This week heralds the opening of the call for nominations for the 2014 Urban Transport Design Award (UTDA). Whilst the seven objectives of “By Design” may no longer form part of the formal planning framework, they are still relevant principles for good urban design, and feature strongly in the judging criteria for this award. It recognises good-looking, functional schemes that work for all users. Whilst not always perfect, successful schemes are invariably interesting, innovative, effective and attractive in some measure.
All three of the schemes shortlisted for last year’s UTDA – presented in July at the 11th annual Transport Practitioners’ Meeting – involved substantial changes to important junctions. Two were in city centres (Coventry and Southampton) and the third was at a very challenging location in Herne Hill, South London. It’s often said that links aren’t half as problematic as the junctions where they meet, so I was very pleased that these three different schemes were submitted for consideration by the award panel, and very interested to understand what issues they were designed to address and what success they had had in doing so.
The scheme that won last year’s UTDA was the junction of Jordan Well and Gosford Street in Coventry, a junction that I know well from a number of projects I have undertaken in Coventry since the late 1990s. The signalised junction of Jordan Well/Gosford Street on the west-east axis and Cox Street/White Friars Street running north-south always struck me as being grossly over-provided for in terms of lane width. Specifically, what was otherwise a single carriageway with one lane in each direction flared on the eastbound approach arm to three lanes, two for the ahead movement and one for the left turn. The junction is an important and pivotal location within the city; one where pedestrian movement (it can be extremely busy during University term time), the quality of the streetscape, and the excessive traffic capacity all needed attention.
The changes at Jordan Well/Gosford Street were part of a much larger city centre public realm scheme, costing almost £11m in total. The junction scheme itself cost a fraction over £1m and involved a complete rethink of its operation. The signals were removed, as were formal pedestrian crossings; the carriageway on all arms was narrowed to a single approach lane; the east and west arms were realigned so as to be slightly offset; and the centre of the junction was laid out in the form of a red tarmac oblong at a jaunty angle. In other words, the junction is unrecognisable from its previous incarnation.
I’ve seen it in operation a couple of times, and taken quite a bit of footage of how drivers, pedestrians and cyclists interact with one another in a situation where no-one has any clear priority, other than where pedestrian priority is implied by “courtesy crossing” markings on each arm. From my observations, from those of others, and from data relating to collisions and queues, the scheme has been a real success in transforming an outsize, traffic-dominated junction into an attractive and yet efficient part of Coventry’s cityscape. That’s why it won.
If you know of, or have been involved in, a scheme that you think fits the bill, and that’s been open for at least a year, why not enter it for this year’s UTDA?
Director, Urban Movement