Brockley Road - off the rails


Kensington High Street: classy bins, classy lamp posts, classy ladies.

The poor condition of much of Brockley Road has been a recurrent theme since this blog began. It was also the subject of some detailed discussion with the Council when Cllr Alexander visited Brockley Cross in the summer.

Shortly, we'll publish the details of the High Street campaign we hope to get off the ground, but for now, we want to revisit a particular issue which was discussed with the Council officials during the tour.

The railings opposite the Brockley Barge and the Chemist are in very poor condition and do more than their fair share to contribute to the generally squalid condition of the streetscape. The dull grey metal bars are bent out of shape while the legs churn up the pavement in to which they sink. Their utilitarian design and lack of maintenance screams crap town.

The Council Officers admitted as much and said that, were we starting with a clean sheet of pavement, no one would consider installing railings in those positions. However, they'd also be reluctant to remove them - no one wants to be the officer who removes railings, only for a pedestrian to be killed in that spot shortly afterwards.

But there is very good evidence that railings not only make our streets worse, they also make them more dangerous, prompting some Councils to de-clutter.

According to the Urban Design Compendium, Kensington Highstreet:

Has undergone a major transformation in order to improve its image and provide a safer, more attractive environment for pedestrians. Specific measures included:
  • reduction of street clutter by mounting traffic signals and signage on lamp columns
  • removal of guardrails and bollards
  • removal of staggered crossings; removal of traffic islands
  • introduction of dropped kerbs
  • reduction in the number of surface materials
Initially there was significant opposition to these changes and the Stage 1 Safety Audit brought attention to a number of safety issues. To address these issues an evidence-based method was applied during the first phase of the scheme. During this phase the impact of the changes on the behaviour of pedestrians was carefully monitored using on-site observations, CCTV and representatives from disabled and walking groups.

Monitoring also included the use of records of personal injury collisions collated by Transport for London. The initial results showed that such innovative change together with detailed design and risk assessment could be achieved without negative impact. The changes were therefore retained and the remaining phases built over a period of three years.

The street improvements have not only improved the quality of streetscape but since the changes were introduced pedestrian accidents in the affected area have been reduced by more than 40 per cent.

And it's not only Royal Boroughs that are at it, Hackney Council have followed K&C's lead, as their newsletter reported:

So-called 'safety' features are to be stripped from many of Hackney's roads after research showed that they could contribute to accidents. The Council is set to embark on a radical reduction of pedestrian guard railings, starting with Mare Street in central Hackney.

The move comes after a study found that railings discouraged walking by restricting pedestrian access, gave greater priority to vehicles and had a negative impact on the street scene. Poorly placed railings can increase the chance of collisions by making pedestrians take risks. They may even contribute to the injury of cyclists who can get trapped between vehicles and railings.

So if we want to start improving our main streets, we shouldn't go to the expense of replacing or painting unnecessary old railings, we should get rid of them all together, humanising our streets, rather than hemming people in. We'd love to see Lewisham follow Kensington and Hackney's example.

59 comments:

Hugh said...

First post.

come on

Anonymous said...

Well as an issue at least its a little bit more tangible than Sky dishes or plastic signs.

Do dah said...

Interesting, well I would support any proposal that encourages a different approach in how we manage our streetscape. I'm experiencing a degree of cognitive dissonance as a result of the counterintuitivity of your arguments however. Specfifically the idea that the removal of railings doesn't increase danger. But if the evidence cited is accurate and it may well work here.

One thing I would say is that High Street Ken's pavement is significantly wider than Brockley Road, in fact the whole street scape is wider, it is a proper thoroughfare and its busier. But interesting nonetheless.

Brockley Kate said...

Isn't the traffic much slower along High St Ken than it is along Brockley Rd?

Anonymous said...

I'd like to propose a mandatory minimum speed across Lewisham of 40 MPH.

Tressilliana said...

Very funny, Anon 13.04. There are already far too many lousy drivers in Lewisham, let's not encourage them.

Classy ladies - could Brockley provide these? If classy means dressy, I'm not going to be any great help.

fabhat said...

As someone who used to work on High St Ken 10 years ago, it's interesting to see how different it looks from these pictures. When I worked round there it was a total rat race, with every car gunning for itself.Any pedestrian that didn't want to take 15 mins to cross the road by the correct, but staggered and car orientated crossings, would instead resort to flinging themselves across the railings and having to play human frogger. I am amazed I didn't die on that road, especially as I wasn't always, ahem,totally sober.

The removal of signage and street furniture etc was also done in Exhibition Rd, near the museums when they went one further and removed roadmarkings and pavements. Apparently this makes all the cars slow down, as they don't feel that there is such a demarcation between road users, therefore they have to drive with attention to pedestrians as well. It has apparently worked very well.

On our own dear Brockley Rd, I would love to see the railings gone, another zebra crossing by the toads mouth instead of the paltry islands and hanging baskets galore.

On a side note - the New Cross triangle, with the lovely baskets on flowers on it is apparently all going to go as the funding for it has come to an end...Tamsin - you must know more about this?

Anonymous said...

It should definitely be possible to remove the railings etc now that Lewisham has it's 20 mph speed limit.

Pedestrianise Coulgate Street I say!

Paddyom said...

I hate these railings at pedestrian crossings and find that they force people to walk the wrong way around them so they can cross at the spot they want to rather than be herded like sheep the way the Council would like them to walk. Or when people cross the street they cant get onto the path at the other side as theres a railing in the way so they increase the chances of people getting run over.

But any improvements to our shabby high street would be very welcome. With so many retailers all it takes is one to have zero clue about presentation to make the place look gaudy. In Brockleys case we have very many more!

Do dah said...

Hmmm, you could be right Kate it's a road that's quite heavily punctuated with traffic lights, islands and things, so that may well lower the average speed. But crucially it doesn't have humps like Brockley Road .

Any new solution, needs to incorporate some of the additional functions that railings provided, such as something to tether a dog lead to and also a bike.

Trees can do both these things and they discourage cars because most car owners don't like parking under trees because of bird droppings and things. Without the railings and with lowered kerbs drivers may feel encouraged drivers to park on the pavement. So trees are multi -functional

Bea said...

Bordeaux has recently had a massive injection of cash to regenerate the centre (including a funky new tram and restoration / cleaned up of ancient buildings / monuments). Along the narrow side roads the town hall has placed bollards and railings everywhere (albeit very tasteful ones).

However, I think this was more to prevent cars from parking on the pavements in both directions leaving no space for pedestrians rather than as a safety measure.

If Lewisham Council insists a barrier has to remain then maybe we could raise money for similar “classy” looking railings.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hdescopeland/2232392576/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/22094318@N07/2189983794/

Brockley Nick said...

@Kate - I don't know. The stretch of road featuring the railings is right next to the traffic lights, has speed bumps and is on the approach to a tight bend. Plus there is quite a lot of congestion, so I doubt there's a big difference. But to reiterate, the Council experts said that they are probably unnecessary and modern planners wouldn't install them. The issue is that someone needs to take responsbility for removing them and officers are naturally reluctant to do that (for understandable reasons).

In my view, one of the objectives of the campaign should be to persuade the Council to take action, but it's interesting to hear people's views on this.

lb said...

If people just crossed at the bleedin' crossings, instead of hurling themselves into the paths of cars, the railings wouldn't be necesary in the first place.

Even along Lewisham Way, where there are about a million crossings, people cross the road in between them, presumably to save on 0.05 micrometers of shoe leather.

Do dah said...

High St Ken, has bumps now? well I suppose it's inevitable everywhere, with the powerful cars around these days, I notice Blackheath has humps now.

Actually Blackheath's high street is one we could look to for ideas, I but the charm of that area is the shops as much as anything.

Anonymous said...

It's the same catch-22 that prevents the government from removing the frankly archaic 70MPH speed limit from motorways. Because you can be sure that somebody, somewhere would die and people would ask if speed was a factor.

The limits were, of course, based on brake tests involving 1960s Ford Cortinas that had brakes made out of old biscuit barrels.

Tressilliana said...

Does anyone know if research shows that speed bumps do any good? It's not my impression that speeds on our local streets have fallen since they arrived. I will always remember going to Lewisham Hospital in an ambulance with my daughter, who had what turned out to be a perforated appendix. Bump, bump, bump, over and over again. There's no way an ambulance can avoid them, especially with so many parked cars lining the streets. It must have been agony for her.

nobbly brick said...

Blackheath's high street is very heavily barriered is it not?

Anonymous said...

Brakes are better, but cars are heavier. I don't think there's much difference in stopping distances. Plus higher speeds are much less fuel efficient.

By the way, the situation you describe is not a Catch 22.

Anonymous said...

Yeah but if you're willing to pay for the fuel, who gives a stuff about fuel efficiency? You use more bodily energy running than walking, but you'll still do it and you'll still feel hungrier later in the day. Simple input and output.

Ambulances should be able to straddle the smaller speedbumps if they're driving them properly.

Do dah said...

My friend was coming home from having had a c-section, it was agony for her. In her husband's small Nissan.

Bumps aren't good for small cars, it means they end up in the garage more frequently. Regardless of how you drive.

About Blackheath, parts of the high street around the station have railings, but by the pub and pizza express there are trees.

Anonymous said...

Outside the pizza express and the pub there would be no need for railings because of the high stepped curbs. The places where there are railings (from memory) are the narrow pavement areas - 'pinch points' - where it would be easy to be knocked into the way of oncoming traffic by, for instance, a muffin-filled person coming out of Starbucks.

Brockley Jon said...

Anon, you say 'if they driving properly' as if you could do a better job! I know what Tressilliana means, when there are parked cars next to a speed bump you can't straddle it, you have to drive straight over it.

I'm in two minds over speed bumps, on the one hand they make they stop the ganstas of Brockley from achieving 60mph down our residential streets (especially when they're driving a long-slung drug-mobile). But then that in turn makes them take longer to pass through, meaning you get to enjoy their 'tuned' exhaust note as they brake and accelerate, and you often get to appreciate their music a little longer than you'd like to! Sorry to rant.

Anonymous said...

I'd be reluctant to lose them. It's no so much as keeping the cars off the pavements but keeping the people off the road. Outside the Barge where the bus stop is situated gets very clogged and it's easy to be pushed out in front of traffic.

Kate. Kensington High Street is much slower than Brockley road. That's my only worry despite acknowledging the problem.

Anonymous said...

LOOK AT THE WIDTH OF THE PAVEMENT IN THE PHOTO!!!!!
I THINK THAT TELLS YOU WHY IT'S OKAY TO HAVE NO RAILINGS IN KENSINGTON. UNLESS THE COUNCIL WIDEN THE PAVEMENTS IN BROCKLEY IT SHOULD BE A NO GO.

fabhat said...

Anon 14.23 - there are much bigger crowds of pedestrians in Ken High St,so proportionally the pavement width must be fairly similar in terms of people per pavement space (there must be a statistic about that somewhere?)

Brockley Nick said...

But Ken High Street is a very busy shopping street, so the pavements may be wider, but there are far more people. Has anyone ever been crushed up against the barriers on Brockley Road by sheer weight of pedestrian numbers? If not, then surely the width of the pavement is irrelevant to the issue.

nobbly brick said...

if it were narrower, then the width of the pavement would be an issue, but it's not that narrow.

So, the only reason the council wouldn't want to do anything is that it's irrelevant. The barriers may as well stay rather than be removed.

And Brockley Jons racism is unpleasant and uncalled for and shouldn't be allowed. He should have the sense to moderate himself at least.

Anonymous said...

nobbly, it's no more or less racist to refer to "ganstas" than it is to refer to "chavs". Both are more about behavioural archetypes than they are about racial stereotypes.

Bea said...

Can’t see why Jon's statement is racist. Gangsta is perfomed and enjoyed by both black and white inner city kids – and that is what they are usually listening to in their cars as they hurtle down Brockley’s streets.

Anonymous said...

While we're on the subject, what's with the club that seem to congregate around the hairdressers near the Esso garage?

I mean why is it always a hairdressers? Is it cool to be seen to be having your hair cut?

nsfr said...

I think this is the big difference between Crofton Park and the area round the railings. Crofton Park doesn't have the same exposed traffic dominated feel, which the railings add to by coralling pedestrian traffic.

Bea said...

I suspect another reason the area around the Barge and the cross roads by the Chemist feel so traffic dominated is because the road splits into two lanes. At the Barge it’s the approach to the infamous Brockley Cross roundabout system and by the Chemists it's to get cars into the right lane to turn off.

I agree Crofton Park feels far less exposed to traffic.

nobbly brick said...

I wasn't specifically refering to the word 'gangsta' but the whole tone of his self-styled 'rant'.

I know a chap, a good friend of my son, who drives a vehicle similar to the one described but he is not a drug-dealer indeed if he thought he was irritating people like Brockley Jon he'd probably have a good laugh, but he'd certainly stop short at applying unpleasant stereotypes to him.

Paddyom said...

People manage to cross streets all over the world each day without this silly ugly railings; i am sure the people of Brockley are able to look both ways without the need to be herded like a bumbling sheep in a certain direction. The drunken loons leaving the Barge might miss them to prop themselves up however...

fabhat said...

nobbly brick - sounds like you're the one assuming that drug dealing is only done by one part of the community - which brockley jon doesn't say.
I do hate those cars with a vengance. They cruise up and down my road, rattling our windows to the point that you think they might come out of the frame, roaring the engines and generally totally disturbing the peace. You hear the car from the bottom of the road all the way to the top, and back again as is often the case.

I don't assume the people who drive them are anything more than very anti-social, and soon to be deaf.

Anonymous said...

Anybody who drives a car like that is automatically a bit of a dick, drug dealer or not.

11.34 said...

It's not only the cars! There's a boy around Adelaide/Ivy who likes to give his toy motorbike full revs at all hours. You can bet your a*se he's dealing. (I think there's a gang of them who hang around the kebab shop in Ladywell.)

Getting pretty sick of him and his 3am 'errands'...

do dah said...

I think this is a hard sell for any politician. There's not much to gain but a lot to lose. Lord forbid, someone is knocked down on that road, should the railings be removed.

There needs to be real material benefits to offset the risks.

do dah said...

Sorry I must qualify my remarks. I think this is too hard a sell unless there are tangible benefits.

fabhat said...

Unless we can persuade someone that to do it might mean winning an award - didn't streatham high st have a similar makover a few years ago, that won many plaudits?

Anonymous said...

I hope people realise that to get a classy look like Kensington, you need reasonably classy looking people - not sloane rangers or earth mothers shuffling about in woolen rags and flipflops with unwashed hair...

Tamsin said...

In response to fab-hat from way back - I don't know about the flowers and things going at the Hatcham/White Hart triangle because funds will be running out. NDCNXG are remarkably non-communicative to interested parties immediately outside their area. But the whole junction is being drastically re-designed in a way that is meant to be pedestrian friendly by making all the roads two-way traffic again to slow down the cars because drivers won't feel so secure. The result is actually, for those south of the A2, a much longer route, coralled by railings to cross over to the post office (while it is still there) banks and shops of Hatcham, and east-bound buses - with the alternative of truly dangerous jay-walking. But the experts are, of course, right. We'll just have to wait for a really serious accident.

tj said...

With the railings - is there any way of knowing if there were any accidents before the railings went up? If so, I doubt they will remove them.

We could always back over or otherwise destroy them - if the wall on Wickham Road is anything to go by, they'll never get replaced

Anonymous said...

Have people considered the local population and their antics may influence the streetscape and its condition?

What's the likelihood of damage in Brockley compared to Blackheath?

Is it Brockley's higher proportion of residents with disposable income which explains the large number of betting shops in the area?

madamegeneva said...

Have you seen this? http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/davehillblog/2008/sep/12/london

Brockley Central is becoming famous!

Anonymous said...

Soon the world of taxi company signage and gay black people will reach a more international audience, well done all!

tj said...

Madamegeneva - good spot. Nick - can you forward this on to the Cllr? Might be good to show that there is wider acknowledgement of the Brockley High Street thing. Especially if we can get the guardian blog to do a running piece on how we are getting on.

drakefell debaser said...

Yes the antics of some residents are to blame like littering but, I think in general the look of Brockley Road is down to lack of maintenance, poor planning in the first place and subsequently lack of interest. The interest to improve it is there now from residents but we now have to overcome the planning and maintenance issues with the council for things like the railings, safer pavements and better traffic systems. Blackheath is well ahead of Brockley so it’s unfair to draw comparisons at this stage but we can use it, and other places around us, as inspiration. With the news spilling into the national press the council may just take note.

Do we know what the opinions of the various business owners are as they could also help a great deal in changing the face of Brockley Rd by smartening up their own shop fronts?

Anonymous said...

Indeed - how does plastering a shop front with 'Special Brew' signs help anyone?

Paddyom said...

Did anyone see the new illuminated plastic sign erected by that 'crackerjack' newsagent place next to the Brockley Kitchen? Its absolutely rank. Just goes to show that planning in this country is an absolute joke and only applies to those who ask. All those walks with councillors around the area arent worth a damn if none of them get rules down on paper and ensure they are implemented. Good on Portland Bookmakers for errecting a nice new shop front - despite all the bad press their new store looks well.

nobbly brick said...

does the sign contravene the guidelines or is that a personal opinion?

If the former then get Bea on to it...

do dah said...

I think Bea deserves much kudos for her bullish determination regarding that Speedicars sign. Thank you for spearheading it Bea.

tj said...

The Brockley Kitchen row is not in the conservation area - so the new sign is ok.

Good on Portland for following the rules - but I can't help but think they knew we would be all over them if they didn't.

Yes, Bea is excellent at both spearheading and being bullish (I've known her since Uni) and if you realise what her personal commitments are, would be amazed at how she fits it all in, and has the time to care. Thanks Bea

Anonymous said...

councillors/anyone who can do anything about this:

Crossing on lewisham way, near tressilian - just changed to:

wait for it....

make both red and green signals visible to approaching cars. (ie instead of every other crossing in the world where the pedestrian signs face him/her and the car signs face the cars, the council has been brilliantly inspired to creat an absolutely TERRIFYING hazard with both colours seen by the cars.

for goodness sake take care crossing there - it is only a question of time before a car hurtles along thinking it's seeing a green signals when the pedestrian is crossing and obeying his (real) green signal.

has anyone else noticed it?

Anonymous said...

"It screams Crap Town"!. Yes Brockley has always been a crap town. I lived there from 1958-69. It was crap then - although the rent on a 3 bed terrace in Kneller Rd was £2 a week, and visiting and still knwing the area it's still crap. Sorry - and it's not a town either.

Anonymous said...

p.s.

When we lived in Adelaide Ave years ago there were no islands, traffic calming etc etc. We crossed the road to the park alone as children and walked to Gordonbrock Infants alone. There were ruins of bungalows all round the perimeter of the park and we happily played in the demolished buildings without hindrance.

There were certainly no cars racing around booming out with drivers so deafened they wouldn't notice the police after them anyway.

"Classy women in Brockley like Kensington"?? There aren't many classy people in Kensington, I worked there for many years and they are either just renting, visiting or posing.

The only way you'll get anyone classy in Brockley or environs is to get them to change the style of their track suits.

Anonymous said...

1969 obviously dealt brockley a hammer blow when that bloke. What an asset to the community he must have been.

Anonymous said...

When that bloke left I mean. Miserable old sod.

Amanda said...

Brockley Road Regeneration Meeting

If you're interested in the regeneration of Brockley Rd, you might want to go along to the Brockley Cross Action Group meeting.
Date: Thursday 25th September
Time: at 8.00
Location: Toads Mouth

Topics up for discussion also include the
-Christmas Market,
-public open spaces,
-Network Rail's plans for Brockley station and the outcome of the Deputy Mayor's walkabout.

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