Q&A with Michael Welbank on road safety
Q&A on Bank Junction with Michael Welbank, Chairman of the Planning & Transportation Committee at the City of London Corporation.
Q What is the City of London Corporation doing about road safety in the Square Mile?
A The City of London Corporation is deeply concerned about road safety in the Square Mile. The steeply rising rate of casualties in the four years before 2010 led to the creation of the “Road Danger Reduction Plan” in 2011 to achieve improvements to the number of road users killed and seriously injured in the Square Mile. This has already led to: the change in the speed limit to 20mph on all City-controlled streets, contra-flow cycle ways to help keep cyclists off the main roads, and the redesign of junctions deemed accident blackspots. We are also co-operating with the Mayor’s cycle superhighways and Lower Thames Street will be included in the east-west superhighway. We also hold “Road Danger Reduction Days” to enable cyclists, pedestrians and HGV drivers to learn about the challenges they each face.
Q What is the CoLC doing about accident “blackspots” in the Square Mile?
A We are redesigning the junctions at which a higher than average rate of accidents occur to try and make them safer for all road users – especially cyclists and pedestrians, who are the most vulnerable. Currently we are working on Aldgate East, which was previously a point of deep concern. This will include segregated space for cyclists and pedestrians. We have redeveloped Holborn Circus, for example – in the six months before it was redeveloped there were nine casualties there; in the six months since there has been one.
Casualty numbers have not risen despite the three fold increase in cyclist injuries but we must redouble our efforts. This is no time for complacency
Q What is the CoLC doing at Bank Junction?
A Bank Junction is one of the busiest spots in the capital and we recognise the concerns road users have about its design. We are working on a redesign for the junction, which could include: segregated cycle ways, pedestrianisation, or a fundamental reshaping. We have run a public consultation on the needs of users of the junction, and are currently analysing the responses to the consultation, to present options for the future of the junction this autumn. These large junction redevelopments take time: rushing in these circumstances could cause more harm than good – and result in more people being hurt. We must ensure that they will cope with future changes in the ways our roads are used.
Q What work is the CoLC doing with HGVs?
A London Councils, of which the City is a part, is seeking powers to control the competencies of all the drivers of HGVs coming into London, which will help to reduce the level of “rogue” bad drivers. But already in place is the CLOCS (Construction Logistics & Cycle Safety system) scheme who set standards for vehicle and cycle safety to ensure that our HGVs are fitted with all the latest safety technology. This is followed up by FORS (Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme) with its ratings of bronze, silver and gold, and developers and contractors require any firm they use in the City to be FORS certified. Together, these two are having an impact on HGV safety but there are still trucks working through the City which are not part of either of these schemes.
BANK JUNCTION IMPROVEMENT PROJECT: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The Project was identified from the Bank Area Enhancement Strategy consultation as one of the key projects for the area. We have already started construction work on some of the lanes and alleys in the area to encourage pedestrians to bypass the main junction from the Strategy.
The objectives of the Bank Junction Improvements project are:
- To reduce casualties by simplifying the junction and reducing conflict;
- Improve pedestrian crowding levels;
- Improve air quality; and
- Improve the perception of ‘place’ – as a place to spend time in rather than to pass through.
The City has been working closely with TfL on developing the project which will require the diversion of motor traffic away from the junction to give greater priority to the most vulnerable road users. The current work stream is assessing how much we can reduce motor traffic by without bringing the rest of the City to a standstill and whilst still being able to deliver other key priority projects across the City.
The City is looking to make a radical change at the junction and has committed over half a million pounds of funds, which TfL have also contributed to, to assess the large scale options that are available to us in order to make a significant improvement at the junction.
Why did we have a consultation?
As part of the development of the Bank Area Enhancement Strategy, we consulted the public on what they felt worked, did not work and what they would like to see improved in the wider area of Bank. The consultation was undertaken in 2011 and highlighted that Bank Junction was a problem area. This was specifically identified in the Bank Area Strategy draft which was then subsequently consulted on in October 2012 and adopted by Members in May 2013.
Where are we in the process of changing Bank Junction?
The project is nearing the end of its first phase of technical work. By September 2015 we expect to have the completed traffic modelling testing. As would be expected in a project of this size and complexity the traffic modelling requirements and assessments are significant and therefore time consuming. The traffic modelling is currently assessing five broad options for change, essentially a sliding scale of change from complete closure to motor vehicles, a reduction in the number of arms to vehicular traffic, to a reduction in traffic capacity of 50% on all arms of the junction.
This information will be combined with other data that we have collected around the junction. This includes pedestrian flows, alighting bus passenger destinations, collisions, servicing and growth. The benefits and the impacts of each tested scenario will be assessed to see how they meet with the objectives of the both the project and the strategy. This will then give a recommended scale of change that will be put to Members of the City of London at the end of this calendar year for approval.
What are the next steps?
Once the scale of change at Bank has been agreed by Members, we can start designing early scheme options which we will then publically consult upon towards the later part of 2016/early 2017with a view to putting a recommended scheme to Members in the summer of 2017. Detailed design will then be completed and the construction programme planned for Member approval in the autumn of 2018 with a view to starting construction in late 2018/early 2019.
What are the likely outcomes?
The likelihood is that by making major changes at Bank Junction we will also have to undertake improvements at other junctions to make it work. (For example we have a major project under consideration at London Wall as part of the Barbican Area Strategy). This is a lot of work to ensure that by making Bank safer we don’t make other junctions more dangerous or bring the rest of the City to a standstill.
It is too early to say whether we can achieve full closure to motor vehicles as the traffic modelling has not been completed. However there is a clear justification that the majority of the people who use the junction are pedestrians and there are a large number of cyclists. Both pedestrians and cyclists are also involved in the greatest number of collisions. Therefore their safety has to be a priority consideration for this project.
End of 2015 – Scale of change at Bank agreed
End of 2016/early 2017 Public consultation on options for the junction
Mid 2017 Committee approval sought for recommended design option
Late 2018 Committee approval sought for construction start
Late 2018/early 2019 construction starts and lasts between 18 to 24 months (depending upon the scheme)