Promises, promises. Promises to deliver safe roads, to remove the infamous King’s Cross gyratory system, to consult, to be transparent in decision making and improve external communication, that’s what we’ve had from Transport for London (TfL).
Yet design of a preferred option to remove the gyratory and improve our public realm has taken place behind opaque closed doors.
Getting information out of TfL = pulling teeth
During a series of public workshops looking at removing the gyratory system held in 2011, TfL were clear they would present a preferred option for public consultation in summer 2013. But this date has been pushed back and back with no reason given. The TfL webmaster just changes the consultation date on their website. On 17 June this year Greater London Assembly member for Camden, Andrew Dismore, put a written question to the Mayor to ask why. The Mayor replied:
“TfL has established a working group comprising officers from the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington who are meeting every 6 weeks to develop a collaborative solution for the King’s Cross area. As a result, the feasibility stage has been extended to ensure the right solution is reached which meets the requirements of residents, businesses and users at this very complex area of London’s road network.
TfL expect to agree a preferred scheme design with the Boroughs by mid-2016, with a public consultation to follow later that year.”
So when pressed for a reason TfL has said the delays are because they’ve had to work with Islington and Camden councils. But this holds no water as they’d stated at the outset they’d be working with both councils so it can’t possibly have been a reason for delay – unless of course political games are being played with us, or maybe they are that clueless that it takes them an inordinate amount of time to work collaboratively and they didn’t realise that back in 2011.
News that the most recent deadline to consult on the preferred option for road and public realm design may take place in early 2016 not winter 2016 as stated on TfL’s website comes not from them, but from an Islington councillor.
Plus ca change…
In October 2012, the Deputy Mayor for Transport, Isabel Dedring, said:
“TfL needs to improve how they do business and become more transparent”
“The website is going to be improved so information can be found easily”
Yet it takes a written question to the Mayor, or snippets of information given to a local councillor, for TfL to keep the public updated. Need we say more?
Gyratory removal, improved public realm design and development – where’s the transparently iterative process?
“The [King’s Cross road system] study will be all encompassing and strategic – it is fair to say that we are looking at returning the gyratory to two-way working but that alone is not enough.” Isabel Dedring, Deputy Mayor for Transport, October 2012
“See the yellow raised bit at the front of the photo. Me and a friend saw a woman cyclist career headlong into this last night, falling right in front of a car (which luckily stopped in time so only scrapes).
In daylight I’m sure that paint helps people see the raised area, but at night it makes it invisible looking like a a yellow line on the road.” Quote from Facebook 17 July 2015
TfL has a problem, in the public eye its design choices are often felt to be rather odd. For example, interim changes to the junction at Gray’s Inn/Euston/Pentonville roads and York Way completed earlier this year were specifically supposed to improve safety for cyclists. Yet cyclists say the ‘improvements’ have made the junction worse. Even simple things like designing a cycling lane that doesn’t immediately spew you out into two narrowing lanes of heavy traffic, or painting raised cycle separation barriers in a colour that doesn’t make them look like flat yellow lines on the road at night, or using a traffic light system that actually does what it should (the SCOOT detection system on the Wharfdale Road/Caledonian Road junction still isn’t working) seem difficult for the experts at TfL.
Complex design processes are notoriously problematic, yet there have long been means of avoiding the pitfalls. Inductive design involves consulting end users at the start of the process on what the problems are and how to solve them. TfL is to be praised here, they did that by running a series of public workshops in 2011. Iterative design is a means of regularly testing both partial and entire design proposals with end users right from the start and throughout their development. It is used in architecture, engineering, computer programming and even management consultancy. This is the opposite of what TfL has done. The experts at TfL are busy designing away without letting us know what their thinking is and asking us why it wouldn’t work in order to improve it before they formally consult on their preferred solution.
So we are left waiting, waiting, waiting. Every now and then the date for consultation changes on the TfL website. And then we wait. And wait. And wait. I don’t know about you but I just don’t want to feel that powerless and excluded.
So, with TfL’s design options not being communicated as they are developed and hopefully improved what could we do? Design it ourselves that’s what. TfL may, or may not participate, but by designing parts of the new system or even the whole thing, each of us can prepare for the long promised TfL consultation on their preferred option which may happen early next year. Anyone up for this? I know we have readers who are experts in this and related fields and it would be great if they could kick us off. Let’s all start having our say on what we’d actually like to see.
I’ve tried to find some easy to use design software to help the process, but so far no joy. If anyone knows of some software we could use to collaboratively design the road system and public realm here that would be really helpful. Meantime, below are versions of the diagram on the left, to download your preferred format just click on the link:
Have a go at making your design proposals – whether for a small part of the area or even the whole thing – and email us your results and any details, images or text you’d like included – firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll publish everything we receive.