Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Transport for London's "Healthy Streets" approach integrates place and aesthetics considerations alongside mobility

Dave Hill of the Guardian not only produces that newspaper's Bike Blog, he writes a column on the city (not unlike how Edward Keenan of the Toronto Star covers "City Hall" and city life there).

A January column ("The cave of wonders that is Travel in London report number nine") discusses the annual report on mobility published by Transport for London, the transportation agency for Greater London.

Travel in London is a massive volume covering all aspects of mobility. I have never seen a document quite like it published by another city (although Helsinki has a very interesting unit, the Department of Urban Facts, which publishes a wide variety of research on the city and region).

Chapter 5 of the document covers the city's "Healthy Streets" program, which looks to satisfy "place" characteristics of streets simultaneously with mobility goals focused on sustainable mobility.

The chapter references the report, Improving the health of Londoners: Transport action plan, which laid out the foundations of the initiative.  Their framework identifies 10 elements of a "healthy street":

  • Pedestrians from all walks of life
  • People choose to walk and cycle
  • Clean air
  • People feel safe
  • Not too noisy
  • Easy to cross
  • Shade and shelter
  • Places to stop
  • Things to see and do
  • People feel relaxed

The concept was developed by Lucy Saunders, a public health consultant working for the London Government and the transport agency.  She gave a presentation to the Camden Cyclists organization last October, which was written up on the organization's blog.  Her presentation has some awesome images illustrating the concepts.

The Healthy Streets model is an important advance that builds (I don't know if this work was referenced) on the pathbreaking studies by Donald Appleyard in the 1970s on the impact of traffic and what we might call the sociability of streets.

Appleyard found that the more traffic on a street, the fewer connections between and interactions with neighbors both on the same side of the street and across the street.


Ms. Saunders/TfL are developing a variety of measures and evaluating streets across London to determine how effectively the streets are at satisfying place and mobility characteristics, and chapter 5 of the report discusses their progress.

Street typology balancing mobility and place characteristics
The HEAT Measurement tool

There is no question that this approach complements and extends my "Signature Streets" concept, which in turn synthesizes and builds on the work of many others.  See "Town-city anagement: We are all asset managers now," for a more detailed discussion of that concept.

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