At the end of October 2016 Phil Jones Associates, in conjunction with Chartered Institute of Highways & Transportation (CIHT), held an excellent event in Exeter entitled 'STREET DEMOnstation' :-
1. What is a StreetDEMO?
The StreetDEMO concept is an innovative approach to reviewing and appraising the streetscape and urban environment.
The approach brings together a range of experts and key stakeholders to consider a street from a range of professional and stakeholder perspectives. The approach combines a site-based walkaround and interactive workshop to consider the competing demands for street space, the diverse user groups, the quality of the urban environment and the wider place context.
Study areas are selected as ‘streets with potential’ and aims to:
Identify what is good and bad about a street;
Undertake an honest review of issues – not apportioning blame;
Bring stakeholders together in an open forum to allow issues and ideas to be debated honestly;
Challenging process – many urban street problems are complex and inter-related
Showcase ideas and innovation;
Lead to change – however big or small, fast or slow.
The collaborative approach aims to consider the study area from a fresh perspective and devise solutions or interventions with the aim of improving the urban environment for all.
The events are intended as a thought provoking but constructive design activity, bringing
together a range of local stakeholders and experts to arrive at a constructive and collaborative design solution or series of options.
The Street DEMOnstration focuses on improving the street through a process of:
Understanding place context;
Understanding the demands for street space from different user groups;
Experiencing the quality of the urban place through a walkabout;
Debating and design workshop; and
Lobbying for and being open to change.
The Queen Street event was supported by the South West Region CIHT committee and was primarily intended as a CPD activity. However, the intention of the exercise is to produce realistic and constructive proposals that have the potential for further development and possible funding bids.
2. Queen Street Study Area
The Queen Street area of Exeter lies to the north of the main City Centre in Exeter. Queen Street itself connects the High Street to the Clock Tower roundabout junction via Exeter Central Station. The street is Victorian in origin, constructed as an alternative route to St. David’s Hill from the city centre rather than the Iron Bridge.
The identified Queen Street study area runs from the Paul Street/Gandy Street junction in the south up to the Exeter College Campus entrance on Hele Road in the north. This study area was chosen as it covers a range of land uses and represents a very busy route between the various college sites and the heart of the city centre.
Historically, Queen Street has always been a place of activity and demand from users with shop frontages, Exeter Central Station, public transport corridors and local attractions all drawing people to the ‘place’ rather than passing through.
Queen Street Today
The Street in its current forms provides a direct link for Exeter College between several main campus buildings as well as providing a link between the City Centre and Exeter’s two main stations – Exeter Central and St. David’s. Queen Street also links the city with the University Campus via New North Road.
From a vehicular perspective, the street provides a connection to and through the city centre from the north and an alternative link to the very constrained Iron Bridge route.
Due to the destinations and attractions that the street connects, the pedestrian demand along the street is very high throughout the day, with students, commuters and shoppers all travelling along the footway.
To consider the context of the current conditions along Queen Street, data relating to traffic flows, pedestrian flows and personal injury accidents has been collated.
The data shows high pedestrian flows along Queen Street along the footway on both sides of the highway between the town centre and towards the station and beyond. Weekday and Saturday flows are very similar in volumes showing student flows are replaced with shoppers at the weekends and demand remains high. Pedestrian flows on Paul Street are, in comparison, very low demonstrating the limited pedestrian attraction of this car dominated and unattractive link. Traffic flows are reasonably high with approximately 7,000 two-way movements across the weekday and Saturday 12-hour periods. The clear majority of traffic is through traffic from Queen Street to Paul Street and onwards.
At the Clock Tower junction, three of the five arms have strong traffic flows – Queen Street, and New North Road in both directions.
An examination of the personal injury data for the area shows clusters of incidents at the Clock Tower junction and outside Exeter Central Station. At Clock Tower, there is a high level of cycle-related incidents recorded suggesting an existing safety issue at this junction.
3. Issues and Opportunities
High pedestrian demand from Exeter College towards the Queen Street area.
Moderate pedestrian demand towards the University of Exeter along New North Road. This flow is generally along the north side, which is currently only 2 metres in places.
There are attractive routes through the park towards residential areas, which are not linked to the college via a formal pedestrian crossing. The crossing is currently a narrow pedestrian refuge island which is difficult to use for some users.
Pedestrians have observed problems with crossing capacity at the Hele Rd / New North Road traffic signal junction, due to heavy pedestrian demand and current crossing width / signal timings.
There appears to be an unmanaged portion of green space south of Hele Road. Although this provides for greenery and a buffer to residential rear gardens, the space could offer more towards the urban environment.
There is a recognised cycle route from the university along Elm Grove Road through to Queen Street. The Clocktower junction creates a barrier for this movement and this is coupled with high cycle accidents.
The Clocktower junction is an ‘iconic landmark’ and gateway towards the north-west approach to the city, however the junction is optimised for higher vehicle flow and, although pedestrian crossings are provided on some arms, they are often difficult to use and routes are convoluted, meaning users need to divert from their natural path. There are also concerns about narrow footways especially to the north and east sides.
There is a historic residential square at Queens Terrance which is occupied by a public car park with some tree planting to the edges. There appears to be excess road space on many edges and there is a clear opportunity to reconsider how the space is used.
There is observed high pedestrian demand on Queen St, mostly to the southside. There is opportunity to review the distribution of streetspace, through the reallocation of footways, parking / loading need and carriageway space. The traffic speeds might also be reduced to create slower and calmer traffic movement and promote more informal pedestrian crossing behaviour.
The forecourt to Exeter Central Station has recently undergone an attractive public realm makeover, and this coupled with the historic Victorian station provides for a wonderful city gateway. However, the adjacent roadspace currently deals with a range of complex demands, including bus stopping, loading, through traffic, high pedestrian movement and the College Campus opposite. There are opportunities to review how this road space is used to enhance walkability to the college.
The area adjacent to RAMM is attractive, especially the historic granite paving to the north side. However, there may be opportunity to widen the southern footway to ease pedestrian crowding.
The junction with Paul Street provides a gateway into the core city centre area and Queen Street becomes a ‘restricted zone’. Although pedestrian movement is straight forward on the northern side, there are some concerns arising from the mixed material palette for use by visually impaired people. Likewise, the ability to the cross the road at this location is limited and this could be improved.
4. Schematic Ideas
a – Retain a traffic signal junction, but create wider single stage pedestrian crossings on all arms to maximise pedestrian permeability. Better cater for cycling though traffic speed control and dedicated lanes where necessary. Consider the improvements in conjunction with enhancement of the adjacent greenspace. b – Reconsider the use of Queens Terrace car park, by reviewing parking need and reallocation to on street bays (both sides of surrounding roads), allowing the reinstatement of former historic public square, recapturing one of Exeter’s lost spaces! c – Retain a roundabout at Clock tower junction, but seeks to simplify the geometry through a smaller disc, narrower entry lanes and entry treatments on the two more minor arms. Consider further zebra or Pelican crossing on approaches. d – Reconsider the kerb line position on Queen Street, through a strategy to maximise footway space, through carefully reconsidering the needs for on street parking, servicing and through traffic. Reduce street clutter and enhance street furniture and materials palette through a ‘street material code’. e – Consider relocating bus stops northwards to ease movement concerns directly opposite the station. f – Consider a new raised super pedestrian crossing directly opposite the station to deal with high pedestrian movement and better deal with turning traffic from the college campus. g – Improve footway comfort through a series of entry treatments, ensuring level footway condition. h – Reconsider the pedestrian crossing needs through a new diagonal crossing incorporated in the current traffic signal arrangements to reflect the very high pedestrian demand and reflect the importance of this junction as a key city landmark adjacent to RAMM and Gandy Street.
5. Next Steps
This Street Demo review process has identified a series of potential interventions that could be introduced within the Queen Street study area to improve the streetscape and urban environment for all users.
Although this is intended as an academic exercise, with no immediate scheme development plans, the results of the exercise are intended to be constructive and can form the basis for any future scheme development. Identified below are a series of next steps that could be taken to develop the schematic ideas identified within this document to a fully implemented street scheme.
Detailed appraisal of street network – Link & Place style appraisal of the study area and surroundings to further consider status and network usage
Traffic analysis – analysis of traffic flows and network capacity to understand relative demand and impact of potential scheme
Consideration of new developments and College Masterplan – ensure new developments are considered and any proposals are compatible
Indicative street design layout – devise more detailed street scheme design
Identify individual interventions – divide scheme proposals up into individual interventions to identify a potential prioritised programme for implementation
Appraisal of scheme costs – costing of proposals to identify funding requirements
This article was produced by Phil Jones Associates and written by Jon Tricker, Director (firstname.lastname@example.org, 07917 436933) and Hannah Shrimpton, Associate Director.
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