down 2nd generation Low Traffic Neighbourhood, how would we design it if we genuinely wanted to demonstrate what a people friendly neighbourhood could really look like?

Croydon Council has talented highway engineers who must be praying to do more than just put in ANPRs. What would they deliver if they worked in the Netherlands, Denmark, or Germany?

Residents have been campaigning for greater safety on our roads for over 10 years, complaining about volume and speed of vehicles, lack of safety for less-abled people and children to cross the road, and even danger for experienced cyclists when facing oncoming vehicles between parked cars. Noise, pollution, unpleasant environment… it goes on… all aspects of physical and mental health. What measures are required to address these issues, not just play lip-service to?

DateDay85th pctl (mph)Total CountsMax SpeedAvg Speeder% Speeders
Data from Council’s Speed Visor which recorded traffic in one direction only

The only measures that have been introduced so far have been speed bumps that don’t stop vehicles doing 70mph and a speed indicator that displays speedsters’ prowess. So what can be done?

Fortunately, we don’t have to work this out from first principles, as many cities in Europe have demonstrated for decades. The emphasis there is to reverse the priority given to motor vehicles by design.

Let’s consider how Auckland Road is currently designed (or more exactly, what it has evolved into). Essentially it is a 3-carriage wide road with narrow pavements; around 8 metres devoted to vehicles and 2 metre pavements either side. Over most of its length there are no parking restrictions, so effectively there can be 1, 2 or 3 lanes for moving vehicles. There are also islands at a few junctions: 2 at Sylvan Hill, 1 at Cypress Road and 2 at Woodvale Avenue which make it marginally safer for disabled people to cross the road, but not if vehicles are speeding.

Stopping vehicle drivers cutting through the neighbourhood was achieved in the first iteration of the LTN, but this small gain will be lost if residents are allowed through the relocated bus gate. No other issues were addressed.

The essence of best-practice road design in Europe is to restrict the number of vehicles and make it clear that they have the lowest priority. This can be achieved by:

  • Barring traffic from passing through from one main road to another
  • Building entrances that makes it clear people dominate over traffic
  • Giving less space for motorised vehicles
  • Removing the demarcation between road and pavement
  • Complicating the road with chicanes
  • Removing parking

Solution: design in good behaviour

This can best be done by removing the ‘road’ in the street. The street becomes shared space and it is made clear that drivers are bottom of the hierarchy.

Although shared streets vary in appearance and design features, they share a few common characteristics. Almost all remove visible traffic signs, lane markers and curbs. Pavement is laid on an even grade, signalling that cars are entering a pedestrian space and must show respect. Presented with a more meandering path, drivers are inclined to use caution and slow down. Curves added to these roads encourage slower speeds. 

Clearly, a properly designed people-friendly environment will take a lot of investment. Croydon Council should be bidding for a budget to demonstrate the cutting edge of street design.


Woonerf road sign: People are bigger than car; Max 15kph

The best ideas come from the Netherlands as they started to tackle excessive car use over 30 years ago. The result has been far more pleasant and safe cities, but also trips by cycle are 13 times that of the UK. They came up with Woonerfs or Living Streets/Home Zones – a shared space for people and cars. These are becoming popular all over the world. It is shocking that Croydon is behind some cities in the US – New Jersey, Miami – the land of the motor vehicle.

A minimal demand

Croydon Council – how about a proper experiment on one section of Auckland Road, from Fox Hill Green to Sylvan crossing? This section has the following benefits:

  • not used by the 410 bus
  • close to Bromley borders so provides a vivid contrast to differing approaches to road safety
  • has a number of curves which encourage speed moderation
  • has an existing speed monitoring device so that comparisons can be made
  • it is part of a Conservation Area
Bring back our planters

Starting from Fox Hill Green

  • entrance via a single lane chicane that gives priority to drivers leaving the experimental area – making drivers pause here signals a change in priority towards walkers and cyclists
  • reduce speed limit to 10mph
  • between this entrance and Sylvan junction add further chicanes and provide crossing points with islands
  • at Sylvan junction extend paving across all four approaches using brick (similar to Norwood Junction station approach)
  • add seating, People Parking Bays, parklets & large pots with trees/flowers
  • replace curb side storage (parking) with specific parking for car club vehicles and vehicles with blue disability badges
  • any other idea a proper highway engineer could propose
The Cut. Photo Ian Bradler Sunday 21 February 2021

See more…

Woonerf: Inclusive and Livable Dutch Street by Lior Steinberg
Saint Catherine Street in downtown Montreal
Note: half road width dedicated to pedestrians and imaginative seating/play area

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