Portsmouth City Council is consulting on plans to improve Cosham High Street and has allocated £200,000 of public funds to spend on changes to the layout and street features between Vectis Way and Wayte Street.
Central to the proposals is the retention of the experimental one-way system which was introduced at the time of the closure of Northern Road bridge earlier in 2013. Cosham High Street was made one-way southbound between between Wayte Street and Vectis Way; Vectis Way and Wootton Street carried the northbound traffic whilst a short section of Wayte Street was made one-way eastbound only.
In addition to keeping this one-way scheme, changes in the plan include build-outs, trees and a significant increase in on-street parking.
Portsmouth Cycle Forum’s view on the improvements is mixed. We welcome the injection of £200,000 to improve the environment of Cosham but question the way the money is to be spent.
Our main comment is that the proposals focus on motor traffic flow and car parking with little, if any, attention to encouraging active and sustainable travel. The project’s worthy intention is to make this section of Cosham High Street a more attractive place to visit and shop but we don’t think that these proposals will achieve that aim.
At a meeting with the project team we learned that the most successful section of the shopping area is the pedestrianised northern part. We were told that it is not possible to make the middle section a pedestrian only zone because of the access needed to the adjoining streets, but it would seem sensible to reduce the traffic to an absolute minimum. This could be done by closing Wayte Street between Wootton Street and the High Street and restoring Wootton Street to two-way traffic. The High Street would remain two-way but with much reduced levels of traffic.
However, our impression is that traffic levels and speed are of no consequence; it’s the extra car parking that they want and that is the key driver to the scheme.
Recommendation 1 – re-present this consultation with at least three more choices including a “no change” option.
We understand that the proposals are largely as a result of consultation with local businesses. That’s all well and good, but the local businesses are not the only users of the roads. We suggest that the majority of road users are not local business owners. Have these people been asked their views? This “consultation” is not an open one. Here we are presented with one and only one solution. A true consultation should present several alternatives.
Recommendation 2 – Design the angled parking to modern standards as recommended by the Department for Transport, i.e. reverse in, drive out.
We looked at the parking and to our horror discovered that the proposal is for “echelon” style parking. Worse still, it’s of the old-fashioned and hideously dangerous, drive-in, reverse-out variety. The Department for Transport’s publication “Local Transport Note 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design” says “Echelon parking always needs careful consideration, regardless of whether the road is oneway or not. Echelon bays should ideally be angled so that drivers reverse into them. This means that they exit facing forwards and so avoid the need to reverse into the main flow to leave. It also means that, in contraflow cycling schemes, drivers again leave the bays facing approaching contraflow cyclists.”
Correctly align echelon parking – where drivers reverse into the space – is already in place on Baffins Road and Clarence Parade. Both are busy A-roads and the parking does not cause drivers problems.
Why did a highly professional design team come up with the wrong design for angled parking? Has there been some political interference?
Recommendation 3 – Allow two-way cycling in the one-way (for motor traffic) sections.
One-way streets increase travel distances. Whilst a motorist will not be greatly inconvenienced, anyone travelling by active means will notice the difference. Fortunately, pedestrians are permitted to travel in any direction on a one-way street but cyclists, who also travel under their own power, will be subject to the same restrictions as motorised traffic.
The prevailing speed limits are 20mph.There are many examples of two-way cycling on one-way streets in Portsmouth. Other cities have adopted two-way cycling in one-way streets widely, examples include Brighton, the City of London and the City of Westminster. There is no recorded increase in traffic accidents as a result of two-way cycling in streets where 20mph is the speed limit. Many cyclists will ignore the no-entry signs and ride on the pavements.
Recommendation 4 – Add traffic calming for Vectis Way and Wootton Street
It is well documented that with one-way streets, drivers become used to the lack of opposing traffic and increase their speed. The proposals for the High Street include build-outs and chicanes which will mitigate speeding to some extent but there are no proposals for traffic calming on Vectis Way and Wootton Street. We have observed that traffic on these roads often exceeds the prevailing speed limit.
Recommendation 5 – Provide one southbound lane only (not two) just north of Wayte Street and change echelon parking to parallel.
Immediately north of Vectis Way, there are two southbound traffic lanes in the proposals. Why are two lanes needed? They may have been justified when Northern Road Bridge was closed, but certainly not once reopened. This section also has echelon parking. We would suggest that the two lanes should be reduced to one and that the echelon parking is replaced by much safer parallel parking and on both sides of the road.
The Cosham High Street Improvements consultation now closes on 20 June. See http://www.portsmouthcc.gov.uk/living/29547.html for details.