Controversial Road Marking Scheme Set for Replacement

Posted 29th April 2024

Back in March last year, we explored the impact of a contentious road marking scheme that had been rolled out in the seafront town of Clevedon. Unusually, this road marking project made national news – and it is now back in the headlines as the changes made to the road are set to be reversed.

The Clevedon seafront scheme became notorious for its unorthodox use of wiggly lines and single-line roundabouts to create an “unconventional highway environment with the combined effect of both slowing traffic down and discouraging parking at the roadside”. Intended by the council to improve safety and encourage active travel, the project proved deeply unpopular with residents. It was even described as “bizarre” by RAC head of policy Simon Williams and “bonkers” by sections of the media.

Rather than improve safety, detractors of the scheme contested that the idiosyncratic deployment of line markings actually made the road more dangerous due to driver confusion, while traders on the seafront reported that the new markings had negatively affected their businesses. Such was the strength of feeling in the community that thousands of people took part in a “conga-line” protest to make their views known.


Why a near-reversal of the project has been approved 

In September of 2023, an independent audit by transport expert Audit West revealed issues with the project, including overly ambitious budgeting, unforeseen costs due to the pandemic and flood prevention, and problems that meant locals weren’t fully engaged in the project. However, at that time, it suggested the changes needed time to “bed in”, and some residents had spoken in favour of the project in a summer council meeting.

However, by November 2023, the North Somerset Times reported that Audit West had concluded that the new layout “simply does not work”, while the RAC explained how Audit West recommended a return to the two-way system, the removal of the cycle path (the usefulness of which was questioned by RAC’s Simon Williams, due to how short it was), the introduction of a pedestrian crossing and return of angled parking.

One particularly acute aspect of public anger revolved around the cost of the project, which was originally budgeted at £201,000, but ballooned to well over a million – a number set to increase with the £425,000 recently approved for reversing the scheme.


What went wrong?

It would be difficult to diagnose one cause for the well-publicised issues of Clevedon’s road marking project. Any large-scale scheme comes with a certain amount of complexity, as there are several stakeholders and countless factors involved.

With so many people having set out out with the good intentions of making the area safer and road network more welcoming to every type of road user, it is an unfortunate outcome for what was certainly a huge amount of work and planning.

One key issue, as explained by North Somerset Council Liberal Democrat leader Mike Bell on ITV News, was that the consultation and engagement  took place during the Covid pandemic, “and, as a result, we’ve delivered a scheme that didn’t work for people.”

Sharing his apologies for implementing a scheme that wasn’t supported by the community, Mike Bell went on to state that “the right thing to do is to try to deliver some changes… that work for the people of Clevedon and that’s what we’re going to try to do.” As reported by the BBC, councillor Hannah Young (who has responsibility for active travel) described how the “complex” project had resulted in “learnings for everyone”.

She expanded on how “phenomenally difficult” it has been to create a scheme that enables all types of road users to operate together, which raised questions in her mind “as to whether any scheme can effectively manage the needs of so many users at once”. She concluded that efforts need to be directed in future projects to “getting them as right as possible in respect [to] safety, and the multi-users in particular areas.”


Managing a more diverse road network

For other councils, the Clevedon seafront project will likely stand as a cautionary tale. The sheer amount of media attention afforded the scheme is not something we usually see in the world of road markings, and the project managers attempted to implement something completely novel – which is, in part, why this project drew so much publicity.

Despite everyone having set off on the project with laudable goals, it has been confirmed by independent auditors that Clevedon’s road marking project did not deliver on them. It is often the case, however, that pioneering projects do not see the success that their managers hoped for, and instead act as a test case that other people can learn from and improve upon.

Many councils are trying to come up with ways to make public spaces accessible for all and to encourage road users to choose alternative methods of transport to their cars. The Clevedon project may have proven to be the wrong way to go about it, with the COVID pandemic acting as an exacerbating factor in its many missteps, but the original aims of councillors were important and remain relevant going forward.

We hope that the changes planned by Clevedon Council are welcomed by residents of the town, and that similar schemes in future can use the outcomes of this project to guide their own efforts to more successful conclusions.

Hi-Way Services has worked on road and line marking projects under all conditions and with every kind of material. If you would like to find out how we can meet all your road marking needs, contact us today



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