Monday 29 October 2012

car-centric junction design

You can find junction design like this all over Britain. Part of the verge has been appropriated, rounded-off, and re-allocated as carriageway for the benefit of vehicles turning into, and emerging from, a side road. Pedestrians are sent on a diversion.

The purpose of this design may benefit larger vehicles, which require more space to turn, but it also encourages car drivers and others to approach or exit the junction faster than they might otherwise have done. This is bad for cyclists, since there is a greater risk of a ‘left hook’ (i.e. a driver overtaking and then immediately turning left) and also encourages some drivers to exit the junction in the face of an oncoming cyclist.

But it is also bad for pedestrians. It ignores the natural desire line. To be diverted for a distance of some ten metres up a side road in order to cross (with another ten metres to return to the original route) is inconvenient and adds to journey length and time. But it also greatly increases the chances of a pedestrian being knocked down while crossing, because this design removes the pedestrian from the sight line of drivers approaching from the rear. This creates the classic scenario for the speeding driver to assert that the pedestrian “just came out of nowhere”.

How could this design be improved?

The original sharp T-junction design could be restored, forcing drivers to turn in and out of the junction at much slower speeds and with much greater care. The footway needs to be reinstated to what must surely once have been its original route, directly across the junction, with no diversion.

Perhaps a better solution would be to keep the design but continue the footway across the junction in a straight line on a raised table. But for that to work there would need to be markings on the carriageway that gave pedestrians absolute priority.

Either way, existing junction design like this, which is found everywhere in the U.K., illustrates how fundamentally car-centric and hostile to walking and cycling street design in our society is. And most people won’t even notice; design like this seems as natural as the weather.

The location is Rawcliffe Lane at the junction with Brompton Road, in a city proud to boast that it puts the pedestrian first in its transport planning.