Monday, 21 January 2013

Who dreamt this up?

This is a picture of a road. Not just any old road, but a newly(ish) surfaced road in a newly regenerated old neighbourhood in Plymouth. Specifically, this is Ker Street in Devonport.



The architects clearly tried to retain a link to the charming past of the area, a past that is reflected in the many gorgeous (even if some are dilapidated and run down) old buildings that survived the Luftwaffe's best attempts to flatten them during the Blitz. After all, Devonport is a naval base and was a prime target during WW2, during which time the Plymouth city centre was virtually completely destroyed.

Anyway, back to the road. Instead of simply tarring it, the architects designed these small strips of cobbles that run over the full width of the road. The cobbles are proud of the surrounding tar, creating rustic-looking speed humps while breaking up the ugliness and monotony of tar.


Looking at the street design, with perpendicular parking either side, effectively the street was left wide enough for one car. Combined with the naked streets approach, clearly some traffic speed reduction scheme was needed, especially seeing as many families with young children were expected to move into the newly built houses that replaced crumbling pre-war buildings.

And yet, as I have come to expect as the norm, cycling was completely left out of the planning.

It's like this: a bicycle has every right to use the road, and cyclists pay for roads the same as anybody else, through council tax and general taxation. As a result, cyclists have every right to expect that roads are as suited to bicycles as they are to cars.

You can see part of my shoe, to give you some indication of scale.

Now let's go and look at those cobbles again: see the spacing between them? That is wider than many, probably most, bicycle wheels, making riding over the cobbles a very tricky thing to do on some bikes.

This is senseless and shows complete lack of consideration of cyclists' needs by the architects. Let's compare the cobble strips on Ker Street with a similar thing done at the Sainsbury's at Marsh Mills, Plymouth. At the Sainsbury's, there is a strip of deliberately uneven paving across both lanes leading to and away from the parking, on either side of a pedestrian crossing.

Clearly that was done as a speed control measure to encourage drivers to slow down at the crossing, which shows forethought. Even more impressive is the narrow but smooth bit that runs right through the cobbled strip, this allowing cyclists to be able to ride through with no risk to their wheels, or themselves.

See how easy Ker street could have had small changes that would make a big difference to cyclists? Why is it that even architects, who have trained for many years to do incredibly detailed planning, can leave out something so obvious as this?