Seven Dials: The Road Ahead

It’s not going to look like this.

The numbers behind the Seven Dials improvement scheme are coming into focus. Some 26,000 vehicles cross the junction each day. Over the past five years there have been 41 accidents involving injury, nine of them serious (and most of them on the junction itself). The Council has £550,000 earmarked for the upgrade.

When the scheme was announced, city transport committee chair Councillor Ian Davey spoke of creating “a ‘Seven Dials village’ by bringing together all sides into a coherent whole”. But at the Seven Dials Stakeholder Meeting hosted by St Luke’s Church on 20 August it became clear that a village costs more than half a million pounds.

Robin Reed, the project manager, explained that this was primarily a road safety scheme. The safety improvements could make the place look more attractive, but there’s no chance of any radical transformation on the lines of Oxford Circus or New Road. Even if the money was available, there are limits to what can be done with a busy roundabout close to the city centre.

The possibilities do include:
A 20mph speed limit
Zebra crossings instead of the traffic lights.
Narrowing the roundabout channel to guide traffic flow; reducing double lanes to single ones
Making Bath Street two-way, with mini-roundabouts at each end.

The stakeholders, who included local traders and representatives of local community associations, were generally positive about the zebra option. There was also general support for making the place look better, though a couple of people expressed strong reservations about the possibility that the guard railings might be replaced by more attractive obstacles.

A public consultation, including an exhibition, is planned for October, and there’s talk among the community associations of holding a public meeting. If the Stakeholder Meeting is anything to go by, we can look forward to some free and frank exchanges of views.

Works could start in February, if the Council approves plans at a meeting due to take place in January.

Photo: Seven Dials in 1908, from the Regency Society’s wonderful James Gray Collection.

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5 Responses to Seven Dials: The Road Ahead

  1. JannetKing says:

    Thanks for the feedback Marek. I can imagine that it was a very interesting meeting!

    Personally, I’m a bit worried about the suggestion of zebra in place of pelican crossings. As a car driver, negotiating the Dials is difficult enough, but at least a red light is a clear signal. The thought of pedestrians launching out randomly into the road is a bit worrying. And as a pedestrian, I don’t think I would trust all car drivers to stop (given that some don’t even manage to do so at a red light).

    20mph would really help pedestrians AND it would make the Dials much easier for motorists to negotiate. Most of the near misses I have witnessed (or been involved in…) have arisen when people have driven on to the roundabout without pausing, at a reckless speed. If everyone took it slowly, it would work (from the point of the view of the motorist) perfectly well.

  2. Cath J says:

    Thanks, Marek

    I am a bit worried about zebra crossings too. My experience of the ones that cross to Preston Park (near the rose garden) are not very good – and I am mostly crossing with a pram and a toddler. Might be wrong though!

  3. marekkohn says:

    I think we have to get a sense of how the different possibilities might work together – which has been a bit difficult so far, and is something I hope the consultation will address.

    Zebras wouldn’t be like those at Preston Park, where straight stretches of road encourage speeding, and have a speed camera as result. With 20 mph limits and a narrower road space, on a junction, drivers would be moving much more slowly, so they ought to be able to stop without any difficulty when pedestrians arrive at the crossing. Perhaps the Council will be able to tell us whether there is any evidence that pedestrians do leap out onto zebras without waiting for cars to stop.

    I’d have thought the main drawback would be that at busy times the large number of pedestrians crossing might hold the traffic up too long.

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Is there anything we can do to try and get some trees – or at least something soft and green – on the widened pavements or on the central desert?

  5. marekkohn says:

    This from the council page http://bit.ly/HtS7yc : ‘As part of the improvement scheme, around 8 – 10 new trees will be planted in the immediate Seven Dials area. This is in response to the consultation exercises where local people said they would like to see more greenery and vegetation in the area.”

    The final layout map http://bit.ly/1genoU6 shows locations, including 2 on the central island.

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