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Designs approved for Exhibition Road shared space

Plans to transform London’s Exhibition Road have taken a step closer, as the local council cabinet has approved detailed designs to introduce a shared space along its length.

The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s Council Cabinet approved plans to remove kerbs and instead introduce a single surface with clear visual and tactile delineators that will distinguish between pedestrian areas and the carriageway.

The scheme will be delivered in two stages - stage one began in February 2009 to unravel the one-way system around South Kensington Station. Stage two will begin the first stage of streetscape improvements in November 2009. The total cost of stage one is approximately £5.7M and stage two will cost approximately £18.8M.

11.5M people visit the area each year to visit London’s grand museums - the Victoria and Albert, the Natural history and the Science Museums.

Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown said: “Accessibility and safety are of paramount importance to the Royal Borough and our partners Westminster City Council and the Mayor of London. Everyone agrees that current conditions in the Exhibition Road area are not acceptable and with over 100 road traffic accidents in the last three years alone, there is an urgent need to address the problem.

“It’s our responsibility to consider all users as we work to transform Exhibition Road and we believe that this design, combined with the introduction of a 20 mph speed limit, will substantially improve safety and accessibility for everyone,” he said.

The borough claims that the single surface will improve access for those using wheelchairs, push chairs, the elderly and partially sighted people. Black cast iron drainage covers will line each side of the vehicle zone to visually separate pedestrian areas from moving traffic, which is particularly useful for young children and the partially sighted.

Wide strips of corduroy tactile – ridged paving often used to demark steps – will be installed alongside the drainage gulley to alert blind people to the edge of the safe zone.

The scheme is due for completion by the end of 2011, in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.

The Council will carry out a further safety audit following yesterday’s decision and is involved in ongoing research funded by Transport for London into delineation devices for single surface schemes, as part of its continued commitment to safety and accessibility. The Council is working with Imperial College to monitor the existing use of Exhibition Road and will continue to monitor road usage for up to two years after implementation to assess the safety of the road.

Readers' comments (2)

  • As a Design Consultant the absence of kerbs in a busy road environment and the lack of safe crossings are of deep concern with predicted volumes of traffic at more than 700 vehicles an hour. It is interesting to know that the recommendations of the disability access group have not been taken in to consideration. This does raise concerns around the value of the consultation process and if the final design will really meet the needs of all disabled people. Your report states that 11.5 million people use this space each year, which is a huge volume of people to mix with high volumes of traffic with untested delineators. These Corduroy strips may cause a barrier to wheelchair users and elderly people as well as a trip and fall hazard. They may also be ineffective for young children, people with learning disabilities and may even be a slip hazard if they use stainless steel. In the current design no provision has been made to have raised kerbs at bus stops or taxi drop off points for disabled people, meaning that buses will no longer be able to deploy disability ramps in Exhibition Road. The Director of Transports solution was to say that disabled people could use alternative roads to access Exhibition Road, which I feel is unacceptable as a solution. The next area of concern is that the research is still being conducted and the results are not known, yet they have already approved the design. Again the safety audit is not yet complete. The Royal Borough seems to be rushing forward without all the full facts or evidence in front of them and I would suggest a delay in the process to gather the relevant information and take this back to Cabinet for further discussion and amend the plans in accordance with the research findings and safety audit. My bill will be in the post.

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  • Designers should read the DDA and see what it actually requires service providers to do. The recommendations of the disability groups have been taken into account, and a sensible, balanced approach has been proposed.

    "the lack of safe crossings are of deep concern" - the evidence is that formal crossings are no safer than informal crossings. Safe crossings are achieved by reducing the speed of traffic, and that is the key objective of this scheme.

    "Corduroy strips may cause a barrier to wheelchair users and elderly people as well as a trip and fall hazard." The alternative is a kerb which is a total barrier to wheelchair users and elderly people.

    It is shameful how gutless and emasculated some engineers have become. In the old days chartered engineers used to make decisions and stand by them, and have a pride in their intelligence and skill, and they were respected for it. Today there are those who want to hide behind audits and consultants reports and in doing so erode the status of the profession as people who innovate and lead.

    And let us be quite clear, there is very little difference between a shared space and a major supermarket carpark. This is not rocket science - it is very very basic!

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