18 July 2013…..The whole city seethes about cycle paths – perhaps more a problem of siting, design and implementation than principle – and cycle-parking racks are going in all over the shop. Banked together out of the way, so they are not so randomly hitched or sprawled over pavements.
Pedestrian safety is also well-addressed by BHCC, when need is brought to their attention; and both the pedestrian refuges (Sackville Road is the latest) and pavement build-outs get a big shout of approval from pedestrians. If you need one, do a petition, argue it well in person at a council meeting, and the Greens will probably oblige. This is how the Sackville Road refuge was achieved (with two similar petitions).
When vast new areas of pavement are created (corner build-outs especially) and loads of cycle racks are sunk into them, why does BHCC not take the opportunity to provide resting points for weary travellers heading for the stations with bags, for pedestrians lugging shopping home, for those in need of that help (plus garden walls) in order to go for a walk at all. For worker-bees who brought a packed lunch to work they’d rather not eat at their desk. For those going outside for a break and a fag….so many reasons to provide public seating points. A tree with a circular bench round it takes little space. Long benches. Little walls. So many options never taken!
Trees and benches are a shamefully ignored/neglected weapon in the battle to control air pollution by getting people out of their cars. A lot of car use is because walking is an impossible/unattractive option. Benches allow people to conserve strength/walk further/at all PLUS (this’ll get ’em doing it!!!) they provide a cost-free way to actively encourage and facilitate engagement with others (chat) thereby improving/enabling community cohesion. (My stab at creepy robot officer-talk).
As I write the country is baking hot. Walk up most of Goldstone Villas and you get a shady treat as it has LOTS of mature trees throwing shade every 3-4 metres. In inclement you hardly need the brolly along there. There are no benches but there are one or two garden wall seating opportunities.
But, here! Look at this!
At the time of huge redesign and complete change on this corner, the opportunity to also plant a tree and put in a seating point were not taken. This ranks alongside the casual (initial) plan to fell the 7-Dials Wheatley Elm as a further indication of a real problem in the Highways Department of Brighton & Hove City Council which is letting down the Green Administration badly and failing pedestrians even more badly. The only pedestrians highways cares about are partially sighted and blind. They over-use bobbled paving at every opportunity to cater to them – and fail to leave any corner area free of it for those whose stability does not allow them to stand or walk on it. The only levels of reduced mobility officially recognised are blind and wheelchair disabled. And it is an unremarked but profound injustice the former Federation for the Disabled encourage with their own neglectful Agenda. Now they are paid partners of BHCC they have renamed themselves the Federation for Independent Living. The replacement of B&H saloon car taxis with inaccessible wheelchair taxis is their dubious achievement. No hydraulic lift for them as with ambulances. They must be pushed by taxi drivers, regardless of physical capacity, up a ramp, into them. No new B&H hackney carriage licence can be for a saloon car because of them. Grr. Getting angry now…moving on.
Two corner areas were involved in this major alteration to use – where Clarendon Road meets Ethel Street and where Clarendon Road meets Goldstone Villas. The works closed access for a long period over the 2013 winter period. Previously non-existent pedestrian safety at the Ethel Street crossing was created. ‘S-bend’ type traffic behaviour on these two corners was slowed and reduced. The pavement by Street Sounds was widened to match build-out depth and to improve previously nightmare pedestrian access by Streetsounds where customers cars are parked and serviced. So far, so fabulous.
In addition to these build-outs, with a bank of cycle racks on the Goldstone Villas one, a long cycle-rack island was created between lanes of traffic in Goldstone Villas, making good use of the area directly behind the Hove Station taxi rank. This makes that corner into a virtual bicycles car park for the station. And you can see from this photo that they are well used.
An alternative might have been to rack the entire length of that island and to put a bench and a tree where the pavement cycle rack was sited or beside the racks. Why wasn’t that done? How do we get trees and benches onto the highways dept. agenda? The former Federation for the Disabled hasn’t pushed for them and neither has the Older People’s Council. Both enjoy BHCC financial backing.
There was an opportunity to put benches and trees into the design and onto these corner sites to help pedestrian comfort, and actual accessibility for some, as much as they helped pedestrian safety and cyclist parking needs. Did it even enter officers’ or councillors’ heads to do it? Clearly not. Here are other Goldstone Villas bench and seating opportunities not taken by BHCC when creating either a pedestrian refuge or putting in build-outs.
A pedestrians-issue public question was put to Transport Cllr Ian Davey at Full Council on 1.7.13. And his reply did not mention trees or benches. And it was predicable that it would not. Officers prepare these replies! The supplementary question drew attention to the short, hastily uploaded, 3-4 photo first version of this article and minus the Ethel St. reference (you are looking at an expanded version, done the next day) and to the lost opportunity to have put in benches and trees. He made an encouraging reply. You can view the four-minute public question exchange on the archived council webcast from 00:36:00 here. All his examples of good practice on the seating front seem to be about Brighton.