Thursday, 7 November 2013

Planning, design and construction of sustainable footbridges

During Sep/Oct we submitted an abstract to Footbridge 2014, with the title "Genesis of footbridge design, from a community perspective".

Abstract Submission is now closed and results will be announced in early December 2013. Fingers crossed our paper will be considered and we will get the opportunity to attend and be able to present it at the Symposium. Watch this space for more news.

The main theme of the conference is Footbridges past, present & future. There were a number of topics we could have presented a paper on, but the one we chose was No.4 about "Planning, design and construction of sustainable footbridges". You can find out more about this conference, which is happening between 16-18 July 2014 at Imperial College London, here;

The following is a copy of our abstract.

Genesis of footbridge design, from a community perspective

The aim is to connect two areas within Richmond Borough separated by 100m of the River Thames, the reason for many unnecessary car journeys.

  • On the East side (south bank) is Ham Lands – inaccessible, with leisure walks, nature reserves, heritage sites, polo and sailing clubs, but poor access to transport links and a reputation for attracting anti-social activities.
  • On the West side (north bank) is Strawberry Hill – densely populated, served well by major transport systems, with busy roads and places for education and work but limited access to leisure grounds. 

Two members of the community from both sides of the river, Richard Woolf (an architect) and Mark Wing (a creative strategist) are working hard to convert the community’s ‘need’ for a footbridge into a ‘desire’ to see it installed.

Their plan leverages existing land topology in Ham Lands and Radnor Gardens, spanning an optimum point on the river (for natural ascent and descent). Radnor Bridge, as it is known, will connect both communities through a garden and so create a more open and inclusive neighborhood with improved access to places of national interest on both sides.

Radnor Bridge will pay homage to the landscaping strategy of the past, create an architectural landmark for the present and an invaluable legacy for the future. No other proposed bridge in this area is as strategically well located.

Radnor Bridge will be;

  1. Innovative – transforming local transportation options while improving the rights to access. The bridge will feature split-level cycle and pedestrian paths, allowing pedestrians to enjoy uninterrupted views up and down the river. 
  2. Elegant – using low key, naturally engineered materials to deliver a picturesque solution, which roles with the landscape and the tradition of Arcadian Thames.
  3. Economic – good for socio and economic development in the area while also being an exemplar of new community driven grass route funding.
  4. Sustainable – a permanent structure, using passive technology, to facilitate the reduction in local car journeys while blending in to the landscape

Monday, 23 September 2013

This morning I was reminded of the barefoot consultation in 2010 when Richard and I launched the idea for Radnor Bridge. The Richmond and Twickenham Times wrote the following article at the time;

Bridging the gap

A pair of borough residents tired of being separated by the river have come up with a plan to link Twickenham and Ham.

Twickenham resident of 40 years, Mark Wing, and Richard Woolf, who has lived in Ham since 1980, hope to gather support for a bridge linking Radnor Gardens with Ham Lands.

Their plan is for a cycle and pedestrian crossing to connect the two areas, which are only 100m apart but separated by water.

Mr Woolf, architect and director of McDaniel Woolf, said: “We had some very favourable reactions at the Barefoot Consultation, particularly as ours seemed to be the only 'new' idea on show. Even the objectors tended to leave our table as converts.”

A two-lane bike route, lower than the pedestrian platform, would stop overcrowding on the bridge at Teddington Lock, the pair say. The pair are keen to hear feedback and are asking people to make contact with them.

You can find the whole article online here.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A response to a minority group in Ham

A minority group in Ham have been quite busy defending their right to Ham Lands secluded. 

They have directly challenged the Radnor Bridge for not addressing their concerns, which they believe they have succinctly made to us in various chat forums on Facebook. In truth we are not convinced the "issues and arguments identified" have been succinctly made. They have been presented in bite size chunks in various different threads and so there is no single point of reference for the issues being made. However, we have summarised them as;

1. Wildlife; animals and flowers should be left alone
2. Remote; a small number of Ham residents want to keep the Lands to themselves
3. Unsafe; it's dark and inhospitable

It's not that we are inflexible or lacking pragmatic understanding. It's just that these are among some of the key reasons why the Radnor Bridge needs to exist.

Our pragmatic response to all three points were expressed on the RUT pages (Richmond-Upon-Thames Facebook community) but let me do so again here;

1. There is no reason why people and wildlife cannot coexist. There are many examples of ways to provide animals and plants isolated spaces without rendering the area impassable to people. Ham Lands provides a beautiful nature reserve which we should be able to enjoy and celebrate as a society. Not simply suggest it exists for the privileged few. The bridge will not damage the habitat for its natural dwellers. When landscaped considerately the Lands will be better suited to the indigenous plants and animals.

2. Ham Lands is not a private back garden for a small minority in Ham to enjoy. The river should not present a 'wall' to what is effectively an important area of land for all people in the borough to enjoy for walks and picnics. There is a large population of people in Strawberry Hill who regularly need to get to Ham for work, rest or play. And there is a large number of people in Ham who need to travel the other way for similar reason too. We have had many emails from these people expressing their wish to see a bridge at Radnor Gardens to shorten their journey and make each side of the river more accessible.

3. Ham Lands has a bad reputation (apparently Europe wide) because it has been abandoned to a slightly lawless group of regular users. What legacy are we leaving to future generations if we continue to allow this. The Radnor Bridge will help to introduce a level of traffic and an appropriate level of use by a broader cross section of society to ensure the lands become safe for all. This is a long term strategy and one that should be considered very seriously.

We hope this response is helpful. Thanks again for taking the time to share your views on our page. 

One final point, the Radnor Bridge architect has lived in Ham since 1980 and has very different point of view to those shared by what I believe to be a minority group in Ham. We are therefore keen to get a wider range of points of view before a truly pragmatic understanding can be reached about what is best for everyone. After all, we do live in a democracy. 

Let's hope the river is a place of beauty for all to enjoy and not a barrier to accessing it.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Radnor Bridge identified for feasibility study

We have recently learnt that, in time, Twickenham town centre will be transformed for both cyclists and pedestrians, with improvements extending from the A316 to the south, down through London Road, and then across the River Thames into Ham Lands. ...Hooray!

And we are pleased to see that, as part of this transformation, the proposal for a new bridge is "already embedded in the Borough’s Local Development Framework and that four potential locations for this bridge have been identified for a feasibility study". 

Radnor Bridge is one of these, which is great news. 

In recent weeks we have learnt that there are many different ideas about where the bridge should be. We understand that Twickenham town centre will become a "hub" for cyclists in the borough, with access to a Crane River "quiet" route from the station, which is all fantastic news. However, does this once again mean that Twickenham town centre becomes the obvious crossing point due to the inevitable "desire lines" this will create? We think not... surely it is important to consider where the majority of these desire lines begin or end their journey.

When we originally had the idea for the Radnor Bridge, it was to take some of the attention away from the centre of Twickenham. Lord knows there has been many years of debates about how to change the centre of the town... and for the most part we have seen little accomplished.

Radnor Gardens is poised to provide access to a bigger population than the centre of Twickenham will. Travelling to and from the hub will be easy from Radnor Gardens. But the vast majority of people coming from Fulwell, Teddington, Sunbury, Whitton and even Feltham, would be better served with a river crossing located near Strawberry Hill House. 

The bridge will play a key role in facilitating better cycle (commuting) routes into London. If you were travelling by bike from most parts of the borough then a bridge at Radnor Gardens is clearly a much better location to aim for, primarily because of the way the river bends. Radnor Bridge will therefore help to ensure the centre of Twickenham does not become congested because it will provide the quickest, easiest and most direct access across the river for the majority of users.

If you live in Ham Lands then have you considered how Radnor Bridge will provide you with improved public transport too? Strawberry Hill will suddenly become your nearest train station. What a transformation that will bring to the "ham Sandwich". And have you thought about how the bridge will also ensure the Lands are tastefully improved. Not to the detriment of the wildlife, but certainly to help ensure the area becomes safer and more enjoyable for all people in society. What a great legacy for generations to come.

Now that the idea of having a bridge between Twick N' Ham is gaining some traction, we guess it is time to reconfirm why Radnor Gardens is the ideal location to cross the River Thames - as seen from the perspective of the majority of people in the borough. 

Would you care to share your thoughts?...

Monday, 24 June 2013

Vote for Radnor Bridge

The vision for our area is to become a destination of choice with a unique sense of place, strong local economy and distinctive heritage, open spaces and riverside.

We believe this is exactly what Radnor Bridge will help to bring... and in so many ways.

Martin Habell, Fellow Royal Society for Public Health said the plans for Radnor Bridge "should be moved up the agenda as part of a walking network par excellence" [Richmond & Twickenham Times (Nov12)]. 

Do you agree? 

Let us know your thoughts here. And also, do please 'Like' and share your thoughts on the Radnor Bridge Facebook page.