Hillhead is at the heart of the West End of Glasgow, containing many old style tenement buildings from an age gone by. It’s an area which has a High School, Primary School and University, which makes for a thriving and lively place. So what is it that ruins this busy area? As per usual for UK cities it’s traffic.
The Streets are dominated by motor traffic which when combined with the narrow pavements, steep inclines and parked cars makes for a dangerous, unpleasant and hostile environment. This issue creates greater concern when you consider the presence of large numbers of school children in the area making the case for creating a safer environment even more compelling. A picture of the dangerous mix can be seen below.
So what is it about this area which is the cause of such high levels of traffic? As suggested by the caption in the above picture it’s because the route is used as a rat run. To illustrate why, the map below shows the current rat run route (Gibson St to Byres Rd).
And the map below shows the alternate route which would need to be used. Given that this route has multiple traffic lights, it’s of little wonder the other is used.
Not only is the existing route a danger to pedestrians but it’s also a right nuisance to cyclists as there are no contraflow bike lanes. The results of which can often be readily seen as cyclists go the wrong way down one way streets. To explain why, a particular tortuous route can be seen below. Given that Gibson St is on a steep hill, cycling up it can be difficult (shown in the photo above) and so it can result in annoyed drivers exercising their perceived right to use the horn in frustration.
So in short the existing setup is rubbish for cyclists, dangerous to pedestrians and not a particularly nice living environment. So what can be done? The answer is filtered permeability.
By stopping the rat run through the principles of filtered permeability the flow of traffic through this route would be significantly reduced. Combine this with contraflow bike lanes then the area could become attractive for children to cycle.
So is this what the council intends to-do? No. Instead it intends on putting in speed cushions and more signs. It’s commonly admitted by drivers that they flaunt the speed limit and so it’s not likely that signs will make any difference, the presence of speed bumps may go some way in reducing traffic speed but is unlikely to address the volume of traffic for it’ll still be quicker to go the short-cut than face the traffic lights and will result in rapid acceleration and braking. It’ll hardly create a livable environment where children can cycle.
A copy of the original plans can be found here:Hillhead Traffic Calming Measures and a modified copy showing where the principal of filtered permeability could be applied can be viewed here:Hillhead Filtered Permeability
There was one good bit, which is the proposal of a 20mph speed limit on University Avenue. When one considers the large numbers of pedestrians and cyclists on this route then this is the least that should be done. There should also be changes to the road layout to be more pedestrian focused and there should be specific cycling infrastructure. But this is a whole new blog post in itself!
I think the image below (taken from Hillhead) has the right idea, but not the way in which it was meant. What’s needed is to stop placing all of the responsibility of safety on the user but instead on the road design.
Update 19/2/14: Thanks to Andy Preece for pointing out that the proposed 20mph does not include University Avenue. I must have been looking too hard for something good in the plans.