Signs of the times.

We may be getting more city map monoliths  dotted around the streets of inner Bath if the findings of an independent review of existing street information is adopted by B&NES – who – with a withdrawal from the EU on the cards – may have to find the money to pay for it themselves.

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An existing ‘monolith’ in Bath city centre.

The City information System, funded by EU CIVITAS, provides a comprehensive information and wayfinding system to make Bath more accessible and legible to its visitors and residents and increased pedestrian & cycle movement, public transport patronage, visitor stays and repeat visits.

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The ‘easy-to-read’ monolith map.

A system of 33 map monoliths were rolled out across the city in 2013. They were part of a wider City Information System for the getting around the city on foot, by bike and public transport.

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The system also included print maps, new information at Bristol Airport, and wall mounted maps at some of our car parks. The Walk Ride print maps are available for purchase from the Tourist Information Centre located in Abbey Court Yard.

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Bath’s Tourist Information Centre in Abbey Court Yard.

According to the B&NES website: ‘The Council has received excellent feedback about the maps which provide people with a clear sense of their surroundings and enable them to explore and experience the hidden streets and the alleyways of the city and to appreciate the breadth and number of attractions on offer.

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To build on the success of the system and enhance and invest in it for the future, the Council appointed an independent expert to undertake a review of the current system this summer.

As part of the audit of the current system, focus groups were undertaken with local stakeholders and visitors to Bath.

The findings and recommendations from the review have now been published and will be discussed with stakeholders during an event at the Guildhall on 7 November 2016.

Following consideration of the review the Council will seek funding for any proposed alterations or additions to the system.’

The review has been carried out by Streetwise Orientation and Navigation Systems. In a summary they report:

‘In broad terms, there was consensus that while the design of the monoliths provides a high level of compatibility with the environment of Bath City Centre, it was also felt that there is scope to improve their visibility on-street without being challenging to their environment.

This was considered in terms of the position of each unit in their locations as well their design.’

The monoliths replaced finger posts – which some people would like to see re-instated.

The Review continues:

‘The issue that dwarfs all others is the lack of what we term a ‘quick reference’ capability for the system. The system that the Bath CIS replaced was dominated by a network of fingerposts, which fall into the ‘quick reference’ category.

The reaction to the new system, which is devoid of any such capability, has been strongly negative from many quarters due to this. It is our conclusion that this needs to be rectified.

While fingerposts may represent a quick fix for this issue, we are recommending what we believe to be a better solution and one that is more in keeping with the current system.’

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New and taller ‘column’ type information boards would contain mini ‘signposts’ at the top with arrows pointing towards the direction to walk to find particular points of interest.

The Review also looked at the question of upkeep  and the best durable materials to use in the construction of new boards.

‘Our recommendation is to examine the potential to use a similar approach to that used in Southgate which has successfully retained much of the overall look and feel of the CIS system while using reverse affixed vinyl graphics applied to toughened glass. This would mean dispensing with the use of the patinated brass and vitreous enamel map panels. We believe the current POP/PFP units can be adapted to allow these new materials to be used while retaining the structure and foundations.’

As to the question of cost the Review has several suggestions – including a redevelopment of the hand-held Official Map and for its sale/distribution to be upscaled significantly.

‘Albeit we have used the ‘wet finger in the air’ technique, we believe it would be capable of selling in high numbers, given the right product and distribution. After all costs, it could yield upwards of £50,000 per annum which could be used to support the CIS system.

On top of this figure, there could be the potential to gain advertising revenues from the hand-held map and also the possibility to sell advertising on a revamped app for Bath.’

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Map of city centre showing existing maps and areas where new monoliths or wall-mounted maps could be positioned.

You can access the whole Council on-line report and the Independent Review via http://www.bathnes.gov.uk/services/planning-and-building-control/major-projects/public-realm-and-movement/city-information-sys