Long term readers will know one of this site’s bugbears is poor street design and the impact this has in a wide range of areas; the vitality of local shops and business alongside the wider appeal of town centres to visitors.
Sticking crap up on every street is an eyesore that does nothing for pride in a local area or attract visitors. The amount of bent bollards, filthy signs and grotty guardrail across Greenwich borough is clear to see.
One reason often given is safety. There’s no doubt railings can serve that role in the right location but implementation has gone way beyond that. Railings are located in many areas where it affects street usability and forces pedestrians on detours from direct routes.
And the safety argument has been falling away for years as studies and reports show that removing railings often leads to a reduction in collisions.
The latest is a report looking into 70 junctions across London where railings were removed by TfL. The report states:
The results showed that following the removal of railings at the 70 sites there was a statistically significant fall of 56% (43 to 19) in the number of collisions involving pedestrians who were killed
or seriously injured. There was also a fall of 48% (109 to 57) in the number of KSI collisions for all users
This is above and beyond wider drops in collisions.
TfL embarked on a widespread removal of excessive street clutter around 2010.
As the report states:
Railings alongside crossings are a common feature throughout the country. They have usually been installed with the justification of safety for pedestrians by guiding them towards a designated
crossing point and/or preventing them from crossing in other areas. However there was a desire for them to be removed, primarily to improve pedestrian amenity and the urban realm
Whilst this was happening, Greenwich, almost uniquely in London, were putting more in.
They’ve recently done so in Woolwich contradicting TfL guidance as well as retaining dated street layouts despite much development in the locality.
It’s not the only example of them operating to dated guidelines – speed bumps is another.
Greenwich Council have sometimes blamed TfL for the retention of street clutter. Given both organisations were moving in opposite directions and other authorities went the same way as TfL, it’s far more likely Greenwich dug in and resisted change.
Who wouldn’t want to lose such beautiful streetscapes?
It’s not hard to see why collisions increase with railings. Rather than being herded some walk around the “wrong” side of them and are go into the road.
In some places Greenwich’s street design allows no other option. In West Greenwich there’s a small junction with railings on all sides which end where car parking begins.
To walk straight ahead pedestrians have no option but to walk in the road. Buggies and wheelchairs have no chance of crossing without going in the middle of the road.
But even when there is a choice, never underestimate pedestrian’s desire to walk directly. Yes, it seems blindingly obvious.
That was learned in the 1960s and 1970s when walkways in the sky failed in places like Thamesmead and the City of London as people walked more directly at street level.
Another factor is that less railings alongside roads mean drivers are more aware of pedestrians alongside rather than being tucked behind railings where an “us and them” mentality results and increased speeds occur.
With yet another report showing Greenwich pursuing outmoded design will they change tack? Probably not. If it worked in 1985 it works today is the thinking.
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