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Tower Road South, Birkenhead, Merseyside - Public Realm scheme

Executive Summary

The public realm scheme, which is located on Tower South Road, Birkenhead was completed in March 2021. It was a hybrid style scheme with separated footway/cycleway but with minimal signage and direction. Innovative and striking features including an imprinted ‘roundel design’ and red and white ‘chevron’ footways. TMS made recommendations throughout all stages of the Road Safety Audit process to make it safe, as well as trying to retain the innovative and design elements of the scheme.

Introduction

The public realm scheme, which is located on Tower South Road, Birkenhead was completed in March 2021. The works were commissioned by a leading consultancy in transport planning, infrastructure design and flood risk. We were involved with all stages of the Road Safety Audit process to ensure proper safety procedures were undertaken throughout. A key objective of the scheme was to improve the environment for all road users, with wider high-quality pavements for pedestrians and cyclists, narrower carriageways to reduce traffic speeds, new crossing points to link existing and future developments at Wirral Waters and the surrounding areas. The scheme aimed to influence driver behaviour, which included reducing speeds but also providing awareness of a change in environment, with road safety in mind. The scheme had to have a clear perception of safety whilst maintaining the attractiveness of the area for students, employees, and visitors.

Assessment

The public realm scheme is a hybrid style with separated footway/cycleway but with minimal signage and direction. Innovative and striking features including an imprinted ‘roundel design’ to replace the existing signalised junction, (this feature is the equivalent to an informal roundabout). Red and white ‘chevron’ footways were another unique feature. With the removal of conventional features such as signal control and standard footways, this can add an element of uncertainty and caution for users. Although this can be a positive for road safety improvements, if this is executed correctly. TMS assisted with some of these elements, which were altered following the recommendations within the road safety audit. For example, changing materials to improve surface friction levels and improved intervisibility between users.

Recommendation

There were issues with some materials and finishes throughout the scheme. A thermoplastic glass beaded concentric pattern at the Tower Wharf/Tower Road junction roundel was originally intended to be used. Vehicles turning in this area, particularly motorcycles could have lost control on this potentially slippery surface, especially in wet weather conditions. Slip and skid hazards were also identified at the interim stage 3 for some of the ramped traffic calming features which had been constructed. As a result of the audit recommendations, these were altered with improved materials.

Final Thoughts

Lee Williams, who was one of the auditors for the scheme, stated that “this was a good example of auditing a scheme with new and innovative elements, whilst keeping an open mind, but still ensuring good execution and road safety”. The audit process was followed from start to finish and as a result, safety improvements were made to the scheme following our recommendations.

The scheme has recently been featured in the local press and has been nominated for an award:

"We're thrilled that the Tower Road Streetscape, our project to create a safe and attractive thoroughfare in #WirralWaters, has been shortlisted for the Liverpool Sub-regional Project of the Year in the NW Regional Construction Awards!"

Link: twitter.com/WirralWaters/status/1443535773077327873

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