The Elephant Amenity Network strongly supports a re-modelling of the northern roundabout at the Elephant and Castle. This roundabout is dangerous for cyclists, unattractive for pedestrians and represents a major block on encouraging local travel by sustainable modes, and any improvement must reduce casualties among vulnerable road users. It should also improve access to buses and tube stations, and re-connect the area around the Elephant to the benefit of local businesses and residents.
We agree that change is needed, and urgently, but we feel the two options submitted for consultation fall short of our expectations in several important areas.
Specifically, we are concerned that:
1. It is not at all clear how these plans fit with the work currently underway of the Roads Task Force that is looking specifically at the future of the Inner Ring Road. The board report of the Surface Transport Panel 9 April 2014 Item 7: Roads Task Force Update (https://www.tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/stp-20140409-part-1-item07-roads-task-force-update.pdf) indicates that a study is currently underway into this road, and specifically that there are conceptual ideas for an “underway” at Elephant & Castle. The notes indicate that this report will be ready in “summer” or towards the end of 2014. Clarity on this point is vital.
2. The Elephant & Castle is a dense residential area and is about to see massive increases in residential retail and office capacity. We must have clarity from TfL on how it will work to stop increases in vehicle use, and to stop punishing pedestrian and bicycle use. There is nothing but infrastructure in these plans, and nothing on planning policy and removing long distance traffic.
3. The designs will substantially increase conflicts between pedestrians (including those accessing buses and tubes and at bus stops) and cycles, whilst only reducing – by a limited extent – conflicts between cycles and motorised vehicles.
4. The target for pedestrian travel times across the junction must be to achieve a substantial reduction, as the roundabout represents a major obstacle for short trips to use non-motorised forms of travel. It is a sign of the inadequacy of the proposals in this respect that TfL have said that crossing times for pedestrians will increase in some cases, despite the removal of the subways, given that existing travel times for pedestrians are completely unacceptable now.
5. The design fails to acknowledge the local context and crucial elements are missing. These include the lack of proposals for improving conditions for pedestrian and cycles on the New Kent Road & Elephant Road.
6. There is also no consideration of the opportunities that the future redevelopment of the shopping centre presents to improve mobility and interchange in the area. The importance of the northern roundabout as a transport hub is not recognised – there is no clarity about levels between underground access, bus stops and the Thameslink station. This will affect today’s pedestrian flows in an important way, but the designs appear to assume that today’s patterns of demand will continue
Our detailed comments follow:
1. The design appears predicated on continuing growth of motorised traffic. This is not appropriate – the local area has a reducing reliance on cars over the last 10 years (lower household car ownership) and making safe conditions for cycling and walking will continue this trend. It is by the same token unacceptable that there are proposals to widen the road even beyond its current enormous width outside Perronet House. There is ample evidence (http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/blogs/roads/170412-phil-goodwin-ltt) that previous forecasts of traffic growth have been consistently wrong.
2. We believe the current designs are dangerous for cyclists in many areas; even though option may be better than A in this respect, there are too many conflict points remaining (particularly with people waiting at bus stops outside the Metropolitan Tabernacle), and no clarity over how the cycle crossing of the peninsula will avoid pedestrian/cycle conflicts.
3. Pedestrian routes in the new design are generally direct and flat, and this is a major benefit. However the journey times that have been released following information requests appear to suggest that there will be no time saving benefit over the circuitous routes by subways, and there will even be a worsening in some areas. This is clearly totally unacceptable – there has to be a time benefit for pedestrians or this whole scheme will have failed.
4. Subway removal has some strong opponents, but also strong supporters; the issue is partly tied to the pedestrian crossing times which, if improved for pedestrians, would lessen the impacts of removal. The subways are seen by some as a “necessary evil” given the volume of traffic and lack of priority to pedestrians, but we believe flat crossings will assist those with reduced mobility.
5. The design generates new conflicts between cycles and pedestrians, including both new conflicts between bus passengers in Option B on the northbound cycle route (as stated in point 2 – how will this be safely delineated in the small space available?). In addition, the biggest pedestrian crossing flow/desire line, Newington Butts to the Northern Line, has a cycle lane along it but no pedestrian crossing. This is designing-in failure. This is because in practice many pedestrians will walk the direct route, on the cycle lane, probably not be given enough time to cross and run into danger with traffic, as well as also making unnecessary conflict with cyclists.
6. Interchange for passengers travelling between tubes and buses is better northbound, but seems to get worse in the southbound direction – we understand that moving the bus stops for buses to Walworth Rd past the Southern Roundabout should reduce the severe congestion that currently exists for pedestrians and those waiting for buses at this stop, but these buses are the ones that are most heavily used, and will mean longer walks for a majority. We would prefer that the public realm was made more attractive at the current site (taking space from the shopping centre) but if not, the designs for the top of the Walworth Rd must recognise that this will be a major conflict point between buses and cycles, and designs must be shown as to how this will be avoided.
7. Access between the Bakerloo, northern and Thameslink is critical – where is the plan for this? Why is the opportunity not being taken to bring this key interchange together? Where is the imagination? Where will the main access to Thameslink station be once the shopping centre is redeveloped?
8. There is no detail over the assumptions about the shopping centre removal – it is critical that this involves providing dedicated lane for southbound cyclists, behind bus stops, and that the bus stops
9. Elephant Road is critical to understanding cycle access from Walworth Road – what is proposed here, how will it connect under the rail arches (space for bi-directional cycle paths on the south, and a crossing north towards Newington Butts along the eastern side of the viaduct) and how will that be kept from being compromised in safety terms with a potential future entrance to the redeveloped shopping centre site. The current road has no proper parking controls, the cycle lane has been eviscerated by the adjacent development, but with care this could represent a sensible pedestrian and cycle route south from the Underground stations.
10. Subway Murals are valued by some, it is important to look for a new place to display them once the subways have gone.