Frequently Asked Questions about the South Road Roundabout
South Road Roundabout Proposal for New Retail Development.
Some questions have occurred on our facebook page on the issue of the roundabout proposed to access the new retail park on South Road, next to Tesco.
I thought it would be easier to provide answers here (as I’m one of those people who doesn’t do facebook :-) And, unfortunately, it takes a bit more space to provide some explanation.
I’m Gordon Pay, the coordinator of our Town Development group. I walk my daughter to Castlehill Primary School along this route. We’ve been raising concerns about how this access will affect the safety of our children travelling to school for some considerable time now.
Perhaps the first thing to say is that Fife Council is now disregarding a UK Government design standard they said the roundabout had to be designed in accordance with (in condition 21 of the planning approval). The standard raises particular concerns about roundabouts for pedestrians and cyclists (also known as vulnerable road users). We are not talking about peripheral issues in this standard, but the most important points, which are there for reasons of safety.
(the link can take a while to load but it does com up eventually)
The roundabout can be viewed as part of the “03G - Proposed Block Plan” document. This should be the 4th document in the list there. You can view this by clicking on the icon in the last “View” column. The relevant condition is in the “Approved” document, which should be the document at the top of the list, and can be found starting at the bottom of page 5 of the “Decision Notice” part of it.
I have consulted Thomas Breakwell, Senior Technical Advisor, Safer Roads - Design, at Highways England, who are responsible for the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), which is the standard we are talking about here. He was the person I was directed to when I started asking questions; indeed, when he was at one point on leave, no one else there was prepared to answer the particular questions. So, we’ve done our homework on this.
TD54/07 is the bit of DMRB dealing with the design of mini-roundabouts. However, Thomas Breakwell has pointed out that parts of DMRB should not be read in isolation, and also directed us to a particular paragraph in another document to help clarify a point.
I’ve also personally driven on an example of what can probably be regarded as international best practice, for this type of roundabout. My brother lives in California, and we were on one of our, not very frequent, visits last Christmas. Roundabouts are still very rare and unusual in the US, and I believe they’ve now looked very carefully to international best practice for their designs.
Sustainable Cupar has proposed that this be looked at here, because achieving the UK Government standard in this situation will effectively require something like that.
It should be pointed out, this is still a compromise. Roundabouts present a particular increase in hazard to cyclists. The UK Government design standard for this (Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, TD54/07 “Design of Mini-Roundabouts”), makes this clear. It is not the best solution for cyclists. The advice for less experienced cyclists at the junction would have to be to cross it as a pedestrian. (The even better practice in the Netherlands separates cyclists - they do not go round roundabouts with either pedestrians or motor vehicles. That requires significantly more space.)
The main tool (pretty much the only one) we have to make this roundabout safer for cyclists is to reduce the speed of approaching motor traffic.
The Community Council had a meeting with Fife Council planner William Shand in March, before the planning application was approved. (There are currently 3 Community Council members who are also members, and trustees, of Sustainable Cupar.)
At that point we were asking how the Scottish Government’s Designing Streets policy document would be applied. Despite advice we obtained from the Scottish Government that it was clear the policy applied, Fife Council declined to use any of the guidance it contained (and ignored a policy). This was not the only Scottish Government planning policy on the requirements of sustainable transport that Fife Council ignored in approving the application.
Fife Council did approve the planning application with a planning condition that the roundabout design be in accordance with the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), TD54/07 “Design of Mini-Roundabouts”, before work starts.
DMRB was supposed to have been superseded by Designing Streets within settlement boundaries. Designing Streets was supposed to represent a step change in established practices, putting place and people before the movement of motor vehicle.
However, DMRB TD54/07 is a reasonably good document in the circumstances, and it has to be said Designing Streets is actually very bad in relation to cycling! In these circumstances, TD54/07 effectively suggests a solution that is the same as international best practice in roundabout design. So, we (Sustainable Cupar and the Community Council) were prepared to work with that.
The Community Council recently had a meeting with Richard Simmons of Fife Council transportation.
Fife Council has not appeared willing to even consider best practice, and is prepared to essentially ignore what the UK standard says about safety.
We have tried to engage reasonably with Fife Council, but we feel it has now crossed a line. This should simply not be acceptable on a route to school, and that is indeed what the standard explicitly says. Particularly a primary school.
So, what does international best practice entail? It provides crossing points just over one car length back from the roundabout, with a sufficiently wide refuge island (to safely accommodate a bike or parent pushing a buggy) so that a pedestrian only has to cope with one direction of traffic flow at a time. Each of these crossings gives priority to pedestrians. As can be seen in the following example link, this is what other jurisdictions now have as their standard practice.
Thomas Breakwell (Senior Technical Advisor, Safer Roads - Design, Highways England, who are responsible for the UK’s Design Manual for Roads and Bridges standard) also directed us to a particular paragraph of another UK document (LTN 2/95 paragraph 2.1.3, if you are interested), that made it very clear that a Zebra Crossing is also the preferred solution in the UK for a pedestrian crossing forming part of a roundabout junction (as opposed to crossings that are distanced from the junction).
Some concern has been expressed that this may result in problems for traffic flow. The practice elsewhere is sufficient to demonstrate this is not the case, and the UK standard (Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, TD54/07 “Design of Mini-Roundabouts”) itself is designed for trunk roads, which can have much heavier flows than that in Cupar. Use of Zebra Crossings, rather than traffic light controlled ones, is actually part of keeping the flow moving.
The Zebra Crossings are, however, also there to achieve some speed reduction of motor vehicles approaching the junction. This speed reduction is key part of making the roundabout safer for cyclists. As part of this we would also propose the school time 20mph limit be extended to cover the junction, and to apply all the time and not just be a part-time limit.
Fife Council seems prepared to ignore all this, despite the standard explicitly saying mini-roundabouts should not be used on routes to schools, unless there is adequate speed reduction measures. We think the presence of the Zebra Crossings, and the proximity to the bend in the road, will achieve the recommended speed, and not require any other speed reduction measures. Without the crossings, we think it is likely other ‘vertical’ speed reduction measures would be required to meet the standard - this would likely entail a “speed table” covering the whole junction. This is the reason for having crossings on all ‘arms’ of the roundabout - apart from the fact that there are existing pedestrian desire lines at all these points (people do want to cross the road at these points).
What we are effectively proposing is creating a highly regulated form of “shared space”, slowing things down so decisions are made as much by eye contact as any assumption of right. All road users - pedestrians, cyclists, and those in their cars - are seen as people. This can actually improve flow, but allows all road users, not just motor vehicles, the convenience of getting from A to B (and with a reasonable expectation of getting there safely).