Victoria Embankment still closed to through traffic but more parking available

The council announced its intention to make changes on 12th November.

Experiment to provide a more peaceful Victoria Embankment will continue, but barriers have been moved, allowing closer access to The Memorial for people arriving by car who are less mobile, and allowing most residents living along Victoria Embankment to park their car in front of their property rather than only behind. (The final location of the northern closure barrier was changed in response to a tweak requested by emergency services.)

Proper evaluation of the change can take place as Clifton Bridge is more fully returned to full capacity and traffic levels have reached a new steady state (after the Covid-19 public health emergency).
Whenever I’ve been asked to witness traffic problems in The Meadows, they have not been there, BUT I will still look out for issues especially on or around Bathley Street nevertheless.

A full consultation has to take place if the change is to be made permanent, and I will want to be able to hold public meetings and canvass local opinion as part of any such process.

Clifton Bridge: a second outbound lane opened

Highways England have announced the opening of another lane on the weakened bridge, but are now talking about another year for full restoration, rather than previous suggestions that works would be completed by end of February, 2021.
So decidedly mixed news; and still ambiguous on what further lanes, when.
Still, not as a Nottingham Post tweet described the bridge – as “condemned”. –
Wanting to know about a new steady state of traffic levels (post the return of Clifton Bridge in full, and post the Covid-19 public health emergency) is desired before making a final decision about whether to recommend the permanent closure of traffic to Victoria Embankment.

Stopping Victoria Embankment being a through route for traffic

I support stopping the flow of traffic through Victoria Embankment that was introduced on 3rd August. I believe there is the potential for significant advantage to Meadows residents and users of all the facilities along the Embankment. This change is now the real opportunity to find out what will actually happen with closures, and I know the overall impacts are to be reviewed every month. If the change is to be kept beyond next year, it still needs a full and extensive public consultation.

Diagram showing the location of the barriers, published in the run-up to the 3rd August.

For some time, there has been a body of public opinion calling for through traffic between Trent Bridge and points west of The Meadows to be prevented. At least 500 vehicles a day were making that journey and that meant noise and pollution in The Meadows.
Plus, the Embankment supports recreation on the riverside, around The Memorial, at a bandstand on the fields for football, cricket and at the special places supporting paddling, adventure games and the mini-cycling network. The presence of traffic, often travelling above 20 mph, does take way from the pleasure of using the general area.
And indeed, on occasions, the through traffic is stopped – for the Riverside Festival, concerts, cycling & running events, commemoration and for car parking to support Forest home games and Test Match days.
But we’d not considered making those changes permanent. So what happened?

The Public Health Emergency highlighted how people were less vulnerable to Covid-19 if they were fitter and if their breathing air was cleaner. The Government responded by saying to councils (as highway authorities) that they would provide extra money to introduce schemes that promoted cycling and walking. Nottingham proposed a range of schemes that were so ambitious that the Government awarded extra money – and one of those proposals was to improve walking and cycling along Victoria Embankment.

I support the change as the emergency measure it is. Which means it’s introduced but can’t be made permanent without the more normal extensive consultation, often associated with letters to many local residents and public consultation meetings. And I am surprised that announcements through the media, and shared by social media, left as many saying they didn’t know the changes were coming as they did. The barriers are also not going to feel permanent, cos they do have to be moved, and they may not state.
Any kind of change is also going to take time to bed in. Car drivers think they know the way, despite whatever diversion signs say. Satellite navigation devices are also not updated frequently and are not aware of diversions. Other changes might affect route selection – part of Wilford Crescent East being unavailable to traffic cos of construction, Collin Street being closed (after 20+ years of trying), and the A52 over the bridge at Clifton not being fully available. But schools are closed and shops and offices are not open to the extent they were.

So I support the change. I believe the best way to find out if the change is suitable, is to continue until we at least know what the impact when traffic volumes are back to much normal levels.
Then we assess the benefits of friendlier space is against the drawbacks.

The potential drawbacks to assess are –
– transference onto more residential streets in unacceptable levels, including on smaller streets;
– delays to public transport;
– and arguably, impact on the Nottingham road traffic in general.
The obvious concern for The Meadows is the parts of Bathley Street and Wilford Grove used by the NCT Green No. 11, and streets off such as Wilford Crescent East, Collygate Road and Turney Street.
I am surprised that traffic might prefer Bathley Street and Wilford Grove given how traffic has to traverse vertical deflection and often has to wait for oncoming traffic to pass; Meadows Way is a much more relaxing route to drive around.
Otherwise: Knowledge of the changes will increase with time. We can listen out for people who have challenges to their mobility.

Closing Collin Street to traffic in August

Received a letter to local residents on these plans and you might wonder why carry on with radical change when works to transform Broadmarsh have stopped, question marks hang over city street retail, the opening of the new Nottingham College has slipped to January 2021, more people might be working from home and the earliest any extra new development on the Island site could be is 2022. And then confusing signals have at times been given over the future of bus priority lanes on Carrington Street (only last Saturday), expanding the capacity of the London Road / Queens Road junction and the A453/A52 Clifton Bridge capacity remaining constricted cos of the unexpected and major repairs needed.

Yet the longer term vision for traffic in the city centre and across from and to West Bridgford and the north of the city has been of reduction of traffic since before the construction of the Southern Relief Route – the new Castle Marina Road and the widened Queens Drive / Waterway Street West / Sheriffs Way / Queens Road / London Road – to enable it some 20ish years ago.
A 4 lane “racing track” along Collin Street “cuts off” the railway station from the city centre and we wanted change.
The lower levels of traffic as we come out of the public health emergency actually means this is might be a better time to introduce the change, and I hope the transfer of the nearside inbound lane on Trent Bridge to cyclists will encourage the move to working from home, or commuters using their bikes.

As for some of the confusing signals that have at times come out, I’ve not heard of Queens Road junction being planned for expansion for some time now, and the notion of buses travelling south from out of the city no longer having a direct and prioritised route to the Meadows Way east bus lane seems peculiar at best, kinda running counter to the philosophy of the north of The Meadows (running along Crocus Street and Traffic Street) providing thousands of extra homes and bedrooms for people who will be less reliant on the car.

I wonder if more of NCT’s bus routes might want to explore running around the city? More of the City Council’s services are provided from Loxley House, more of the DWP’s services too; we will be moving the Central Library from Angel Row to Collin Street and Nottingham College will have a new central location off Middle Hill. And the Island site will look to be more active.

Some of NCT’s Orange and Turquoise routes offer a City Loop option from the north, and alongside NCT’s Green services and NCT’s Navy 49 use the Middle Hill / Fletcher Gate / George Street route. It’s great, and serves thousands of residents in the Lace Market and Hockley who don’t own cars.

But the Ice Arena and the Island site are only served by NCT’s Red route and the EcoLink.. Could NCT’s Brown and/or Yellow services be extended to run around the city centre travelling along all of Canal Street before coming back along Bellar Gate / Belward Street / Cranbrook Street and Lower Parliament Street, with the inbound Victoria Centre stop (J1) becoming an interchange for passengers coming in from Mansfield Road (incl. Lime, Purple and Sky Blue) who would then want to reach the south of the city centre, including dropping off much nearer to the railway station?

A third tram route could serve The Meadows

You have to squint, but the map shows 2 alternative routes for a tram service through Meadow Lane to Nottingham Racecourse – along Meadows Way east and Cattle Bridge Road and along Arkwright Walk and across Trent Bridge Island.

Nottingham City Council’s Exec Board has agreed the development of a business plan to provide a new tram route through The Meadows and extensions to the existing tram lines passing through The Meadows.
The new route to the Racecourse Park & Ride has the potential to relieve London Road should a further extension reach out to the A52 east of Gamston.
There are 2 potential routes –
– the more direct route out should serves Meadows Way east (with all the new housing planned for Crocus Street) and the Cattle Market (putting the market on the map in a very powerful way, serving the County football Ground and meeting the potential for more housing around the market);
– the less direct rout would have stops at Bridgeway Shopping Centre, near to Trent Bridge Island (bringing County Hall, Trent Bridge cricket ground and the City Ground) much nearer to the network and on meadow lane (serving the County Ground, the Cattle Market and new housing).
The target is to have the services running in 2028 or 2029.
A previous route reaching 2 destinations beyond West Bridgford both failed business cases some 20 years ago because the population densities to support the tram services were not high enough (West Bridgford does become quite spread out) and the tram savings are not high enough.

A range of transport improvements for Nottingham and Derby has been announced by government.
The Meadows needs these packages cos we need relief from the heavy traffic on and poor air from London Road.
But the most direct benefit will be the capacity for better and more frequent customer information to our bus stops.

Mass transport to relieve Clifton Bridge jams

Public transport helps ease traffic disruption – and City Council asks Highways England to do more

“The closure of the A52 at Clifton Bridge for Highways England work is funnelling an extra 15,000 southbound vehicles a day over Nottingham’s remaining two bridges, latest figures show.
“The incident has also led to a rise in the number of people opting to use the tram – with a 21% increase in journeys from the Park & Ride sites at Clifton and Toton.
“Analysis of traffic flows by Nottingham City Council show that the average daily flow of southbound traffic over Lady Bay Bridge and Trent Bridge – heading in the same direction as the closed lanes on the A52 – increased from 36,000 vehicles before the closure to 52,000 after, or 44%. The biggest increase on a single day came on Sunday 9th February, with a rise of 77% more vehicles than usual.”

The City Council has already acted to stop cars getting in the way of trams, NCT Greens & Navys, and other public transport. Traffic access east through Crocus Street from Sheriff’s Way has been banned. And when it was needed, through traffic wasn’t allowed to block the trams running along Meadows Way.
Trams are stilled frustrated from time to time towards Gregory Street by traffic using Lenton Lane.
Trent Bridge and Trent Bridge Island often jam in peak hours anyway. What makes flows southbound during peak times struggle more is poor weather, a sporting event, or if there is an event in the city centre – typically at the Ice Arena.

What more can be done?
It needs financial support, but a temporary park & ride site at Wilford Lane could help more people switch to the tram. If Clifton South Park & ride site was to fill, a temporary extension could be sought.
More can be done with signage and being explicit with traffic mgmt. with extra yellow boxes.

More challenging ideas –
If just one lane southbound on Clifton Bridge brought such relief, what about allocating one of the lanes – when they come back – to mass transport and freight? Advice I’m getting is Clifton Bridge flows are too complicated to make the idea viable.
What impact could giving a south bound lane on Trent Bridge to buses and freight make? Again, advice I’m getting is flows south of the bridge are complicated and advantage gained would not be significant. Also, the installation of anti terrorist measures on the bridge restrict lane widths.

Meanwhile, progress on the introduction of electric buses from Belarus using capacitor technology continues, but it is slow.

Cars running out of petrol

A Facebook friend shared a graphic saying we didn’t realise the problems brought by electric cars in 3 hour traffic jams – their batteries run flat and how do you rescue them when they do? Kinda made sense to me.
Although my car once broke down cos I was unaware that the radiator fan was not working until in a jam.  

As best as they can tell, City Highway officers tell me they are unaware electric cars breaking down during recent episodes, but they were aware of cars running out of petrol.  
Not so much as case not proved, as why be emphatic and doom-laden without checking what actually happens?

Push public transport to mitigate continued closure of lanes on Clifton Bridge

It is a shame that Clifton Bridge is not going to be back to full capacity until the end of the year, although there are plans to get 3 lanes working each way earlier than that – we just don’t have a date.
One tweeter asked Lilian Greenwood MP whether Workplace Parking Levy could pay for extra “temporary” mass transport services to relieve the burden.

It is actually a good idea, in that the bigger firms’ workers who generate a lot of traffic are actually the best to organise a bigger response to mitigate traffic.
BUT, to get WPL through, we had to commit to certain levels of price for the WPL and there is no flexibility to do significantly more, since the beyond money spend on capital sums for tam and rail, the rest is already spent on buses and travel planning.  
Meantime, I hope Highways England can explore ways of support modal shift in the forthcoming months.

Predict and Provide but not actually plan for the future

The Nottingham Post asked did we “need a fourth bridge over the Trent?”
They announced a result of 93% in favour.
Yes, the day after we found the worst of the jams has been relieved by opening just one of the lanes going south.

No doubt those polled will express their concern too about single-use plastic (cos they’ve seen the David Attenborough programmes), and about climate change, and about providing better alternatives. But the newspaper didn’t suggest any alternatives.

We should respond to this last crisis by saying if we expand capacity for cars, commuters who use the car will decide than they can live further away and daily worsen our air quality and [undermine] our ambition to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases

So instead, let’s –
– support plans to build more homes nearer to where people work and learn; building on what’s already in the Local Plan;
– direct more gov’t resources to tackling the challenges to encouraging city living, including perceptions of schools serving the most deprived children;
– relieve traffic levels through West Bridgford by offering a tram service from the A52 east of West Bridgford;
– offer a new park & ride from the A46 / A52 junction near Bingham, through a frequent train service enabled with new points east of Bingham to allow a quick turnaround.

And next time we get sanctimonious comments like “if only people had heeded the warnings”, ask them if they took time to stand up for the climate when the Nottingham Post campaigned for another road bridge.

Notes –
1. of course, it’s only the fourth if you ignore the 2 bridges used for the tram, and for walking and cycling; the railway bridge some way to the east is also under recognised and under valued.

Traffic relieved by just one lane on Clifton Bridge

Went to see the afternoon peak traffic jamming The Meadows, and it wasn’t there.
Just one lane south on Clifton Bridge, and the marshalling organised to maximise flow over the one lane, relieved The Meadows. (Despite stories of marshalling traffic on Mansfield Road, I’d never imagined the one lane could make such a difference.)
Yep, the typical jam from London Road to Trent Bridge was still there. (And I imagine there was some extra challenges on the ring road too.)
But I had time on my hands, so got a haircut and took pictures of the new crocuses instead (and submitted 3 requested for small actions on St.Saviour’s Gardens).

So if we’re to achieve carbon neutrality, we have to learn from what this episode has told us. And that is – we need better mass transport solutions serving the city centre from the east of West Bridgford.