Category Archives: Roading

Lunch in Graf Wilhelm Platz: Solingen

Graf Wilhelm Platz area in Solingen ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to town centres. First, it has an attractive bus terminal area (more on this below). It also has a town square, used as a market place for entry-level retailers, in addition to which there is a car-free on-street retail area (Alter Markt), an open mall (Muhlenplatz), and very good enclosed mall (Hofgarten). The city itself is known as the “City of Blades”, and is the centre of the German cutlery industry; about 90% of the German cutlery industry is located in Solingen. The name of the city was protected by law 1938. This makes Solingen the first city in the world to protect its name and products.

Photo from https://mapio.net/pic/p-20271125/

The Graf-Wilhelm-Platz bus transport centre serves 6 trolleybus and 16 standard bus routes, with a good number of these routes overlapping into neighbouring cities, making it very easy to get to. It provides the heartbeat for the centre of Solingen.The traffic passing through the transport centre is on a double road, similar to a train station (but it works without the tracks and synchronized switch points). There is a three-leg roundabout at the southern end, with one leg being a double road, with a cross-over where it connects with the roundabout. Basically this creates an unusual entry/exit to the roundabout, which works. At the Northern end again there is also a cross-over, plus three pedestrian crossings (see drawing below). The magic here is that there are so many conflict points along these bus stop areas/routes, but humans driving and walking in this area can and do adapt to this example of ‘good confusion.’

Now back to the start of this post about this town centre ticking a lot of boxes. Walking through both Alter Markt and Muhlenplatz there were many empty shops. In Muhlenplatz the local art community is trying to full this space with art displays, but it felt like art for the sake of art. Sadly this doesn’t feel like it is revitalising the city centres.

To finish, here is some population data on Solingen. In 2012 the city had 158,908 residents (down from 177,899 in 1971)  and a population density of about 1,800 people per km2. Looking at the local population density near the city centre, in 2015 the Solingen-Mitte district had 41,836 residents in an area of 12.51 km2, giving a density of 3,344 people per km2. This is similar to a number of places in Hamilton, when looking at census unit area data (see link).

I only visited this city for a few hours; the Hofgarten mall and transport area was nice and busy, but my visit was too short to understand why other parts of the city were under-performing (Note: rain and cold is normal and does not change the feel of city centres).

 

The problem in Solingen looks short term, most German cities work really well and Solingen should also. This link is good example of what the future looks like for Solingen. Solingen, the City of Blades – Business location for your future

Ward St – Benchmarking

Success involves having records showing that more people are staying longer in Ward St. This post has two safety comments and two examples. First: with more people, mistakes and crashes will happen between different road users, so we need our political leaders to set maximum speeds. They could opt for a “choice of 30 km/h instead of 50 km/h, [where] the estimated reduction in fatal crash risk is 95%”, or even lower, like 20km/h to avoid serious injury. The second comment shows this approach can work: ‘New York City committed to strategies to protect pedestrians, the most vulnerable street users. In 2017, the 32 percent decline in pedestrian fatalities was the steepest-ever one-year percentage decline in the City’s recorded history.’

The Science of Safe Streets (p22) isn’t hard to understand, but what NZ traffic engineers have done traditionally is to try to separate road users and move pedestrians to where they want them to cross. So question one is: where do people actually cross on Ward St?

Moving on to Example 1 – Schloßstraße Koblenz: Having walked this street a number of times, each time I found myself walking in the centre of the street. Even though this is also a place for motor vehicles, it did feel the centre was the right place to be. I think this came from the open space, with uncluttered sight lines, which creates a vacuum that pulls life to the centre. It also has the ‘boutique stores, retail and inner city living … 24/7 living’ of Hamilton’s Future 2020 Vision utopia, as described in a longer quote at the end of this post.

Example 2 – Neue Straße Ulm: This carries motor vehicle traffic in a area between the city’s main square in the north, in the older city, and the river promenade in the south. My reference says it moves 13,000 vehicles per day, which is in between  Hamilton’s Anglesea St at 12,300vpd* and Tristram St at 14,560vpd*. (*five year average 2012-2016). I have walked across this street more than once and it did feel OK. I think what makes it OK is the flush surfaces. What was also noticeable was that the vehicle lane was identifiable more by its different surface texture than its colour. There were some bollards but these weren’t placed to stop motor vehicles from accessing courtyards if they needed to.

The following is from a German planner explaining shared space, and the link that follows directly refers to the Neue Straße shared space

If cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers are to share narrow spaces as equally as possible and at the same time increase the quality of stay for residents and visitors, this is only possible if the speeds fall. Because the higher the speed and the different the speeds of the various road users, the greater the required safety distance between the individual road users, the louder the traffic, the stronger the tunnel vision is, which prevents us from perceiving others. Shared space means that the speeds of car and bicycle traffic are closer and traffic is flowing more smoothly … This means that every road user is aware of the fact that he has to come to terms with the others. This promotes mutual consideration. These two basic rules are mainly there to break the dominance of the car. This leads to more equality of all road users. Because only those who feel safe, also like to cycle often … Visibility is essential for communication between road users … Although Shared Space clearly promotes cycling, it cannot be seen as a measure to promote cycling. Cyclists must also be considerate in a shared space …towards pedestrians. Besides, shared space is not a solution for everywhere.

If you would like to know more about what it feels like to use this Neue Strabe. Councillor Siggi Henry has been he many more times than me. Her contact detail can be found here.

Back to Schloßstraße Koblenz, above photo looking towards the Electoral Palace (note 20kmh speed signs), and here is how the locals talk about this place.

Created with numerous trees as an avenue, the heart of the street between the Centre and the Electoral Palace beats, making it an ideal connection between the city center and the Rhine promenade … Fringed by the pleasant green of the shady trees, the open-air shopping mile invites you to stroll and stroll. The range of resident businesses is unusually rich. In addition to traditionally run family businesses, you will also find modern start-ups. All together lend the Schloßstraße their special character with high-quality goods. A balanced ratio of numerous specialist shops, service providers, cafes and restaurants with comfortable outdoor seating offer the opportunity to linger longer in the Schloßstraße.

Schloßstraße/Casinostraße Koblenz crossing (mid-way)