Saturday, 3 November 2012

Liverpool Strategic Investment Framework

Yes, in typical local authority speak, it's a mouthful, but it's a big name with big ideas that wants to change the look and feel of the city over the next 15 years.

It is the follow-up development plan from Liverpool Vision, the people who brought us the Strategic Regeneration Framework 2001, that plan included Liverpool ONE, the Arena, the re-imagining of Lime St and aiming to be the 2008 European Capital of Culture; so we can be fairly confident that the things Liverpool Vision dreams up have a good chance of being implemented.

Here's the promo video

Launched on 1st November at an event hosted at the Echo Arena the SIF is a new plan to bring a more coherent structure the the recent developments and the city as a whole, you can read the whole plan here. There are fewer of the major set-pieces that the SRF 2001 brought to us, the SIF seems more concerned about improving the overall feel of the city rather than large set-piece building projects and for the most part it looks very hopeful.

If this were a Bond movie what has gone before would be the dramatic pre-credit sequence, the plot and the character exposition are still to come.

Of most interest to us is what this will all mean for cyclists, as I have shown in the past, the opportunity provided by new developments and lots of money can easily be missed if there is a lack of will or imagination. It is vital that with this latest plan the developers understand that no city can consider itself to be a city of the 21st century without building in to its very fabric the most efficient form of transport known to man.

Thanks to Gas2 for this graphic
The SIF doesn't say an awful lot about cycling but it does offer a little encouragement. One of the proposals is called 'Great Streets' and recognises the importance, attractiveness and opportunity available in some of the city centre's largest roads; the Strand, Dale St, Water St, Lime St and Hope St. The SIF says
Improvements to pedestrian and cycle movement along Water Street / Dale Street, to provide a continuous safe and legible route from the Waterfront to Lime Street Station. The street is currently dominated by buses and little else, with the streetscape quality inconsistent. With Princes Dock becoming a point of embarkation and disembarkation for the world’s cruise liners, this will present significant opportunities to invest in the public realm, to generate significant visitor footfall and leverage private sector investment.
Exhibition Road in London is cited as an example of what this might mean, I've not visited Exhibition Road so I'm not exactly sure what this means, but as a shared space there is always the problem of might is right.

The Strand is to be given several pedestrian 'bridges' at key points, the thought being that the Strand is like a river bisecting the city, this is a polite way of putting it. The Strand is a hostile urban motorway with tens of thousands of motor vehicles travelling along it each day most of whom seem to be breaking the speed limit, often by a considerable margin, 50mph in a 30mph zone is commonplace. It cuts off the retail and transport sectors in the centre from the tourist attractions at the riverside. The current situation is, frankly, shameful and embarrassing to think that the hundreds of thousands of tourists visiting the city have to negotiate this route to see some of the city's best sights. The plans for the Strand seem *ahem*, unambitious and I will deal with them in a separate post.

The document returns later to consider walking and cycling as a separate issue.
In terms of connectivity, Liverpool has a legible grid of streets at a scale that is appropriate for walking and cycling around the centre.
However, there are areas of the city that are disconnected and feel ‘cut-off’ from the City Centre’s activity and energy due to the detailed design of street layouts which focus primarily on vehicle movement with walking and cycling considered secondary. Improving the connections for walking and cycling along key strategic routes will help to ‘tie-in’ currently dislocated areas into the city core.
Improving the journey for walking and cycling can involve:
• Appropriate sign posting
• Improved lighting
• High-quality surfaces which show continuation throughout the route
• Improved priority in favour of people walking and cycling, and
• Promotion of the route to the visitor where appropriate.  
They are making some of the right noises but we won't really know until we see the detail of the plans.

Overall I think the general aim of the SIF is admirable and by making it a more livable city it will encourage the investment it seeks. It's now up to us to make sure we aren't fobbed off with unsuitable cycle facilities and in this aim we must be uncompromising, only the highest standards of infrastructure must be allowed. Opportunities have been missed in the past, one again Liverpool is given the opportunity to become a leading 21st century city, one of the best cycling cities in the kingdom, let's hope this time the developers can see which way the tide is turning on the Mersey.

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