The A215 Walworth Road runs from the Elephant and Castle in the north to Albany Road in the south - some 1.2km. It is a key radial route, carrying around 20,000 vehicles per day. It is also an important and busy neighbourhood retail centre around the East Street Market. Around 500m of the street in the heart of this centre was redesigned.
Generally the street is fronted by retail and commercial properties though the immediate hinterland to both sides is residential. Walworth Road is mainly used by local residents from the nearby social housing. The lower levels of car ownership in the area mean it’s all the more important to enhance the walkability of the local high street. It’s historic alignment and buildings create a well-defined street scale, but its relative narrowness was a problem for the modern-day demands of vehicles and pedestrians.
Before the improvement scheme Walworth Road was dominated by through vehicles. This came at the expense of pedestrian movement and undermined the sense of place:
- the carriageway contained a dedicated bus lane and a general traffic lane in each direction
- vehicles and pedestrians were segregated by long sections of guard rails
- there were infrequent crossing facilities
- it was badly cluttered in places by typical permanent traffic management equipment and street furniture, and by temporary ‘A-boards’ placed there by local businesses.
One of the most critical issues was the reallocation of space – carriageway to footway – to enable the street to function far better as a local high street and neighbourhood centre. This was a very challenging task given the fixed frontage to frontage widths and narrowness on the road in certain sections.
A comprehensive transport assessment was done to find out the feasibility of removing bus lanes and redistributing some of this space to the footways. Ten different bus routes – with some 150 buses per hour at peak times – use the road.
Bus ‘gates’ were installed at both entrances to the scheme area. These allow buses to have priority over general traffic. Nearly two years after the scheme opened, anecdotal evidence suggests that it has had little impact (either way) on bus journey times. Bus drivers often do not use the gates even at peak times.
Other critical elements of the scheme included:
- improved and new formal and informal crossing points along the street, including a wide median strip in the southern section of the scheme
- extensive tree planting
- improved management of parking and loading
- improved pedestrian and vehicular lighting, through multi-function poles
- major de-cluttering - approximately 600 unnecessary signs and poles, and around 425m of pedestrian guard rails were removed.