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Frodsham Street, Chester. My role: lead designer when at IBI

Pedestrian Priority Street

Praised by local blind users as "the best street in Chester

Winner of Healthy Street of the Year 2019;

Winner of the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation ‘Creating Better Places Award’ 2018;

Winner of the Transport Practitioners (TPM) 'Urban Transport Design Award’ 2018. 

Project Details

Design Ethos

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  • A pedestrian priority shared space scheme. Designed to appear as a pedestrian environment to encourage pedestrians to engage in retail and social activities but enabling vehicle penetration, particularly buses, to the heart of the city centre. The layout encourages drivers to be very respectful of pedestrian priority and drive very slowly. 
  • A clear-zone, free of all street furniture is located along each side of the street to ease navigation for blind and partially sighted users. This is demarked by tactile paving.   

General

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  • Client:  Cheshire West and Chester Council 
  • Lead Consultant: Mott MacDonald
  • Landscape Architect: IBI Group
  • Value GBP1.2M
  • a 250m long street
  • completed April 2017

 

Background to Project

Frodsham Street in Chester: was an historic, secondary retail street dominated by charity and bargain shops. The street had very narrow pavements accompanied by regular bus traffic. Although vehicle numbers and speeds were low, they degraded the pedestrian environment creating a street people tended to pass through rather than spend time or money in.

The scheme is associated with a new bus station that was being built at the end of the street bringing more foot traffic along the narrow pavements. IBI Group, led the design process as landscape architects, supporting Mott MacDonald in producing designs for a Pedestrian Priority scheme; a form of shared space designed to appear pedestrianised, encouraging people to dwell in the space, yet accommodating all traffic. When designed correctly, the pedestrian environment encourages vehicles to drive very slowly. Multifunctional Artwork totems depict the local heritage guide vehicles away from a pedestrian only zone down each side of the street. 

The scheme was completed in April 2017 and has transformed the character and functioning of the street. It is praised by the local blind and partially sighted community as the best street in Chester. New shops have opened on the street and pedestrians stroll down the middle of the street, treating the whole space as their own, whilst vehicles drive respectfully.  

Reaction from Blind and Partially Sighted Users

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  This project is one of the few shared space schemes that is praised by blind and partially sighted users.  Phil Rigby, a blind, long cane, user on the access group set out his experience and that of his wife Anne, a guide dog user, in an email to the National Federation for the Blind:

“The two big plus points I see with the scheme is that firstly there is a corduroy strip along the entire length of the street separating the area designated for traffic use and that designated for pedestrian use and secondly, and here is the really amazing thing, the area reserved for pedestrians has been completely cleared of all obstacles. Yes, that is right, not a single bin, lamp post, pole or anything else obstructing the pedestrian area for the whole length of the street on both sides. I found this incredibly liberating. Frodsham street used to be full of street furniture and obstructions in all sorts of random places. I found myself walking faster and faster up and down the street, not quite believing it could be so clear. 

As well as the corduroy strip, there is a high degree of colour contrast between the street surface where traffic can run, the corduroy strip itself and the area reserved for use by pedestrians.

I was very sceptical before we actually went out on the site visit as the architect and chief developer told us about the scheme... I was getting sinking feelings prior to going out to take a look. However, having now experienced this, as I told the officials present, “when are you going to do the same to all the other streets in Chester”. Honestly, it is really great. I can’t see any disadvantages to it.”

Another angle on this is that my wife, Anne, found that Yaris, her guide dog, had no problem navigating down the pedestrian reserved area and, even if he had wandered over the corduroy strip, Anne could easily detect this and correct him. 

I take nothing away from the important campaigning work that is going on against shared spaces but we must be very careful not to tar every scheme we hear about with the same brush. This scheme in Chester, I am convinced, has a lot of positive benefits for visually impaired people. 

Graham Garnet, the council’s access officer, has engaged with all local groups and taken on board concerns. The final result is a massive improvement to Frodsham street as far as I am concerned as a totally blind pedestrian 


  

Testimonial from Graham Garnett, the Senior Access Officer at Cheshire West and Chester Council throughout the design process on Frodsham Street in Chester. 

“IBI were appointed to deliver a potentiallycontroversial public realm scheme (shared space) in Chester city centre. IBI listened and understood my concerns about the concept. They were very knowledgeable about the concept, national concerns, and examples of shared space schemes both national and international….IBI listened and considered the needs and aspirations of the disability community and where appropriate implemented changes to the design in line with inclusive design principles, while also considering other factors i.e. budget, timescales etc. 

I liaised directly with IBI on the design of the scheme and engagement with Stakeholders. IBI’s attitude and relationship with the Council and with stakeholders was exemplary and I would very much welcome the opportunity to work with IBI on other projects in the future. I worked closely with several individuals from IBI Group. I found all individuals to be extremely professional, knowledgeable and committed the project 



What happens if you walk in front of a bus?

A street that prioritises life! (see what it used to look like below)

Frodsham Street Before

traffic levels the same as post improvements