Slower Speeds and Liveable Town Centres in London

Author: Robert Molteno, Secretary

Presentation to Wandsworth Living Streets by Jeremy Leach (Southwark Living Streets), 19 January 2011

Note: The following is a brief summary of the main parts of Jeremy’s two-part presentation into 2 parts by Robert Molteno (secretary, WLS).

You can download the full presentation HERE (Jeremy Leach, 2011 — pdf + notes)

Slower Speeds:

The case for reducing motorised traffic speeds is compelling:

  • Slower speeds saves lives: If a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle at 35mph, only 50% survive; if hit at 20mh, 97% survive.
  • 20mph schemes cuts crashes drastically: and total traffic casualties (number of people killed or injured) falls by 60%; and for children, by 70%.
  • Slower speeds make localities more liveable: in Europe generally,  the amounts of both walking and cycling increase in 30kph zones.

People like lower speed limits:

  • 74% of people want them in residential areas (National Centre for Social Research, 2005), including 72% of drivers.

Motorists benefit too:

  • Fuel use falls: in Germany, the savings in 30kph are 12%.
  • Vehicle flows improve: meaning more vehicles fit into any given space, and flow along more smoothly.

Location of Collisions in London (Wandsworth in particular):

  • Wandsworth has 3 types of road: Red routes (TLRN — managed by Transport for London); SRN (Strategic Road Network – in practice, key bus routes); and Borough roads.   In Wandsworth, we have 22 miles of Red Routes, compared to 254 miles of Borough roads. Wandsworth has no control over TfL roads; and on  SRN roads, Wandsworth can only act with the consent of Transport for London.
  • Most collisions take place on Main Roads: Transport for London’s Red Routes carry very heavy traffic, and bear most casualties.  In Wandsworth (2007), 74% of collisions were on Red Routes; less than 10% on borough roads.
  • Collisions take place all along Red Routes: Evidence from Southwark collision maps shows this. It is not good enough to try and identify accident ‘black spots’, junctions etc.  A whole road approach to speed is necessary.
  • The key to reducing road collisions and casualties, therefore, is reducing speeds on main roads and in town centres.
  • Almost no collisions take place on Wandsworth’s 20mph roads: in 2007, only 2 collisions (out of a total of 795) took place on 20mph roads!

Casualties on roads in Wandsworth:

  • Nearly half of significant casualties (people killed or seriously injured — KSIs) in Wandsworth occur on the less than the 10% of roads that are Red Routes: The annual KSI rate is 2.30 persons per mile on Red Routes; compared to only 0.25 on Borough roads.
  • Pedestrians and cyclists in Wandsworth bear the brunt of the human cost of collisions: in Wandsworth (2009), pedestrians were 37% of all killed and seriously injured; and cyclists another 19% — making over half of all KSIs in collisions. This is lot higher than the average for Greater London as a whole (56% compared to 46%) and makes Wandsworth the 7th worst borough for the proportion of pedestrians and cyclists killed or seriously injured out of the total number of people in crashes.

What could Wandsworth Living Streets do?

  • Wandsworth Council seems to have no Road Safety Strategy: We need one.
  • Maps: maps showing distribution of road accidents are very informative in understanding what’s happening on our streets. We need collision and casualty figures presented in map form.
  • Build alliances with sympathetic Wandsworth Councillors.
  • But we must tackle Transport for London too – particularly, in relation to Red Routes.

Liveable Town Centres

Jeremy focused his presentation of what is wrong with many Town Centres on a series of striking photographs.

What’s wrong with Town Centres today:

  • Town Centres in London have a poor road safety record: As Southwark shows, so often major roads run right through local town centres. High pedestrian and cyclist injury rates are the result (2007-09 figures).
  • Town Centres exemplify big imbalances in space allocated to pedestrians (and cyclists), compared to motorised vehicles: see photos of cramped bus stops and narrow, cluttered pavements, compared to wide roadways, in Camberwell.
  • Crossings disadvantage pedestrians: Often corralled by steel railings. Often, pedestrians are forced to cross a busy road in segments, waiting on ‘islands’ in the centre of the road. Jeremy  showed on dramatic example where pedestrians have to cross a road 8 metres wide in 5 sections, taking on average one minute 40 seconds to get across.
  • Clutter further gets in the way of pedestrians: broken off street lamp poles, rubbish bins, shops A-frame advertising displays, notices attached to vertical poles, guard railings, direction signs for motorists etc.
  • Street lighting designed for vehicles, not pedestrians: Usually the lights are too high up; and often a nasty orange colour.

London has a number of excellent new Street Designs which show what can be done for our Town Centres:

  • Walworth Road re-design: ‘Before’ and ‘After’ photos – showing wide pavements, trees, benches to sit on, white-coloured street lights, more cycle storage racks, removal of steel railings, and a 20mph speed limit. There has been a reallocation of space as between the ‘roadway’ used by vehicles, and the ‘street’ as used by everyone. Casualties have halved. Bus times have stayed steady.
  • The Cut (near Waterloo): Similar steps to Walworth Road. But also bus-friendly raised tables; reduced clutter; zebra crossing lights sharing with street lamps; more greenery; better quality of footway surfaces.
  • Herne Hill: reduced access for motor vehicles.

Benefits of these changes:

  • Commercial: more trade for local businesses (retail, cafes etc)
  • Health: as air pollution falls; and more people walk or cycle to use the town centre.
  • Pleasanter places to be in: noise levels fall. Less crowded.
  • Safer: both in terms of injuries, and reduced street crime.
  • Environmentally sustainable: as more people take advantage of changing their travel modes.

What Wandsworth Living Streets can do:

  • Visit examples in London of new Town Centre street design.
  • Press  Wandsworth Councillors and officers to accompany them.
  • Gather local data (including informal street audits) and use this to work with other community groups with a common interest in Wandsworth Living Streets’ agenda for change.
  • Press the Council to get hold of Manual for Streets 2 (Robert adds: This is the latest compendium of good ideas for redesigning Town Centre layouts. Cost £40 from Amazon).
  • Find out possible sources of funding: Transport for London; LIP (Local Implementation Plan) funds  for smaller schemes; Section 106 money via developers etc.
  • In relation to Wandsworth’s various Town Centres, dialogue with the Council re what can be learned from other London good practice schemes, and applied to our Town Centres.