Southfields Improvement Scheme: Comments from Wandsworth Living Streets, 24 January 2016
The primary purpose of Wandsworth Living Streets (WLS), a local group of the national charity Living Streets, is to promote walking as a healthy, enjoyable everyday activity and to enable this by ensuring that the urban realm across the borough of Wandsworth is safe, pleasant and inviting for people – whatever their level of mobility.
WLS welcomes in principle Wandsworth Council’s current proposals to create a greater sense of ‘place’ by improving the public realm in Southfields. This is the kind of mixed use locality that could experience increased footfall and retail patronage if made more attractive and easier to access on foot and by pedal cycle. We note the growing body of evidence that pedestrians spend more per month in shopping areas than any other mode; maximising ease of access on foot is therefore crucial in supporting shops and other businesses in Southfields ‘village’.
We also note that, according to Wandsworth’s current Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, ‘Key Messages 2014 – General Adult Challenges’, 133,000 Wandsworth residents – that is, 43% of the borough’s population – are overweight or obese; and 84,000 residents are insufficiently physically active to benefit their health. We think that streetscape proposals such as those put forward for Southfields by Wandsworth Council should explictly make reference to these and other relevant public health statistics, in recognition of the Council’s public health role and the potential for more people-friendly streets to enable and encourage local residents (and visitors) to be more physically active in their daily lives. We would further suggest that such proposals should be supported by use of HEAT and SART analyses in order to strengthen the case for proposals which promote mode shift as a contribution to a healthier local population (see recently published TfL Guidance for London ‘Valuing the health benefits of transport schemes’, http://content.tfl.gov.uk/valuing-the-health-benefits-of-transport-schemes.pdf ).
- Wimbledon Park Road, Replingham Road and Augustus Road crossroads:
- Currently controlled by traffic signals with signalised pedestrian crossings, including a diagonal crossing. We strongly object to any proposals to replace these with a mini-roundabout since this measure would encourage drivers to travel faster, and would materially reduce amenity and safety of pedestrians and cyclists.
- We support the suggestion that the junction ‘envelope’ at this crossroads is surfaced in a way that indicates to drivers that they are passing through a location which has purposes other than primarily facilitating their movement. In order to encourage people to drive more slowly, hence reducing road danger, we suggest that more consideration is given to reducing the junction envelope, bearing in mind necessary bus turning movements.
- Replingham Road has a recently introduced 20mph limit, which is very welcome; however, Wimbledon Park Road and, curiously, most of Augustus Road which falls within the scheme limits, do not. This can be confusing to drivers and a source of danger to non-motorised users on Wimbledon Park Road and Augustus Road. We therefore ask that Wimbledon Park Road and the eastern end of Augustus Road also be given a 20mph speed limit in order to reinforce the message to drivers that they are in an area where other users – local shoppers, children visiting Southfields Library, people visiting the dentist etc., have priority.
- Installation of Pedestrian SCOOT: This new technology, currently being trialled by TfL elsewhere in the borough, adjusts traffic signal timings so as to allow more time for pedestrians to cross, and/or shorten the pedestrian waiting times, where there is a significant build-up of pedestrians waiting to cross the road. During rush-hours at Southfields Station, introduction of this measure might be significantly useful. Similarly using Pedestrian SCOOT to reduce pedestrian waiting times when it is very wet or cold would have the effect of increasing pedestrian amenity, thus encouraging walking.
- Clutter and guardrail removal: we welcome. However, we note that there is a significant shortage of cycle parking facilities. When WLS conducted its inspection (on a weekday winter morning from 9am to 11.30am), all cycle racks were occupied, and numerous bicycles were, of necessity, secured to guard rails. Removal of pedestrian guardrail therefore needs to be carried out in a staged process, with replacement cycle parking made available simultaneously (even if in the form of temporary ‘toast-rack’ style provision). Otherwise there is a danger of mode shift from cycling to driving or (often overcrowded) peak-time public transport.
- More cycle parking provision is required: Following on from the above, there are numerous opportunities on Replingham Road to install short-stay cycle parking e.g. cycle hoops on poles needed for other purposes that are located close to various shops and small businesses. We suggest that there is scope for on-carriageway cycle parking on the section of Wimbledon Park Road in the vicinity of the Post Office. This would be a much more space-efficient use of carriageway, given the number of cycle spaces that can be provided in a single car parking space. We did not see any residential cycle storage provision in the area other than at Wimbledon Park Court, which looked smart and well used. This general imbalance in provision is likely to deter uptake of cycling in Southfields (and encourage driving – thus increasing pressure on carriageway space).
- There is a particular need for more cycle parking outside Southfields Station: We ask that more cycle parking be provided outside Southfields station and close to it e.g. directly opposite on Wimbledon Park Road. We think that removing the median railing (see below) provides an opportunity to reallocate some highway space to cycle parking and/or footway. We are disappointed at the prospect of ‘new’ footway being given over to (car) parking, since this is likely to worsen the environment for walking.
- The huge steel pole and camera on Replingham Road: Is this currently functioning? For what purpose? It really does constitute street clutter.
- Wooden bollards on Replingham Road: These have the unintended effect of considerable narrowing of the footway. Obviously illegal for delivery vehicles to park there. We think the Council should consider removing the bollards and ensure that adequate enforcement against illegal parking is in place.
- Side-road entry treatments: We welcome this intention to enable step-free movement and to calm turning motor traffic. We suggest that a ‘Copenhagen’ approach be adopted that ensures not only step-free movement, but in a manner where the footway clearly continues straight across the mouth of the junction with side-roads. [For example, see Quietway 5 consultation plan showing Bromells Road (Clapham Old Town, London Borough of Lambeth) continuous footway at http://www.lambeth.gov.uk/sites/default/files/pts_1_cc_bromells_v005_151019_final_.pdf ]. This kind of treatment is a particularly strong reminder to drivers of motor vehicles that pedestrians have priority when crossing side-roads, as per Highway Code Rule 170. As well as side-roads off Replingham Road and (off Augustus Road, Sutherland Grove), we think that there are candidates for ‘Copenhagen crossing’ entry treatments along Wimbledon Park Road e.g. the service roads into Wimbledon Park Court, located between Southfields Library and Southfields Station, both currently form a rather pedestrian-unfriendly junction, see streetview image at https://goo.gl/maps/9nRQFNrVMVC2 ).
- Incorporating forecourts into the scheme: We agree that many are in poor condition and that it would be desirable to get owners’ agreement for private forecourts to be repaired and incorporated in this scheme, particularly on Replingham Road. We suggest that:
- The Council discuss with current shop and restaurant owners to see if they might be amenable; it may be helpful to arrange a guided walk-about of a street in London in order to see the potential public realm benefits. e.g. the Cut, Waterloo, SE1.
- Failing their willing incorporation in these public realm improvement proposals, the Council should introduce frontagers to one or two mixed-use streets where local commercial premises owners have come together to initiate public realm improvements. e.g. Northcote Road, SW11.
- Removal of the median barrier in Wimbledon Park Road outside Southfields station & associated footway widening: We welcome the proposal to remove the median barrier. As noted above, we have concerns about the proposal to reallocate highway space to motorised users i.e. where it is proposed that the widened footway be given over to car parking. The proposals, to judge by the plans presented, also do not appear to have considered the existence of a useful lead-in cycle lane which provides access to the ASL/cycle box for southbound travel. We are concerned that Wandsworth Council will as a result inadvertently suppress cycling in this locality, and encourage driving. This would be highly undesirable for well rehearsed reasons as well as being inconsistent with the Council’s public health responsibilities and its recent adoption of a Wandsworth cycling strategy.
- Footway outside former petrol station on Wimbledon Park Road: Pavement needs restoring.
- More localised footway widening and current car parking provision: In view of the current curtileges, it is difficult to identify candidate locations for footway widening unless the Council is prepared to tackle the over-generous car parking facilities on Replingham Road and the eastern side of Wimbledon Park Road (some of which, we note, contributes to conflict between road users). Our impression was that many parked vehicles did not belong to people patronising the local facilities, but were longer-term parking. We suggest that a range of steps be taken:
- Removal of some existing car parking spaces: For example, we think that several spaces could more usefully be replaced with a zebra crossing on Wimbledon Park Road located near the junction with Gartmoor Gardens, in order to improve safety and pedestrian access to Southfields Library.
- In one or two locations, installing cycle parking facilities on the carriageway, notably near the Post Office on Wimbledon Park Road.
- On Replingham Road, consider further existing best practice in how to reduce the visual intrusion and dominance of motor vehicles: As stated above, the recent introduction of a 20mph speed limit on Replingham Road is welcome; but more needs to be done to meet the scheme’s stated objectives. We note that the Council’s proposals already draw attention to how the existing car parking facilities detract from the appearance of the street.
- On Wimbledon Park Road (the western side at the junction with Augustus Road), there is a pinchpoint at and near the pedestrian crossing. The carriageway could be slightly narrowed and a ‘tighter’ junction with Augustus Road introduced – which would in itself additionally have the effect of slowing turning traffic here.
- Planting: We highlight two dimensions to this:
- Street Trees: almost totally absent. Street trees can make a very positive difference to a street’s ambience, as St John’s Hill proves. The big opportunity is in Replingham Road.
- Other greening & enhancement measures: We are aware of the maintenance implications. We therefore suggest that planters, hanging baskets, are the kind of practical measures taken by shopkeepers in Northcote Road that the Council should encourage Replingham Road shopkeepers to emulate, perhaps as a quid pro quo for Council funding for renovating private frontages.
- No carriageway repaving: We note that in St John’s Road, Clapham Junction, by comparison, carriageway repaving was incorporated in the streetscape scheme. To our knowledge the only technical problems that have resulted have been at the joints with the ordinary carriageway surface. Local shoppers and residents have welcomed that measure, however, and it sends a strong signal to drivers that the carriageway is not solely the domain of motorists.
- No loss of parking on Replingham Road: We note the lack of proposals in the Council’s consultation document to address the current imbalance between motor vehicle parking and the creation of a public realm which is truly inviting to walking and cycling.
- Freight delivery times: We note that the Council has already taken the step in Putney High Street to allow freight deliveries only outside the period 7am to 7pm. This measure should similarly be taken on Replingham Road and Wimbledon Park Road. In particular there are already two metro style supermarkets, with a third (M&S) about to open – which makes having this restriction in place all the more important.
- Street lighting: Our street inspection took place during daylight hours and so we did not look at the quality, from a walking perspective, of the existing lighting. We note, of course, that the Council is moving towards LED lighting, which makes sense. Any changes to lighting should also minimise upward scattering to the sky and be pedestrian-friendly, that is, provide a well-lit street which actively contributes to a secure and pleasant public realm.
- Public seating: We noted only one instance of this, on Replingham Road close to the crossroads. Southfields Station forecourt could be considered as a possible location for additional provision. There is also potential for public seating a short distance along Replingham Road from the crossroads; however, without space reallocation we recognise that there is limited public footway space of sufficient width currently available for this purpose.
- Public Signage: There is a quite attractive signpost outside Southfields Station. But otherwise, there is far too little public signage. Legibility needs to be improved for the two main sets of users of this locality: a) regular users and occasional visitors, most of whom will live locally; and b) visitors to Wimbledon Tennis, who are concentrated in June/July. We suggest: Installation of Legible London signage outside Southfields Station, overlooking the crossroads: This should include such local features as the Post Office, Library, places of worship, Wimbledon Park (nowhere currently is there any indication that this lovely park exists a short distance to the south along Wimbledon Park Road) and other nearby green spaces such as Coronation Gardens and King George’s Park.
- Other possible measures:
- Two-way cycling on currently one-way side-streets off Replingham Road: We note that one-way working on many residential streets was introduced by Wandsworth Council at a time when there was less recognition of the importance of enabling residents to build physical activity into their daily lives via active travel. The Council should consider extending its upcoming trial of allowing two-cycling on such streets to these streets, as a practical measure to support and enable active travel for local trips.
- Zebra Crossing on Replingham Road approx 100 – 150 metres from the crossroads: We did not observe pedestrians having difficulty crossing the road. However, for older people, the disabled, people encumbered with shopping and/or buggies, and schoolchildren, a Zebra Crossing would increase their sense of security and actual safety when crossing the road from one line of shops to the other. (Please also see suggestion of zebra crossing on Wimbledon Park Road under 6a, above).
- Street Name Plates: We noted one or two locations where a street name plate needs to be installed. e.g. Heythorp Street, at its junction with Replingham Road.
- ‘A’-Board enforcement: A couple of premises have got into the habit of locating ‘A’-Boards on the public footway. The Council needs to draw this to their attention and point out that it is not allowed – as well as contributing to a public realm that deters people from walking, to the detriment of Southfields’ economic vitality.
Wandsworth Living Streets, 24 January 2016