Division Street and Devonshire Street Pedestrianisation – CycleSheffield Assessment

Background

On Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th of October, CycleSheffield ran a trial pedestrianisation of Division Street and Devonshire Street, with cycle access, between Carver Street and Eldon Street with provision for motor traffic to traverse the closure at Rockingham Street. No motor vehicles were allowed to traverse from Westfield Terrace to Trafalgar Road. Westfield Terrace was converted to a two way street with the suspension of parking bays and a loading bay on the western side and traffic entering from/exiting to West Street. The northern section of Rockingham Lane was also converted to a two way street entering and exiting at West Street.

The original plan of the closure included a lane for cyclists which was designated by cones and tape. This was observed to be a barrier for pedestrians crossing the street and causing more of a hazard than any potential safety benefits. These were removed by midday on Saturday at the agreement of the Council’s appointed Site Manager.

The objectives of this trial were;

  • To consider how the road operated as a car free space and gain some understanding about the opportunities that this would provide.
  • Demonstrate the potential to create a predominantly pedestrian/car free route between the northern end of Fargate and Devonshire Green. Further, this line could be extended to Victoria Quay and the main Sheffield University Campus and potentially link in to active travel routes that currently extend to Meadowhall, along the Upper Don Trail to Stocksbridge and through Endcliffe Woods toward the Peak District.
  • Demonstrate the spatial potential of the area without the presence of motor vehicles as dominant in the road space.
  • Provide an opportunity to gather experience based feedback from businesses, residents and visitors to the area.

Observations


Human;

  • Throughout the course of the weekend, pedestrian visitors tended to continue to make use of the pavement areas over the carriageways. This appeared to be a matter of habituation and a lack of motivation to break with common behaviour. Where more people made use of the roadway, others were more likely to follow suit. If there was a need to leave the pavement areas, i.e. to pass another group of people, few pedestrians then returned to pavement unless to visit a shop or premises. Patterns of movement became less regimented with regards to movement from one side to another, i.e. characterised more as drifting than perpendicular movement.
  • Despite initial concerns by Council officers, cycling speeds remained low and a pedestrian priority was well observed.
  • All users within the trial area seemed more inclined to protracting social interactions in situ.

Motor Traffic;

  • Despite little forewarning, there seemed to be a low impact on traffic movement with little arising in displaced congestion to surrounding roads.
  • Despite initial concerns by all involved, the conversion of Westfield Terrace from one way to two way did not cause any significant issues for traffic. The predominant issue arose from the junction being opposite a tram stop and the presence of a tram at this platform prohibited motor traffic from turning right.
  • No significant issues arose from the conversion of the northern section of Rockingham Lane to a two way street. However, this was not in the original request from CycleSheffield and was implemented by Council officers asked to implement the scheme. Our original request sought that Rockingham Lane remain one way and traffic allowed to exit on a left turn only to Carver Street where it would rejoin existing traffic flow. CycleSheffield discussions with the Access Liaison Group identified this as an opportunity to retain and potentially expand on existing provision for people with disabilities and mobility issues.
  • Some issues arose at the junction of Devonshire Street and Fitzwilliam Street. Partly this was due to the portion of Devonshire Street which remained open becoming a dead end and drivers turning back having to negotiate with those entering via Eldon Street. Another element to this was the attempts of the marshals provided by the Council to prevent this occuring by refusing access to motor vehicles from Fitzwilliam Street entering Devonshire Street for significant portions of both the Saturday and Sunday. Given their responsibilities during the trial, CycleSheffield recognises this action as a reasonable response on the day and has no issue with it.

Environmental;

  • Although no formal monitoring was undertaken during the trial, the atmosphere on the street was noticeably socially calmer and, more significantly, quieter. Anecdotally, at least one resident commented that they felt that they could open their window for the first time during the day due to the lack of noise. Some visitors felt that it was easier to have a conversation on the street without a background of passing traffic.

Feedback

CycleSheffield marshals were present on the day to speak with visitors to the trial about what was going on. The feedback that they have provided is that the response was particularly positive with views that the street space was much easier to move around and more pleasant to be in. Common themes to the comments are that this should happen more often, or even daily and that much more could be done with the space. Suggestions include the placement of trees, planters, benches, outdoor seating for businesses, market stalls, exhibitions, artworks and more space for street entertainment. More detailed responses clearly indicate that this would be an ideal opportunity to turn the road into a destination location for Sheffield. A small minority of people objected with reasons given that they worried it could harm businesses and they felt they had to park further away.

Subsequently, we have sought feedback directly from visitors, businesses and residents. The feedback has been very similar in nature being predominantly positive. We have also collected a range of social media commentary.

Selected comments;

DC, Business – Thank you for doing a trial run of a car free street. They did it in a different city and it worked really well. By pedestrianising the road we feel that it would help the environment, take away some of the pollution and give Division Street a better community feel.

HT, Marshal – Every person I spoke to was very positive about the event and would like to see it happen more. There were ideas about maybe having stalls on the street or café table. Or using the street for events. I really enjoyed taking part, aside from the positive comments it was really the atmosphere that was the main difference. It was a really nice relaxed atmosphere.

TW, Visitor – Please add to your SCC feedback from the division street closure

1. As a pedestrian it felt safe to walk with children and the air cleaner without the congestion

2. Less busy because there was more space to walk, usually v cramped on narrow pavement esp with a pram

FY, Resident – I think it’s a really good idea to have a pedestrianised (with bike

lanes) streets in the city centre, like Division Street, and also around the university of Sheffield (where there are lots of students and cyclists). We would love to see this more often – this happened this weekend – but I wish it happened more often and with more streets like that.

HR, social media comment – Finally had a great time on Division Street, thanks to @CycleSheffield for organising a car free day. It was covered in chalk drawing from children, easy access to shops for my scooter

Recommendation

CycleSheffield recommends that Sheffield City Council consults on and designs and implements a daytime pedestrian area along as much of Division Street and Devonshire Street as possible. 

This would reflect the best improvement to the space while still providing the best opportunities for businesses on the street to operate and thrive. It also provides a built in level of infrastructure for the Council to be able to offer more effective and economical options for the space to be used for events, such as Tramlines.

This could be achieved through the installation of permanent, controllable, temporary bollarding to implemented on a predetermined schedule such as between 10.00 and 18.00 on a daily basis. 

Impact: By implementation of this option, the Council would be able to create a clearly identifiable and brandable city centre destination. Local businesses would be able to make use of the additional space available to extend their activities such as with licensed pavement cafes and external retail displays. This would give businesses on those streets more long-term viability and make it a more attractive prospect to any new ventures looking for a city centre home.

The infrastructure would also be an additional resource available for any businesses, parties or organisations who could be interested in making use of the street as a venue for events. i.e. Tramlines, Cliffhanger, Sheffield Food Festival, Off The Shelf, DocFest. The flexibility offered by controlled temporary bollarding would allow flexibility in the hours of operation of pedestrianisation with a lower demand for temporary traffic management apparatus and stewarding needs. Further usage to support the local night time economy could also be considered.

The area should be able to realise an observable and measurable reduction of air pollution, noise pollution and risk to vulnerable road users. In tandem with this there should also be an increase in the general health and well-being of residents, visitors and employees of local businesses. Even without other changes to the design and layout of the streets, the environment would be more accessible to people with disabilities, mobility issues and visual impairments.

Risks:

  • Set hours of closure would mean that there would be restrictions on deliveries to businesses. There would need to be a consultation programme with them to ensure that they were not adversely affected by it to the point that their business was no longer viable. Using similar restriction times to those on Fargate would ensure a consistency in practice across the city centre.
  • There could be an increased operational and  enforcement burden on council services to ensure that closures and reopenings could be implemented effectively. These would need to be carefully designed and pro-actively reviewed at least until local habituation is established.
  • There may be a need to review the road network layout adjacent to the street to eliminate any adverse effects of the pedestrianisation.
  • There is a potential risk of delay to response times by emergency services that would need to be mitigated before any implementation.

Consideration could be given to operating a pedestrianisation programme on a less frequent scale such as only at weekends to on a monthly schedule. However, this would limit the benefits that could be realised from any changes. This may also introduce issues such as confusion to road users due to a lack of consistency and an increased demand on Council departments providing support through enforcement and pre-event temporary traffic management services. This would also be inconsistent with the Council’s Transport Strategy.

Do Nothing

The principle alternative to implementing pedestrianisation here is to continue with the current status of Division Street and Devonshire Street with no changes to infrastructure, traffic management or provision for motor vehicles.

Impact: Ostensibly there is no impact from this option on the existing state of the road or the city. However, we feel that the current state of these streets are far from ideal. Therefore, through inaction, the effects of the streets in their current state will continue to manifest and may be exacerbated by any new developments that are planned for any adjacent roads and spaces along with any current or new trends in local behaviour. 

Risks:

  • Continued poor air quality as well as noise pollution in the area which is likely to be exceeding legal levels on a regular or continuing basis along with the effect that this has on the health and wellbeing of businesses, residents and visitors to the area.
  • Continued risk to public safety from driver collisions with other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians, especially at existing conflict points.
  • Potential increase in the risks from any new or changing trends in motor vehicle use and/or the effects of new developments adjacent to the area.
  • Continuation current level risk that existing and new businesses on the street may be unsuccessful along with the associated impact of empty retail premises on adjacent businesses along with missed revenues to the Council in the form of business rates. Studies show that the removal of parking and traffic can increase footfall and spend at businesses in that area. This could increase a new business’ likelihood of success and increase employment capacity for established business.
  • Failure to apply Sheffield City Council’s current Transport Strategy to the area.

Considerations

  • Businesses on the street all operate at different hours so of the options placing restrictions on deliveries and access by services needs to take this into consideration and a consultation plan would be essential. However, when CycleSheffield met with local business representatives, we learned that the majority of businesses do have the opportunity for deliveries to be made without the use of Division Street or Devonshire Street, mainly through the rear of their premises.
  • Depending on the design and layout of the street, people with disabilities and mobility issues may be functionally excluded from accessing and/or using the street. The Council should work with advocacy groups and its Access Liaison Officers to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
  • There is a current sentiment that the street lacks a clear identity within the city and this has an impact on the businesses on the street. Consideration should be given to whether a local branding exercise and support commitment from the Council would be valuable such as the establishment of a Sheffield Independent Quarter.
  • Other, lower scale interventions to the street have been suggested including just removal of the on street parking, conversion to a one way street, potentially with a segregated cycle lane and a living streets environment. However, CycleSheffield feels that all of these options will fail to realise the best potential benefits of developing city centre urban space, reducing air and noise pollution and improving the local business environment.

Whilst the term pedestrianisation has been used to describe the trial and preferred development, CycleSheffield recognises that these roads are a high value cycle route for cyclists and note that it currently forms part of Sustrans’ National Cycling Network route. Therefore, for the purposes of this document and any discussion about the streets, the term pedestrianisation does not and should not indicate the exclusion of cyclists and other human powered vehicles.

Supporting Documents

Sheffield City Council’s Transport Strategy – June 2018

The Council’s Transport Strategy clearly highlights some relevant objectives including air quality, noise pollution, health and wellbeing and quality of life for residents, economic sustainability and active or multi-modal travel. It also discusses a “Rolling programme of highway works to improve public realm and permeability and accessibility of city centre” along with traffic restrictions to support this. 

The development and pedestrianisation of Division Street and Devonshire Street provide an ideal and easy opportunity to contribute to the Council’s own objectives.

http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s31437/Transport%20Strategy%202.pdf

The Relevance of Parking In The Success of Urban Centres – October 2012

Some relevant findings in this paper.

There are fears that the loss of parking provision as part of a pedestrianisation development.

“Canterbury reduced its city centre parking numbers and increased parking costs by 50 per cent yet saw no reduction in city centre trade”

Section 4.3 from page 23 onwards, highlights the overestimation of shopkeepers and business owners on the use of cars as a mode of transport and underestimate the effect of traffic and congestion on the attractiveness of a shopping area.

Anecdotally we may want to consider why car free environments like Meadowhall remain popular against an observable decline in high streets.

https://www.britishparking.co.uk/write/Documents/The_relevance_of_parking_in_the_success_of_urban_centres_-_A_review_for_London_Councils.pdf

Living Streets: The Pedestrian Pound 2018

“ Investing in better streets and spaces for walking can provide a competitive return compared to other transport projects; walking and cycling projects can increase retail sales by 30% or more.”

“ In a 2009 study of the Bloor Street area in Toronto, people who biked and walked there reported they spent more money there per month than those who arrived by car”

https://www.livingstreets.org.uk/media/3890/pedestrian-pound-2018.pdf

Further Recommended Reading

The Effect of Pedestrianisation and Bicycles on Local Business

https://futureplaceleadership.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Tallinn-High-Street-Case-studies-Future-Place-Leadership.pdf

ICE – Engineering Cleaner Air

https://www.ice.org.uk/ICEDevelopmentWebPortal/media/Documents/Regions/UK%20Regions/ICE-Engineering-Cleaner-Air-Report.pdf

Reclaiming City Streets for People

https://ec.europa.eu/environment/pubs/pdf/streets_people.pdf

https://airqualitynews.com/2018/10/24/cheltenham-reports-increase-in-pedestrian-traffic/

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