(Photo taken from Tradescant Rd blog)
In a post-riot London, whilst our current Prime Minister is waxing lyrical on greed, irresponsibility and entitlement, Lurking about SE11 continues to think about local matters. "Local" names where we're brought up, how we're socialised, who we talk to and how we learn to interact with others. Smart phones, iPads and technology aside, our built environment, communities and neighbours are where we learn to discover shared goods. On a positive note, I'd like to point to a great photo from Vauxhall City Farm, applauding the efforts of Clapham residents to repair their local community. But just over a mile away from Westminster, in Vauxhall, decisions will need to be taken that speak into what sort of city we'd like London to be. The future of the Vauxhall gyratory remains a tiny decision for politicians, but a massive concern for drivers and residents, cyclists and businesses.
Listening to the voices on the ground is something that both politicians and decision makers will need to do in the days to come. Readers might suggest that it is fatuous to try and draw links between riots and city planning, but much of the issues boil down to who is being heard. Anybody who has attended a local consultation will understand that the question is always whose voice counts? Concerning our own gyratory, we must ask "who is being greedy given the current road layout?", "who is being irresponsible in the face of death?" and "to whom is entitlement owing?". These are the questions David Cameron wants us to think about concerning rioters and bankers, but they affect ordinary people in their daily routines too.
Plans concerning the Vauxhall Gyratory, are slowly chugging through the wheels of local government. Val Shawcross (chair of Transport Committee on London Assembly) confirmed at the end of July that Lambeth Council are now to work with TFL to carry out a "Vision for Vauxhall" exercise on an improved public space and transport plan for Vauxhall to add to the VNEB OAPF. Val Shawcross is "hopeful" that this might lead to a "better pedestrian and cycling environment" for the whole area, as opposed to it remaining a "motorway blighted backyard" (private email). There are currently no dates for the proposed consultation. At present, we know that Lambeth Council and Val Shawcross both support the removal of the gyratory, but there are concerns about Boris' "traffic smoothing" policies. When you read "traffic", in that phrase, you need to think vehicle rather than pedestrian or cyclist.
Ms Shawcross may well be hopeful, but I am not, mostly because the exercise is to involve TFL. I regularly drive through Vauxhall, tube underneath it, bus into it, walk across it and wheel a Boris bike through it (I daren't ride through the interchange) so I know my subject. We all know that there are bad cyclists and bad car/lorry drivers. It is the latter that tend to be involved in accidents that kill people. Cyclists very rarely kill other road users. And yet, despite their road use, they are not given anywhere near the amount of road space they require at Vauxhall. Cycle London has pointed out that 20% of Vauxhall southbound traffic between 5pm - 8pm and 20% of Vauxhall northbound trafiic between 7am-10am is cyclist traffic. Cyclists are not given 20% of the space, and this gyratory remains nasty, brutish and full of traffic looking to escape the congestion charge. Something has to give, so let's raise David Cameron's first point. Who is being greedy? Before we move on, I urge you to read Cyclists in the City's post on the proposed cycle superhighway to pass through Vauxhall from Peckham to Victoria and the followup after his walkaround with TFL.
A number of angry emails continue to pass through my inbox, and one (or maybe several) anonymous commentators want me to oppose options concerning removal of the Vauxhall gyratory! I am not clear that any of us fully understand the proposed options, but I cannot see that retaining the gyratory aids anything other than vehicular traffic. It is time for south Londoners and residents (especially those that live on the gyratory) and cyclists to ask for their requests to be heard. Vauxhall interchange is a blight upon Vauxhall, particularly given the pollution levels in the area. Nobody wants it in their backyard.
I remain unhopeful because we know that even with cross-party support and London assembly support and a huge recent protest, Blackfriars' bridge cyclists were not heard. So, here perhaps is a good time to raise David Cameron's second point. Who is being irresponsible? London Cyclist weighed in with a good answer concerning Blackfriars Bridge when he noted,
"I’m proud to live in a city where despite the Mayor saying “more needs to be done on cycling over Blackfriars Bridge”, despite unanimous support from all the political parties of the London Assembly, despite expert recommendations for 20mph speed limits on all of London’s central bridges, despite growing pollution levels and despite mass protests by cyclists, we have a transportation authority that can override them and do what it knows is right for London."
The most recent published info. on ideas for the Vauxhall Interchange from TFL is found in TFL's Vauxhall Nine Elms Battersa report, catchily named, "Public Realm & Highways Modelling Study". The relevant pages are p40 - p48.
There are seven options outlined in the report. Four options concern removing the gyratory and returning it to two-way working. The other three options propose leaving the gyratory as stands... My guess is that TFL will push for one-way working because even the minimum two-way working plan requires 31% reduction in morning peak-time vehicular traffic. Despite the fact that it is clear that vehicle drivers are the greedy party, and despite the fact it is clear that TFL are the irresponsible party when it comes to addressing cyclist and pedestrian concerns, the question remains concerning entitlement, and those to whom is's owed. Is entitlement owed to cyclists? Residents? Commuters? Pedestrians? Public transport users? This is an eminently political question and there is no one good answer. But I suggest politicians and TFL planners ask themselves the question, "would I be prepared to live and raise children on the Vauxhall gyratory?"
I have provided a summary of sketchy TFL options for Vauxhall gyratory, but it's rather difficult to imagine unless you know the roads and their names exceedingly well. The diagrams in the document are not currently helpful (unless zoomed in closely) and contain too much detail to see traffic flow. Ideally, diagrams would show basic arrows indicating traffic movement. If anybody wants to email me simplified diagrams, I'll add them.
Removing the gyratory and return to two-way options
1) Remove South Lambeth Rd from gyratory and relocate the bus station to South Lambeth Rd.
A new public square at the Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with option 2, 3 and 4), simplification of Vauxhall Bridge and other junctions (helps cyclists) and additional public realm at Southern end of Albert Embakment.
31% reduction of traffic required in morning and 21% reduction required for the evening, affecting network capacity and increasing congestion. (Not clear if that's car/lorry traffic or bus capacity?). Also traffic delays, bus delays and reduced bus station capacity.
2) Two-way with simpified layout at Nine Elms Lane / Wandsworth Road
You're going to have to go and look at the document diagram for more info. on this!
Link between interchange and new linear park. Carriageway reduction on Wandsworth Rd. New public square at Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with options 1, 3 and 4). Changes to Wandsworth Rd and Nine Elms Lane, Albert Embankment and Vauxhall Bridge would reduce accidents and improve cycling conditions (same as option 3). Wouldn't need to move the bus station.
Traffic reduction of 40% of current capacity in morning and evening which would produce congestion and delayed bus journeys. But... the bus station structure (is this the ski slope?) would need to be removed (as with option 3) and the bus station capacity would be reduced.
3) Two-way with Buses and Cyclists only in Parry Street
Improvements for pedestrians crossing Parry St and other junctions, due to two-way working. A new public square at Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with options 1, 2 and 4). Changes to Wandsworth Rd and Nine Elms Lane, Albert Embankment and Vauxhall Bridge would reduce accidents and improve cycling conditions (same as option 2). New uses for arches in South Lambeth Place.
Traffic reduction of 36% required in morning and 31% in evening, affecting network capacity and increasing congestion. Buses experience delays. Bus station structure would need to be removed (as with options 2 and 4).
4) Two-way with Buses and Cyclists only in Wandsorth Rd
Improvements for pedestrians crossing Wandsworth Rd. Reduced carriageway improving public realm. A new public square at Underground and Rail station entrances (same as with options 1, 2 and 3). Simplification of Vauxhall Bridge junction which will help cyclists. Improvements for pedestrian crossings.
Vehicular traffic reductions of approx. 50% required in both morning and evening(!!!) affecting network capacity and increasing congestion. Buses experience delays. Bus station capacity reduced and structure would need to be removed (as with options 2 and 3)
Options for one-way movement
5) One Way: Do Minimum
Improvements to pedestrian movements by adding pedestrian crossings, introduction of contraflow cycle lane on Harleyford Road and a nearside bus lane on Vauxhall Bridge to benefit cyclists. Has negligible impact on traffic or bus station capacity.
Loss of one bus stop, no improvements to public realm or increase in public space and increased pedestrian congestion.
[Hmm, that options looks atrocious really, doesn't it? Might as well be called "do nothing"!]
6) One Way: Do something
This involves moving and relocating the bus station next to railway viaduct, replacing existing buildings.
Improvement to cyclists by simplification of Vauxhall Bridge/Albert Embankment Junction. Consolidated public realm and new public square at Undegeround station entrance. Removal of buses from South Lambeth Place, making it a shared cyclist/pedestrian route. Widened footways on South Lambeth and Wandsworth Rds. Introduction of contraflow cycle lane on Harleyford Road and a nearside bus lane on Vauxhall Bridge to benefit cyclists.
10% reduction of vehicular traffic required in the mornings. Existing buildings would need to be removed. Bus station is completely separated by entry and exit routes from Underground station. Bus station structure would need to be removed and capacity reduced. Increased pedestrian congestion.
7) One way: Do something (else)
Consolidation of Public Square at Vauxhall undeground station, but with retention of bus station. Bus station will become shorter to allow buses to enter from Kennington Lane. New pedestrian crossing on Wandsworth Road.
[Option 7) should probably be looked at carefully. The study notes that parts of this option were added at quite a late stage, making it a likely strong contender for TFL]
Improvement to cyclists by simplification of Vauxhall Bridge/Albert Embankment Junction. Consolidated public realm and new public square at Undegeround station entrance. Improved conditions for cyclists by reduction of left turn from Wandsworth Road on to Vauxhall Bridge Rd. Increased public realm. New crossing from St George Wharf to central gyratory area. Lots of additional pedestrian crossings. Introduction of contraflow cycle lane on Harleyford Road and a nearside bus lane on Vauxhall Bridge to benefit cyclists.
Disadvantages summary: 17% reduction of morning vehicular traffic, and 8% reduction of evening vehicular traffic. Reduced bus station capacity. Pedestrian congestion likely to increase in vicinity of Nine Elms Lane, Wandsworth Road and bus station. Train station entrances remain separated by carriageway. Bus station separated from underground station, requiring pedestrians to cross busy carriageway (ARGH!)
Now, those are my written sketches. If you've managed to make it this far, I congratulate you. I think it's time for a public consultation, but I challenge people to continue to keep asking the question of entitlement. Who benefits from what you propose, both concerning Vauxhall gyratory and in wider society, and do they deserve to benefit?