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THE ROADWITCH TRIAL
CHALLENGING THE POPULAR DELUSION THAT ROADS ARE FOR CARS TO DRIVE DOWN AND LITTLE ELSE.
Before I understood the role of car emissions in the ensuing death of the planet, I loved them wholeheartedly. I feel guilty enjoying the very few miles I put on my 1961 Plymouth Valiant every year (above). For the most part, this car sits in front of the house, made safe from anyone else's use and doing its bit to slow down traffic by being weird-looking.
Back when cars looked like this, most residential roads enjoyed many purposes...hanging out, playing, cycling, all mixing with some motor traffic.
But with so many more cars on the roads, nearly all urban roads have changed into motor traffic corridors which encourages still more car use.
In an effort to make things 'safe' for pedestrians and motorists, Britain's road engineering theories have led to a segregation of cars and pedestrians on residential streets. As things became unacceptably dangerous, kids and old folks steadily retreated behind closed doors, further encouraging motorists to dominate residential streets.
However, this segregation creates the illusion that residential roads are safe and predictable places to drive through at 30 mph or more. Sometimes people and animals unsurprisingly get "in the way" of motor traffic and get killed "by accident".
Roadwitch seeks to remind motorists that they share the road space with those who would like to use them as a social and recreational space. Imagination and good design can create shared spaces that are more like rooms and less like corridors.
To this end, along with creating and curating examples of traffic calming public art pieces, Roadwitch looks forward to working hand-in-hand with Oxfordshire County Council to redesign Beech Croft Road using new shared-space theory to create a road space that all users can enjoy safely.
Ted Dewan, Head Witch.
VIEW ROAD-WITCH SITE STATISTICS
UPDATED MARCH 2007
ALBANIAN DIY TRAFFIC CALMING
This is probably the cheapest, most effective DIY traffic calming measure ever produced, and apparently it's very effective. It is simply a length of rope drawn across the street in Tirana, Albania. To read the full story, see http://ourmanintirana.blogspot.com/2007/07/diy-traffic-calming.html
Here is a street-painting concept for Beech Croft Road, which could slow traffic down while also tying in the Victorian streetscape with the tarmac. It will be presented to the BCRA for approval to do a paint test on the street.Photoshop mock-up ©Ted Dewan
BRITAIN'S FIRST-EVER DO-IT-YOURSELF MAKEOVER EXPERIMENT
NOTE: The views expressed in this article and indeed anywhere on www.roadwitch.org.uk are not necessarily shared by the Beech Croft Residents' Association (BCRA) nor Sustrans.
On Saturday, 14 July (Bastille Day), the Beech Croft Residents' Association (BCRA) conducted Britain's first every do-it-yourself street makeover experiment. It's a preparatory step in what will likely be an interesting two year experimental pilot to be run jointly by Bristol-based transport charity, Sustrans, and the BCRA, with possible funding from the Esme Fairbairn Foundation to the tune of 20,000 pounds (still to be confirmed).
Beech Croft Road was approached by Sustrans to apply to the scheme as one of only eleven streets in the UK as a 'pathfinder' street on account of The Roadwitch Trial's 4 year body of work. They want to find out just how cheaply 'psychological traffic-calming' devices can be created, and how residents sort out the technical and social difficulties presented by such an endeavour. The scheme also enjoys support from the local LibDem councillors.
Below are photos of the experiments we did to try out some ideas. It took about 20 people one day to set up and cost a total of about 125 pounds in materials and for the new planter (not including 250 pounds for public liability insurance). Oxford City Council kindly delivered and picked up "ROAD CLOSED" signs at no charge.
Chevron parking on the Woodstock Road end of Beech Croft Road makes it difficult to see that the street is actually open for traffic. The white car to the right couldn't be moved at the time of the photograph, and wouldn't normally be there for this type of parking. Still, you can see the effect that this layout would have on the approaching driver. It every effectively visually blocks the otherwise long straight run to the end of the street. It also is a much easier parking arrangement for drivers to pull in and out of, and squeezes more cars per metre of street, which enables us to reposition three of the mid-street parking spaces to the ends of the road. The legal minimum through-traffic width was well preserved between the edge of the large Volvo (the biggest car we could find on the day) and the curb to the right. The green Valiant in the background is also a large sticky-out car, so we were able to get a feel for the tightest-case scenario with two large cars on either side of the gap.
The bamboo tower is where we might place a huge potted tree as a buffer between the Woodstock Road and the line of parked cars, which will be visible over the adjacent wall and act as a visual warning to cars turning into the road. If this arrangement proves popular, we hope to engage with Oxfordshire County Council to rearrange the parking to this position. It is a very cheap way of dramatically altering driver behaviour.
On the Banbury Road end of the street, cars stand sentinel, guarding the street in chevron formation. Even if some drivers show little respect for pedestrians, they certainly react to a robot-faced car staring them down when entering a street. The ambiguous zig-zag profile of the parking also encourages drivers to go slow. Plenty of room to get past in even the widest vehicle, but ever so slightly constructively nervewracking. This arrangement would be improved if some the cars were a bit more acute, as a few stuck too far over the street's midline.
Later on, at the Woodstock Road end of the street, the white car was finally removed, and we could see the chevron parking here more accurately. An HGV can get through, but it's probably easier not to bother. The 'UNSUITABLE FOR HGVS' sign is routinely ignored at present...chevron parking might just underscore the message of this sign.
Kids get to work on "Radiance". They were instructed not to cover up the all-important double-yellow lines. The paint is diluted emulsion and will fade in a couple of months. This technique of trialing road surface painting was used as part of the planning procedure for the Northmoor Homezone in Manchester and is the recommended for trialing the effect of a painted surface. I was interested in the effect a pattern like this would have on motorists' speed. Kids under 10 years of age are generally forbidden from free use of their own street for social purposes.
Oxford Times photographer is captured capturing the moment for posterity.
"Radiance" in full glory. It mirrors the overhead pattern of telegraph wires hanging from the pole to the extreme right of the photo. Britain's leading shared-space advocate Ben Hamilton-Baille explains the effectiveness of tying in street detail with architectural detail, unifying the street with the vertical environment rather than emphasizing the separation of the road from the buildings and fittings. One of the resident dads, and father to the boy on the left, gives it a trial run.
Our local Emeritus Professor of Botany from Oxford University polishes up the on-street bespoke planter in preparation for varnishing. The planter was bought from the University for 75 quid.
"Radiance" and the planter (still unfinished), with a picnic table and traffic-calming children, give a glimpse of what this street might look like further on down the years. The dodgy pavement is no longer a concern for pedestrians if the street works convincingly as shared space.
"Radiance" as seen from Galen's bedroom (courtesy Galen Strawson)
Another paint effect to create a 'hearth' in front of a gate by an open plot of land. This is approximately in the heart of the street. The Beech Croft Residents' Association bulletin board is attached to the gate. The division between pavement and street is deliberately blurred to enhance shared-space effect. Someone suggested it might double as a helicopter landing pad. Had we more time, the idea was to make it look a bit more like a spiral carpet.
Wheelie bins are covered in bamboo to create recycling 'huts'. A more substantial hut structure to hold wheelie bins might be a good solution to front-garden storage problems of the unweildy plastic daleks while simultaneously creating a curious chicane. The one on the right also protects a row of on-street cycle parking.
We allowed a number of people to drive through, including this taxi. Even though he had a fare, he went awfully slowly, as passengers and driver alike gawked at the scene. The driver even apologised to diners sitting at one of the ad-hoc picnic areas for disturbing us, even though I invited him in! A true Road to Damascus in only a few metres. Although the sheer mass of people and activity created a substantial traffic-calming effect, the driver's feeling of being an invited guest certainly had an effect on speed. Encounters between people in cars and those outside them become far more human when drivers are not separated from humanity by virtue of glass and speed.
On-street cycle parking fit in 8 cycles and a motorscooter in a space normally taken up by just one car. This not only acted as an effective chicane, but also cleared out front-garden cycle clutter, and advertised the large number of cycle users on the street. This cluster was the output of just two families.
Although these Tibetan prayer flags were lower than the legal height, a more permanent installation of overhead bunting is a very effective traffic-calming device. "SOX", a Roadwitch piece from 2006 that involved hanging 100 mismatched socks gathered from the residents over the road was a popular intervention, and may foreshadow future permanent overhead canopy treatment (legal height is over 16 foot).
"Wish my street could be like that..."
BCR/DIY Streets Trial Day is not without resident critics, especially when it comes to paint being left on the road. Luckily, our forum for discussing these ideas is now well established, and we can discus what worked, what didn't, and what could be improved for the next Trial. It's a long road ahead, and probably not a quiet one, but hopefully one terrific story brewing. Ted Dewan
LUMINOX: THE ULTIMATE ROADWITCH HAPPENING
"A wonderful event on the streets of Oxford, on Broad Street, a spectacular occasion, thousands of people, all ages, all backgrounds--theatre, music, fire sculpture..."
Peter Hewitt, Chief Exectutive, Arts Council England, BBC R4 Today Program
Luminox, public art event, Broad Street
By Helen Peacocke (from the Oxford Times, 23 March 2007)
How can words ever describe the indescribable? I had no idea what to expect as I turned into Broad Street to witness the large-scale fire installation Luminox, which marked the beginning of the Oxfordshire 2007. Whatever my expectations, I had not allowed for the sheer magnitude of the event and the way fire could transform this historic street.
I had not allowed for the calm way the thousands of fellow visitors made their way towards the Sheldonian either. I think, like me, they were filled with awe as they watched the way the little buckets of fire illuminated the street. This was not a time for jostling. It was a time for reflection, as haunting music which combined Eastern European folk with passionate traditional singing, drifted through the air from the bandstand erected in the middle of the street, while all around flames danced and people watched.
Children dared to climb the iron gates leading to the Sheldonian Theatre (pictured), clinging on to get a better view - their silhouettes illuminated by fire. It's an image I will carry with me always. There I was standing by a short distance from the famous library which asks its readers to sign a pledge not to burn the books, watching little buckets of whirling flames light up the stone heads which appeared to be watching too.
The highlight of the event, the 15-metre high bamboo spire created by Oxford artist Ted Dewan (Roadwitch), was mesmerising. From this spire hung a giant pendulum which marked the passing of time by turning one full circle for everyone of the 1,000 years we were celebrating. Filled with fire, this metre-wide container with its glowing logs gently counted off the years, and all any of us could do was stare with an admiration reserved for phenomenal moments. Conversation was unnecessary.
Congratulations to all who organised a collection of memories that will live with me forever.
LUMINOX was an event celebrating 1000 years of Oxfordshire. Broad Street in Oxford Centre is transformed into an enormous fire installation (after clearing out the cars and turning off the lights) courtesy of French fire art group Carabosse and featuring a 20 metre pendulum spire sculpture made of bamboo.
The pendulum ticked VERY slowly, marking off 1000 years of Oxfordshire over the 3 hour period each evening from 7 - 10 PM, on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 15-17 March 2007. The Luminox Spire was created by Ted Dewan (with a great deal of help).
See thousands of photos of Luminox on flickr.com: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=luminox&page=1
Better photos to follow, and these three above have yet to be granted permission to use on this site.
Extreme human being Ding Boston test-climbs the spire sculpture at the test site, The Harlow Centre, in Marston, Oxford
The Oxford Times Friday 23rd March 2007
At a gathering moments before the fires were lit in Broad Street for the Luminox art installation, Oxford artist Ted Dewan said we would be amazed by what was to unfold. He warned us to enjoy it. "They'll never let us do it again," he said.
PETROL ADDICTION REHAB CLINIC SEPTEMBER 2006
THE PETROL ADDICTION REHAB CLINIC (PARC) was the second Roadwitch piece to be commissioned by Oxford City Council. European Car Free Day is poo-pooed by Oxfordshire County Council as a 'token gesture' and so they make no effort to actually keep cars out.
Instead, The Roadwitch Trial was able to make the most of the modest car-free area on Broad Street in a way that mediated well and effectively internationalised Oxford's Car Free Day. Hats off to Oxford City Council.
Featuring Claire Nelson, head "clinician" (pictured below)
SOX is a "community clothesline" created with the teenagers of Beech Croft Road. It hangs across the street, effectively slowing down motorists as they gawk at the sky-high collection of mismatched socks collected from the street's residents.
GATSO GOTCHA JUNE 2006
Created by Ed Pentz with help from Ted Dewan and Tom Lynham, GOTCHA is a sculpture in the form of a GATSO speed camera made from a tea chest and some yoghurt tops.
The camera is conspicuously bogus, but seen at a quick glance, it slows down traffic. White lines in gaffer's tape in the road complete the illusion.
The lamppost is privately owned and therefore should have been immune to tampering from the authorities. However, the police came by to register complaints from a couple of motorists.
Two weeks after that, the camera mysteriously disappeared without a trace.
At the heart of The ROADWITCH TRIAL is a series of 'folk traffic-calming' experiments.
Participating non-motorists enjoy 'owning' their street once again when they reclaim their precious public space for a short while.
These experiments build community and inspire people of all ages. They're cheap and most motorists enjoy them.
The first publicly commissioned Roadwitch happening. A 1.5 tonne 6m high junk sculpture consisting of over 40 derelict bicycles was slowly wheeled through the streets of central Oxford, causing a merry Christmas traffic mess
photo: © Philip Pullman, www.roadwitch.org.uK
PARK (ing) is a San Francisco piece by Rebar. They 'rented' a downtown parking space and installed a temporary park.
The PARK (ing) period lasted as long as people were willing to feed the parking meter.
This is a "parking squat" in Brooklyn's trendy Park Slope neighbourhood. This corner coffee shop attracts loads of people who have to squeeze onto the pavement while cars glide by with plenty of asphalt given over to them. So some of the street was reclaimed to create an ad-hoc cafe.
For introducing Roadwitch to Sustrans.
No, not the nice lady in the photograph, but a long heartfelt bitch about the state of Beech Croft Road. All the problems are caused by cars. And there are plenty.