What Happened To The Hackbridge Shared Space Scheme?

Hey, do you remember Hackbridge?

The town?

The mad plan to remove all the pedestrian crossings.

Oh yes, the Glorious Land of the Courtesy Crossing! Take out all the proper crossings, and somehow the ceaseless traffic on the London Road will magically part like the Red Sea. People got really angry about it and demanded they reinstate the crossings. Apparently, the main road to London…

…London Road?

…that’s the one. It turns out, if you remove all the crossings on London Road, people don’t feel safe crossing. Especially blind people, old people, young people, anyone who’s a bit frail, and really anyone who values their own life.

Who could have seen that coming?

Literally everyone. They did a consultation and a series of public events - every time they asked, people would say “How are we meant to cross the road without crossings?”

Good question. So they had a rethink?

No, they built it anyway.

What! Why?

They said the people were wrong. They said we should listen to the experts, because they had research.

Did they?

Yes. Both Transport for London and the Department for Transport commissioned detailed research on shared spaces and courtesy crossings.

What did the research say?

It said it wouldn’t work.

Artist's impression. Note that London Road is almost devoid of cars, while people saunter across the road quite casually. File under "things that never happened"

What! So why did they build the damned thing?

Good question. Both the official studies found that shared space is fine when traffic speeds are very low, where there isn’t much traffic, or where there are loads of pedestrians so cars are forced to yield. But on busy roads the traffic just keeps flowing so people stand about like puddings, trying to cross.

That’s exactly what happened in Hackbridge!

Yep. Just as the research predicted, and just as everyone with common sense predicted.

So once it was built and they saw the crossings didn’t work, is that when they put the old crossings back?

No. They insisted that it was fine.

But it doesn’t work!

They say it does. Even now, years afterwards, they still say it worked, and that there was nothing wrong with it.

What! How?

Because Sutton Lib Dems never admit a mistake. It's the main reason most of the problems never get sorted out.

Hang on, if there was nothing wrong with it, why did they put the crossings back in?

At first, they didn’t. They did replace the Roundel with a proper mini-roundabout…

…the Roundel! Wow, I’d forgotten that.

How could you forget a giant pink nipple in the middle of the road? Anyway, they took that out, but insisted that the courtesy crossings were fine. They concluded that the problem must be with the people - they were doing it wrong. So they decided to hand out leaflets explaining to people how to cross the road.

Get out of here! They didn’t do that!

They did. They paid council staff to hand out leaflets explaining to grown adults how to cross the road, and they even got the Police to help them. I hope you got one, cos your Council Tax paid for all this.

Christ on a bike.

Not in Hackbridge He ain’t – Hackbridge Sustainable Suburb’s innovative new road layout has no space for cycling.

Touché. So how come they eventually put crossings back in? Did they accept that a leaflet wasn’t enough?

No, they declared the leaflet a success and refused to accept there was a problem. However, the external safety auditor condemned the crossings in March 2015 and instructed them to remove one particularly dangerous crossing, the one by the tile shop. The audit found that pedestrians and oncoming traffic couldn’t see each other, and also told them to put at least 2 proper crossings back in. So they didn’t have much choice.

Praise be to the auditors, I always say.

You never say that.

True. Hang on, isn’t the dangerous crossing outside the tile shop still there?

Well spotted. Four years ago they said they’d remove it, but they never did.

How come?

It turns out that if you do everything badly the first time, and then have to redo it properly, it’s expensive…the project ran out of money.

So they’re just going to leave that dangerous crossing there?

Apparently. Although they say it isn’t dangerous, of course.

Of course! Wouldn’t it have saved a lot of money and looked better in the end if they’d listened to people at the beginning? Or maybe used some common sense?

Yes, but that would be totally against everything they stand for. And besides, they had A Vision and A Theory, and everybody bought into it.

Good grief, it was doomed.


Are they planning to inflict this Vision and Theory anywhere else in the borough?

Funnily enough, they did proudly declare the Heart of Hackbridge courtesy crossings a roaring success to anyone who would listen, but they haven’t announced any new plans to rip out all the pedestrian crossings and turn any other main roads into “shared space” for toddlers and HGVs to frolic happily together.

Hurrah! Almost as if they secretly admit it was a bloody stupid idea all along.

You might very well think that. Still, they are planning to totally redesign the Sutton one way system and turn it into a Parisian boulevard, so we can look forward to that.

Uh oh, will that have courtesy crossings?

We don't know yet. But I guarantee that whatever happens, they’ll declare it a complete and total success with no problems whatsoever.

Oh no.