Jim Gowan’s West Hill Watch: Dials roundabout breaking up yet again!

The million-pound Seven Dials Roundabout which was re-designed in 2013 and has been repeatably closed for costly repairs and further re-design since is breaking up yet again. The initial budget was exceeded by more than 50% and now confidence in the so-called experts from the highways department is crumbling as fast as the roundabout itself. The initial 2013 design was claimed to improve road safety until a picture was published of an articulated truck driving over the pavement in front the Small Batch Coffee shop.

The highways engineers had omitted to include bell bollards in their design! Several of these bell bollards were then hastily positioned on the pavements and now, at least, offer some protection to both pedestrians and buildings. When the 2013 design started breaking up, the height of the cobbled “outer island” was reduced and the kerbstones re-laid. It then became obvious that this levelling of the cobbled outer island with the tarmac lane surrounding it undermined (in more ways than one) the rationale of the roundabout itself which was to keep all traffic except HGVs and buses (which needed more space for turning) on the single lane of tarmac!

Now that the original raised kerb has been removed cars and motor bikes routinely cut cross the cobbled surface, increasing the likelihood of collisions and threatening the safety of pedestrians who, incidentally, were encouraged by the highway engineers in 2013 to practise “informal crossing” (i.e., not to use the zebra crossings). The same highways engineers had also wanted to chop down the 130-year-old elm tree, claiming that this was essential for the implementation of the design.

This crazy destruction of a perfectly healthy elm tree (part of the national collection) was fortunately prevented after thousands signed a petition and two daring residents camped in the branches of the tree to stop tree cutters in their tracks whilst the Council reconsidered its decision. The irony of the present design is that it is closer to that built in the 1960s (which had a large central island) than the one built after that which was essentially a mini roundabout surrounded by two lanes of traffic. A striking difference, however, is that the 1960s island was grassed whereas the 21st century one is paved!

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