Historically, the planning and construction of roads has focused on cars and car-based mobility, and applied traffic-centred criteria such as capacity, speed, user comfort and safety. However, in recent years the integration of road infrastructure into the urban landscape, and attempts to minimise the impact on pedestrians, has given rise to new initiatives and an approach more in keeping with today’s world, in which environmental sustainability and quality of life for citizens takes precedence.
The integration of new roads with other, cleaner forms of mobility that are experiencing growth (e.g. cycling) requires a more congenial and human approach
The United Nations’ New Urban Agenda makes it clear that in order to improve sustainability, simultaneous progress is required in environmental, social and economic terms. In order to make a positive impact on our surroundings it is vital that these three elements are integrated with a holistic vision. Sustainable development must therefore proceed in parallel with economic development, the improvement of citizen well-being and ecological balance.
Making cities greener, more accessible, quieter and cleaner requires an approach to reform that is based on the analysis of multiple criteria. The integration of new roads with other, cleaner forms of mobility that are experiencing growth (e.g. cycling) requires a more congenial and human approach. However, transforming communication routes, which sometimes cut off and mutilate the urban environment, can be a complex challenge due to the fact that the existing infrastructure and buildings are themselves a constraint.
Moreover, the humanisation of road margins in the urban environment makes it clearer to drivers that they are entering a new environment and should adapt their driving accordingly, e.g. by reducing their speed when they approach crossings and paying closer attention to their surroundings. This also helps to improve road safety in the urban environment.
The Spanish Urban Agenda identifies 10 primary goals which, in turn, involve the achievement of 30 specific objectives.
In recent years, and in line with the changing approach to the issue of roads in the urban environment, Ineco has been incorporating humanisation measures into the road-related projects that it carries out. Such considerations were taken into account when drawing up the construction plans for Improving the capacity of Avenida Alfonso Molina (highway AC-11), which comprises the main route of access into the city of A Coruña in north-west Spain.
Improvements to Avenida Alfonso Molina in A Coruña
The project’s main aim is to solve the congestion problems of a particular section of the road by increasing its capacity and improving connectivity, while at the same time improving the integration of the infrastructure into the urban environment and taking into account the key criteria of equal, fair and sustainable development as specified in the Urban Agenda.
The study proposes the incorporation of paths and walkways shared by pedestrians and cyclists, which would enable coexistence with the road’s vehicular traffic while ensuring adequate levels of road safety and permeability of the road margins.
The road was build in the mid-20th century and is wide, with three lanes in each direction and, in certain sections, a service road on either side. At its far north-western end the road ends at the port of A Coruña, almost at the entrance to the city’s old quarter.
When it was built, the road passed through the rural population centres outside the city and provided a new link between the city and the countryside. Traditionally, transport routes had run parallel to the sea in the bay of A Coruña. Over time, other urban planning projects, such as the construction of residential buildings in Elviña and Barrio de las Flores and the industrial estates of Matogrande, Someso and Parque Ofimático, have increased traffic pressure in the area, as has the addition of traffic from the AP-9 highway.
The plan drawn up by Ineco focuses on a 1.4-km (approx.) section of Avenida Alfonso Molina that lies on the outskirts of the city, between Avenida San Cristóbal (AC-10) and the connections to highways AP-9 and AC-11. As stated above, the plan’s main aim is to solve the traffic problems for the section in question. According to the available data, in 2016 this section was used by 124,037 vehicles per day, of which 5.1% were heavy vehicles. Currently, this translates to a Level of Service (LOS) F while entering the city and LOS E while exiting. This results in regular traffic jams and hold-ups at peak times and during specific events, which in turn causes a large number of accidents of various types.
At present, large numbers of pedestrians use the road margins, owing to the presence of several shopping centres, hotels, residential buildings and bus stops. The plan incorporates the environmental adaptation of the road margins and the inclusion of paths enabling complete integration between vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, ensuring they can all transit through the area in safety. Moreover, the walkway design ensures the permeability of the road infrastructure.
The aim is to increase the humanisation of the section by improving the transit process for pedestrians and cyclists, thereby enhancing their safety and transit experience. The plan also aims to provide both residents and passers-by with a more congenial and attractive environment through the use of physical, visual and acoustic separation. Generally speaking, it is a plan of an eminently urban nature, in which the concept of functionality takes precedence over mobility. The study sought to achieve a balance between the regulatory requirements and recommendations (including the Accessibility Code published by the government of Galicia’s ministry of Social Affairs and the document published by the Spanish ministry of Transport, Mobility and the Urban Agenda (MITMA) on Accessibility in urban public spaces and developing viable solutions whose costs are not disproportionate.
The connection to pedestrian access points near the bus stops and walkways ensures transverse permeability throughout the entire section
Shared use of the road
Prioritising pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users and enabling them to interact with the road in harmony and safety, while providing a quality environment, is one of the priority aims of this action. The area in which the work will be carried out has a gentle gradient of around 5%.
Wherever possible, the paths have been designed with a different elevation to the AC-11 in order to provide a clear differentiation of uses and protect the path users. The plan has made efforts to adapt the road’s longitudinal section to the accessibility requirements, with maximum gradients of 8% and the placement of horizontal intermediate platforms to serve as rest areas where necessary.
A maximum width of five metres was established as a design criterion; however, this was not always possible owing to the fact that buildings and related installations limited the amount of space available on the road margins.
One of the design priorities was to ensure sufficient transverse permeability for the road by incorporating three new walkways and connecting the paths to the existing bus stops, whose design would be adapted in line with current standards with regard to the space required for bays and shelters to protect users.
The plan also takes into account the lighting of the paths and bus shelters, in order to enhance users’ comfort and safety.
THE PLAN COMPLIES WITH THE GOALS OF THE SPANISH URBAN AGENDA
The activities that form part of this plan fall within the scope of the first set of goals of the Spanish Urban Agenda:
- Organise the space and use the land rationally, preserving and protecting it.
- Promote social cohesion and foster equality.
- Prevent urban sprawl and revitalise the city’s existing fabric.
- Boost and promote the urban economy.
- Anticipate and reduce the impacts of climate change and increase resilience.
- Ensure access to housing.
- Manage resources sustainably and promote the circular economy.
- Lead and promote digital innovation.
- Promote localisation and sustainable mobility.
- Improve the tools used for intervention and governance.
Environmental and landscape restoration
One of the project’s central aims is to increase the humanisation of this particular section of Avenida Alfonso Molina by improving the transit process for pedestrians and cyclists in their designated zones, thereby enhancing their safety and transit experience. To achieve this, we have physically, visually and acoustically separated the vehicular traffic from the new path and garden areas, in order to provide residents and passers-by with an environment that is more congenial and attractive.
With regard to landscape integration, we have identified 12 zones on the right-hand margin and nine on the left-hand margin where work will be carried out. The selection of species to plant in the garden requires a prior analysis of climatic conditions, the aesthetic and design approach that is to be followed (factors such as colour, leaf fall, texture, appearance, etc.), shade requirements, and references from other areas on Avenida Alfonso Molina where gardens have already been planted, as well as an analysis of the requirements specified by A Coruña Council with regard to:
- Specific requirements of the species chosen.
- Resistance to climatic conditions: water requirements, exposure to sunlight, wind resistance.
- Resistance to environmental conditions: urban pollution, suitable geographical location and altitude.
- Ecological and physiological characteristics: soil properties, texture, moisture, growth rate and longevity, transplanting period and level of difficulty, disease and pest resistance.
- Landscape characteristics and other factors of interest owing to their functional utility: suitability regarding the combination of species; criteria related to colour and seasonal variation; suitability for creating or improving the acoustic conditions of the urban environment; suitability as providers of shade; considerations regarding the production of fruit and seeds and interference in paved areas.
As the area is highly anthropised, the project is not expected to have any significant impact on the existing fauna (wood pigeons, swallows, blackbirds, sparrows and mice).
Likewise, the existing historical and artistic heritage has been respected and none of the current architectural elements (hórreos –traditional raised granaries–, the Seat building, the Coca-Cola factory and the church of San Vicenzo de Elviña) will be directly affected by the project.
Ineco’s experience in the integration of human factors into infrastructure
Since 2000, the state-owned engineering company Ineco has been implementing projects that are designed to integrate transport routes into cities, give greater prominence to pedestrians and cyclists in daily mobility, normalise the use of these modes of transport, foster healthy habits, promote the recovery of public space and help improve the environment. In addition to the company’s work on Avenida Alfonso Molina in A Coruña, the following projects are also of note:
- Remodelling of Avenida de Madrid in Vigo (Pontevedra).
- Adaptation and urban integration of the main railway network in Valladolid.
- Shadadiya industrial complex (Kuwait).
- Integration of the railway infrastructure in Logroño.
- Reconversion of the A-381 highway connecting Jerez de la Frontera and Los Barrios (Cádiz).
- Integration of Malaga airport into the environment and landscape.
- Development of Pegaso Park (Madrid).
- Green belt for cyclists in Madrid.