Fiveways Traffic Scheme Will Break New Ground

By Derek Williamson

As Derek Williamson reports, when the roadworks are over bus users, pedestrians and cyclists will be the main beneficiaries

The roadworks to improve the Fiveways Junction have entered their final phase but for drivers the short-term pain is getting worse before we see any long-term gain.

Stop-go boards have been introduced this week (commencing 5th March) while the entire road surface at the Fiveways junction is dug up and re-tarred. Weather permitting, the whole project should be completed by April 15th.

The junction improvements are the culmination and centrepiece of a £650,000 engineering project involving 19 locations along Ditchling Road, from Friar Road in the north to Bromley Road in the south.

Traffic calming and road safety

‘Radical' is how the supervising engineers at the city council's Highways Management describe the scheme. However it's bound to be controversial with those motorists who regard the council's ‘Sustainable Transport' policy as basically anti-car. The changes emanate from an exhibition and consultation exercise held at Downs Junior School in December, 2004. Traffic calming and road safety came out at the top of residents' concerns - particularly the provision of pedestrian crossings for all five roads. The ground work for those is now almost completed, with the use of knobbly slabs which the engineers call ‘tactile paving' click here to see diagram (PDF FILE) >>

All red for traffic - all green for pedestrians

One of the radical elements of the eventual traffic light system is what's called the ‘all red', pedestrian phase. This is when all road users from all directions will get a red signal at the same time so that pedestrians can cross safely. This was also introduced at the junction of Upper Hollingdean and Ditchling Roads as part of the same overall project last December. The impact at Fiveways is bound to be more noticeable.

Another part of the scheme are the cycle lanes, which stretch from Friar Road to Osborne Road, linking into the cities cycle network. The safety of cyclists will be given priority again at Fiveways, with the provision of ‘bike boxes' at the head of each set of lights. In technical jargon these are called ‘advance stop lines'.

Bonus for drivers - relief for residents

Traffic calming and pedestrian safety are also the motivation for the improved pedestrian crossings at other locations along Ditchling Road. Also included in the budget are the new bus stops which jut out into the carriageway, in council-speak known as ‘accessible bus stops'.

For drivers, one important benefit of the changes will be the ability, for those travelling up Stanford Avenue, to make a sharp left turn into Preston Drove. This will come as a relief to the residents of the top end of Edburton Avenue where such traffic has been routed until now (and may also be some compensation for the disruption they've endured while Stanford Avenue has been closed for the roadworks).

Hollingbury Road traffic heading west will be split into two lanes - one for those turning right and the other for those going straight on or left. While the carriageway resurfacing work is being completed, the top end of Hollingbury Road will be closed to traffic while the workmen are on site (normally 7.30am to 4pm).

‘Sustainable Transport' roll-out

Sensors will detect traffic flows 100m back from each junction, so that the signal phasing can be varied, with the aim of equalising traffic queues on all arms of the junction. [For those interested in technical minutia, Highways Management have devised the standard, peak hours, green light sequence as follows: 44" for North-South, followed by 24" for East-West, then 10" for Stanford Avenue, followed by 16" for pedestrians. There is an extra 5" amber between each traffic phase.]

What is happening here has to be seen as part of the council's overall strategy. By making the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists, and more convenient for bus users, the council is following its ‘Sustainable Transport' policy. Ultimately, the theory goes, congestion will be reduced by making walking, cycling and public transport more attractive - or at least less horrible than driving .

© Derek Williamson 2007

Posted: 7th of May 2007