This evening, Ben Hamilton-Baillie talked at Leeds Met Rose Bowl about cutting edge street design - cars, cyclists, pedestrians, junctions and the need to rethink the best way of mixing all these together in both a functional and elegant way. His approach is to do away with all the usual paraphernalia of paint, signals, signs etc and replace all this with...well, nothing really. Perhaps a bit of subtle paving to hint at some shapes, but that's it. You might expect to open such a junction to traffic and find it rapidly filling with smashed up cars and the remains of cyclists, but you don't. Instead, the very lack of explicit guidance means everyone starts thinking, not just for themselves but about others. Cars slow down and drivers can be seen actively scanning the area for pedestrians who might be about to cross, other cars and cyclists. A myriad of latent social interactions surface and bizarrely it all just works. Even more bizarrely the removal of all the signals means traffic flows continuously, and there is no reduction in overall capacity.
Poynton was a town marred by an ugly junction. Businesses were closing, the noise was terrible, the junction a huge impediment to local people, and not much fun for drivers either, let alone cyclists. So, after filling a skip with traffic lights and bollards and wiping off all the paint, did it work? See for yourself here.
What was really encouraging about the talk was the presence in the audience - which must have numbered over 200 and filled the theater - of Leeds City Council's Highways planners. I counted at least half a dozen. Well done to all of them for making the effort - what better way to have your mind opened than through such an inspiring talk.
The Cycle Cities Ambition Bid goes in next Tuesday. Competition from other cities will be tough and if we don't show real ambition we won't get the money. But maybe, just maybe, this is our chance to be brave and to try something new. We *can* do better, much better, and why not a Poynton in Leeds? We're not short of suitable locations ;-)