This post was the third in a weekly series of five “what-if?” suggestions proposed in parallel over the festive season 2015-16, that seek to provoke your thoughts about solutions to the traffic impacts of the development on Westgate, but which may also never see the day.
In an ideal world one would like to see an historic street such as the section of Westgate between Westgate Roundabout and Parklands Road closed to through vehicular traffic. The exception to this would be emergency vehicles and buses. Access for Taxis may also need to be considered. This would leave this eastern section of Westgate as a cul-de-sac accessible only from Westgate Roundabout for local residents to park on the existing Residents Only Parking Zone. A turning head would have to be provided, possibly using the end of the Mount Lane and Henty Gardens access roads.
However, there are several issues to be considered as follows.
Would closure stop rat-running?
Unless there is an effective physical barrier at the western end of this cul-de-sac (say near Mercers?) then there will remain a real possibility that many drivers will continue to drive through in both directions; in spite of any statutory road signs prohibiting this. I doubt if there would be any effective police enforcement so a physical barrier would be needed that allows only emergency vehicles and buses through. An electrical rising bollard system located between a narrow section of road is a possibility but is costly and requires regular maintenance. This is operated through a transponder on the vehicles and will fall to allow them past and will then automatically rise up again. An example of this is to be seen near Crawley Football Ground.
Cyclists and pedestrians
Given the above scenario, then there is enough space in this relatively narrow section of Westgate for these sustainable transport modes to safely pass through. However, this will only be fully safe for cyclists travelling to and from the city centre if:
- Westgate Roundabout has a safe crossing for cyclists,
- the rest of Westgate has a safe dedicated 2-way cycle lane and
- the mini roundabout at the end of Sherborne Road has a dedicated cyclist crossing.
On this last point I would suggest that if Westgate is closed to through traffic then there is the opportunity to transfer this mini roundabout into a signal controlled cross-roads crossing with a dedicated phase for cyclists to cross. Delays as a result of traffic signals here may also deter some rat-running through Sherborne Road.
Parklands Road & Cedar Road traffic
If the section of Westgate is closed somewhere near Mercers then it is likely that there will be significant objections from residents in Parklands Road and Cedar Drive. In this scenario, those that currently drive through this eastern section of Westgate to access the Ring Road at Westgate Roundabout will be forced into considering three driving options;
- driving through Oak Avenue or Walnut Avenue to access Sherborne Road to continue their journey north or south
- driving down Parklands Road past Pet Doctors and then westwards along Westgate to the mini roundabout and beyond to Via Ravenna and Cathedral Way.
- Driving northwards to St Paul.s Road junction and then down to Northgate (both already congested in peak hours).
If the section of Westgate is closed between Sherborne Road and Parklands Road then it is likely that there will be less objections from residents in Parklands Road and Ceder Drive because they will still be able to use the eastern section of Westgate to access the Ring Road at Westgate Roundabout. However, this will mean that this eastern section of Westgate is no longer a cul-de-sac and will have more local and possibly some rat-running traffic on it. With this happening and with on-street parking allowed there may be insufficient road space to enable safe cycling through this eastern section of Westgate.
We are all well aware of the difficulties that can be faced in trying to make road closures. The local highway authority is required to advertise, consult and consider all public responses before making a Cabinet Member decision. This is a costly legal procedure and may only be considered where it is anticipated that there will be significant support and minimal objection (i.e. for the greater good not just a minority section). Objections will be significant to a closure near Mercers the and therefore WSCC will be unwilling to pursue this, in spite of the obvious specific local merits.
Clearly WHF will add more traffic to the local road network in and around Parklands but the issue of a possible road closure somewhere along Westgate is something that may be considered with and without this development.
A preferred set of deliverable solutions could be as follows –
Mini roundabout at the Sherborne Road/Westgate junction
- Convert to a signalised cross-roads with a dedicated phase for cyclists and pedestrians to cross in both directions
Westgate between Sherborne Road and Parklands Road
- Construct a dedicated 2-way cycle track and reduce existing carriageway width (there is ample width to do this)
- Construct meaningful and effective traffic calming improvements (severe double chicanes and single lane sections not platforms and humps).
Eastern section of Westgate between Parklands Road and Westgate Roundabout
- Traffic calm by constructing a few severe double chicanes and short single lane sections of road supported by appropriate road signing at the junction with Westgate Roundabout.
- Widen the southern footway to incorporate a dedicated or shared use 2-way cycle lane.
- Construct a safe cycle crossing on the south side nearer the roundabout (Avenue de Chartres junction). This may require reducing the size of the existing roundabout or converting it to a crossroads both with full signalisation.
We strongly suggest that the new Westgate Residents Association discuss these possible road closure options with highway officers at WSCC. If such a meeting is made, Parklands RA should be invited to attend also. Parklands/Orchard Street/East Broyle Residents Associations should be kept informed of any future discussions or proposals that the new Westgate RA may have on these transport issues. We all need to work together on this for the benefit of the wider community.
- A closure of Westgate under Phase 1 will have benefits and dis-benefits for the local community.
- Meaningful and effective traffic calming is essential to Sherborne Road and possibly Parklands Road, without and with a Westgate closure.
- A southern second access from WHF will be the most effective means of reducing through traffic along Sherborne Road.
- With a Westgate closure and meaningful traffic calming to both Sherborne Road and Parklands Road this will also be the most effective combination for reducing the traffic impact on local roads in and around Parklands.
- A southern access should be provided as part of Phase 1.
- This combination of proposals should be seriously considered by WSCC, CDC and the developers. It ticks a lot of boxes.