Terry Paton reflects on the lost opportunity to improve safety at the Fountain
Safety is a big issue around the Fountain Roundabout, which has an accident rate is three times higher than that of comparable roundabouts in the Borough. There is conflict between drivers changing lanes, and it is not safe for cyclists or pedestrians.
We know that 66 people have been injured in accidents reported to the police over the past ten years and one person has been killed. This excludes minor accidents, which are not recorded if no one is injured.
Traffic problems are partly caused by the location and type of pedestrian crossing facilities: there are inadequate crossings on two sides, no crossing facilities at the High Street or Kingston Road.
The quality of the central reservation is poor and the glass-reinforced plastic fountain itself is falling apart slowly due to winter frosts.
In recent years there have not been sufficient funds to deal with these issues, but an opportunity arose in 2014 when the Mayor of London awarded Kingston a "Mini Hollands" grant to improve cycleways.
Balancing the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers in Kingston
There are ten cycling improvement schemes being planned across the Borough, mostly designed to ensure a safe cycling route into Kingston. As these schemes are funded by the Mayor, they have to be approved by Transport for London.
The former cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, strongly supported fully-segregated cycle routes, but this can increase congestion, as can be seen in central London. Others have promoted "shared" space, often known as the Dutch solution where was first introduced, but we know that cycles and pedestrians have to take special care and we have a duty of care to the partially sighted. The Council has to balance to the needs of cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. So when I took on this programme last July, my view was to take a pragmatic approach.
Creating Healthy Streets
This chimes with the new Mayor of London's new initiative called Healthy Streets. Transport for London has established ten measures that create better local conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. They are streets in which people feel safe and relaxed, with clean air and shade and shelter, where people from all walks of life choose to walk and cycle and where you can cross the road or just stop for a moment because there are things to do and see, and where it's not too noisy.
The Healthy Streets agenda does not satisfy cycling needs alone, as it requires a balanced and pragmatic approach which creates benefits not just for cyclists but for pedestrians, motorists and those live in the area too.
For me Healthy Streets is what we should be aiming to achieve.
What did this mean for The Fountain?
When we looked at the Fountain we tried to address these issues. Six designs, featuring roundabouts and crossroads of different sizes and layouts, were developed by the Guildhall team. We also had to adhering to TfL guidelines, such as maintaining bus journey times.
Only one scheme met the TfL criteria, and it was a clear winner. It scored well against the Healthy Streets score card with improved safety for walking, cycling and motor vehicles.
The scheme replaced the roundabout with traffic lights that ensured that there was a safe crossing point at all points of the junction. Traffic modelling showed that the frequency of blockages during peak times could be reduced. It was designed so that problems caused by accidents or delivery drivers blocking the road could be handled by changing the sequencing of the lights to disperse the traffic build-up.
This is a complex junction, and the proposal solved many issues, apart from the right turn into Burlington Road which TfL considered would lead to unacceptable delays to buses. It was by far the best option to solve the major issues.
As distancing pedestrians just two metres from the traffic can reduce pollution levels by as much as 50%, it was felt that the wider verges released by removing the roundabout would be beneficial to health and become a useful public space. And, as part of the Mayor's Healthy Streets approach, I was able to push for a new stone fountain, much like the original which was lost in 1932, and a landscaped space for events, stalls, or an assembly point for parades.
I saw this as an enhanced the gateway into New Malden.
Is there a solution to this dangerous and polluting junction?
We think that it is unlikely that we can find another scheme for Fountain that satisfies safety concerns, as well as the criteria of the Transport for London funding. However, we continue to work with TfL. My responsibility now is to try to progress the other projects in the Go Cycle scheme.
My principal concern remains the rate of accidents and personal injury, be that pedestrian, cyclist, motorcyclist or vehicle, on this dangerous junction.
Councillor Terry Paton