Sydenham Road Consultation

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Living Streets Paul Holdsworth ‘Talking the Walk’

Want a better High Street? If you live within 5 minutes walking distance of the Sydenham Road shopping centre – you should have, or about to receive a consultation booklet from Lewisham. Don’t worry if you are six minutes away you will be able to get copies from the Kirkdale Book Shop.

The consultation will lead to plans to improve Sydenham Road between the Kirkdale roundabout’ and the Mayow Road junction (by Slatters). It will be designed to take advantage of the opportunities from the arrival of the London ‘Overground’ to Sydenham Station around 2010. The Sydenham Gateway proposal from the Sydenham Society was an imaginative plan which got people thinking of how we could make this a more vibrant and interesting area. However the Sydenham Society were limited in the amount of consultation they could do to create a plan taking into account everybody’s interest.

Now Transport for London has allocated a pot of money for an extensive consultation and subsequent planning proposals. Furthermore we have been led to believe that the final amount available for improvement may be substantial. Millions rather than thousands were talked about. The rub is that the proposals have to be imaginative enough to justify it. And pressing a few of TfL hot buttons may help.

Lewisham have retained Living Streets (formerly the Pedestrian’s Association) to carry out a study of how we could better integrate people in to an environment currently dominated by road transport. And there are no “no-no’s” as to what can be considered. This may be an opportunity to replace our infamously unloved wobbly roundabout with something more inviting and more friendly to pedestrians and drivers alike. We could folow the lead set by Kensington High Street in reversing years of clogging up the road with bollards, steel railings, signage and other impediments to free access. At last road planners have discovered that trying to control road users is like trying to herd cats!

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Before & After: Hannef Germany (above), Kensington High Street (below)
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The Living Street people held two ‘walkabouts’ on December 1st & 2nd. These were well and enthusiastically attended. The key items that received most comment were:

Station Approach

What a welcome to Sydenham we give visitors by rail! A cluttered, dangerous roadway for pedestrians and a nightmare for motorists. It also boasts one of the most awful public conveniences yet this will be where the new london Overground arrives in 2010. Ideas include remodelling the alleyway, moving the turning point further up to allow the current turning area to become a focal point with kiosks and seperate people dashing up the alleyway into the path of cars. If only the current NationalRail carparking plots could be moved, say, to the Greyhound car park the approach could be redeveloped imaginatively to meet the needs of commuter and a proper transport interchange with convenient bus stops and perhaps allowing better car pickup/set down during off peak periods.

Newlands Road Junction

One of the more dangerous intersections for pedestrians who have to run through constantly moving traffic. This with the infamous accompanying ‘sheep pen’ signalled crossing Sydenham Road was an eyesore and of little benefit. This has to be a priority in redesign.

Use of Pavements

The disorganised clutter of signs, lamposts, bollards, wastebins that reduce the otherwise generous pavements into narrow scuttleways. The area outside the Post Office/Narborhood Centre was a particularly bad example. The arrival of tthe Christmas tree with ‘safety’ fences that were a greater danger themselves standing on feet designed to trip up anyone trying to squeeze past. It was also noted that although Sydenham Road is wide and open – much space is wasted both to traffic and pedestrians by guard rails, and prohibited areas.

Kirkdale Roundabout

This may be a hotspot in the consultation. While the current ‘wobbly’ roundabout is loved by no-one some concern was raised by the Living Street people suggesting that instead of a prettier and more navigable replacement we should consider making it a traffic light controlled junction. The advantage would be that this would not waste as much traffic space giving more space to pedestrians and also allow them to cross the junction directly instead of the current detours up the incoming roads. It was suggested whether ‘The Cedars’ could be persuaded to remove the walls to give a more open vista of grass & trees.

Saturday Living Streets Meeting in the Narborhood Centre
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Original wide pavement becomes a narrow obstacle course
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Forbidden to traffic and people – what a waste of space!
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How many different types of bollard can get in your way?
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