Category Archives: Slowth

Missing in action: “Zone 30” in WP in English???

Oops. I have been asked to open the plenary  on “Urban mobility: Achieving social efficiency” at next week’s Smart Cities conference in Barcelona (full details on which available here , and one of the central themes of the talk is the high importance of taking a strategic approach to slowing down and smoothing traffic in cities.   As part of my due diligence I decided to check out the Zone 30 and Twenty is Plenty entries in Wikipedia. Where I found to my disappointment: (a) that there was no entry on Zone 30 in English (and if in French, German, Italian and Dutch, not (yet) in Portuguese, Spanish, etc.) and (b) nothing at all on the important Twenty Is Plenty program out of the UK. Continue reading

The New Mobility Agenda gets a hearing in Barcelona with a “Come argue with me” session

This is to invite you to “attend” at least part of a session of a conference that is to take place next week in Barcelona on the topic of “Smart Cities”. You can find full information on the conference here, along with links to all working papers and videos that will be presented over the four days  The particular bit I would like to point you to is my keynote talk and challenge which opens the plenary on “Urban mobility: Achieving social efficiency”. A full set of working notes and background materials for my presentation is available here. As you will note I have serious reservations about pushing the concept of a “smart city”, which to my mind is a pretty loaded phrase, complete with tandem mindset. I invite your comments and critical remarks on any of the points that appear here, and I shall try to deal with them as possible. Thanks in advance. The final talk will be available on video, as will the presentations for all the speakers in this interesting session. Continue reading

Toward a new paradigm for transport in cities: Let’s see what Carlos Pardo has to say

The Stuttgart conference of Cities for Mobility this year represented an important step forward in the construction of a well-defined agenda for new mobility that up until the present time has been sadly lacking. But what we have managed to develop over the last two decades is a certain number of basic principles spanning many different areas and kinds of operational situations, but somehow until now we have failed to put them all together into a well-defined, convincing operational and policy package. We think of this as the move toward a new paradigm for transport in cities – and it all starts with . . . slowing down. Continue reading

SLOWTH: Or why it is so very important (and so very easy) to slow down traffic in cities

It is the consistent position of this journal that much of what is wrong with our current transportation arrangements in cities could be greatly alleviated if we can find ways just to slow down. It is very powerful — and it’s just not that hard to do.  Get comfortable and have a look. Continue reading

No need for speed

As our regular readers know well, World/Streets believes that there are a lot of excellent reasons for slowing down. And every time we run into something that we think can help advance this worthy objective, well here we are. This time the irrepressible Elizabeth Press, peripatetic videographer from New York City’s StreetFilms project, got on a plane and made a short film about what happens when cities slow down their traffic in a uniform and substantial way – in this case the terrific UK program ” 20’s Plenty for Us”. Her five-minute film went on-line yesterday. Continue reading

Kaohsiung 2010 Papers: Are streets meant for travel alone?

This essay contests the idea that streets are for travel alone by critically examining the logic and language employed by the elite to delegitimize two marginalized groups using streets for non-travel purposes: hawkers and pavement-dwellers. Further, court cases interpreting constitutional guarantees in the context of hawkers and pavement-dwellers are examined. Based on these discussions, an attempt is made to provide an alternative framework for the governance of streets, in which streets are seen essentially as shared commons whose use is subject to democratic decision-making based on shared goals of society. Continue reading

Honey, you gotta slow down

It is the consistent position of this journal that much of what is wrong with our current transportation arrangements in cites could be greatly alleviated if we can find ways just to slow down.  A bare five miles per hour over the speed limit on a city street, and . . . Continue reading

Hell is a gyratory system . . . so we want our cities back – Views from Britain on our one-way past

We put in traffic lights and stop signs in order to make our streets safe. We convert from two-way streets to one-way streets in order to permit cars to move more rapidly down them. And in almost all cases these decisions are made not on the basis of a broader systemic understanding of the traffic network as a whole, nor from an explicit philosophy as to what the basic underlying values and priorities should be, but always piecemeal, ad hoc, and one of the time. All of which renders the networks of most of our cities ripe for rethinking and redesign. Here is one view from London.

Hell is a gyratory system,
so let’s celebrate the return of cheerful anarchy to our roads

– Stephen Bayley, from The Times

It is the end of the road for the detested one-way street. Transport for London, perhaps the biggest manager of one-way systems in the world, at last acknowledges a truth painfully proved by harrowed pedestrians, bruised bicyclists and infuriated drivers: one-way systems do not work. Cities have been wastefully sacrificed to the false gods of efficiency and rationality. Now we want our cities back.

After a consultation in 2006 Tottenham Court Road — and soon Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Gower Street and the notorious Wandsworth one-way system (a congealed eternity of hot metal and annoyed people) — will return to two-way traffic. So a ruinous experiment is under final notice after 50 years of fuming. A culture that thought speed a measure of success and volume a measure of prosperity is being driven down the off-ramp.

This is a powerful metaphor for the new, more liberal, reasonable, responsible, lightly governed future that we are told awaits us. Certainly the one-way past created absurdities we could do without.

What is more existentially exasperating than a No Entry sign? This graphic of universal urban frustration was standardised by the League of Nations in 1931 (the year that the same ineffectual busybodies merely tut-tutted about the Japanese invasion of Manchuria).

Roads are not natural; they are inventions. And sealed roads to carry heavy traffic are inventions as typical of the 19th century as the typewriter and the diesel engine. MacAdam created the information superhighway of Victoriana. One-way streets were the final, and now obsolete, refinement of the road as a communications medium. They remain as dread memorials to vanished concerns, alien values and hopeless, irrelevant targets.

The concept began with good intentions. Albemarle Street in Mayfair became uni-directional in 1808 when crowds attending Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s lectures at the Royal Institution made traffic-planning necessary. But the modern theology of traffic management dates back only to 1963 when Colin Buchanan, a town planner, published his ruinously influential report Traffic in Towns.

Wheeled traffic has been successfully mingling in towns and cities since the Etruscans, but Professor Buchanan took great exception to the idea and intended, with great athletic earnestness, to separate people and cars, the better for us to prosper by accelerator. The official attitude to cars in 1963 was curiously similar to Victorian ideas about prostitution: a mixture of acceptance and disgust.

With a fixity of purpose perhaps inviting Freudian interpretations, Buchanan wanted flyovers, clearways and pedestrianisation. Out went the clutter of accumulated townscape. Towns were to be cleansed of intimacy, hazard and surprise. In came Mr and Mrs Citizen swooping at high speed along urban motorways in a bizarre dystopia where your Cortina “saloon” would drive you to a Ballardian destiny in a tower block (where unspeakable crimes might be perpetrated).

In towns, the false god of the one-way street was an agent of change that proved catastrophic. This, of course, was the very moment that other visionaries thought it wise to, quite literally, decimate the railway system in the interests of “economy”. The M25 between Junctions 8 and 9 northbound on a Monday morning is their memorial. And the hell of Wandsworth, Vauxhall Cross or Hammersmith is Buchanan’s.

One-way systems are wrong because they are counterintuitive and seek to impose a spurious logic on human behaviour, something always at its most interesting when irrational. There is surely something very nasty in the concept and expression “gyratory”. It suggests circles of Hell and invites the conjoined idea of futility and an endless quest for an impossible goal.

To enter any gyratory system — often survivable in a car, more precarious on a bike, but suicidal on foot — is to go on bargaining terms with urban aggression and the one-dimensional solutions of the traffic engineer. In pursuit of something that looks good on a graphic, but does not work on the ground, sinister gyratory systems generate millions of unnecessary miles and thousands of tons of pollution.

And people hate them. Best to reinstate the Darwinian struggle of the two-way street and re-create cities that respond to the cheerful anarchy of individual purpose, not a chilly master plan. This is a prospect pleasantly hinted at in a new exhibition. The architectural publisher and bike evangelist Peter Murray has created a series of enamel plaques mocking London’s one-way system. Of Fitzrovia he says it “fails in its aspirations to speed the traffic, but succeeds in confusing cyclists and traffic alike”.

One-way was designed to “reduce congestion”. In true conformity with the Orwellian model, it did the opposite. One-way ? “Wrong way, go back” as the signs say on US freeways. I’m glad to say we are.

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About the author:
Let me quote the author directly from his website you can find at “Stephen Bayley was once described as ‘the second most intelligent man in Britain’. This is controversial and very possibly untrue, but what is indisputable is that – as the author of more than ten books, nearly thirty exhibition catalogues, countless articles, broadcasts and newspaper columns – he is one of the world’s best known commentators on modern culture. Tom Wolfe said of him “I don’t know anybody with more interesting observations about style, taste and contemporary design.”


Message from Mumbai: Streets are for People

When we set out to lay the base for this journal in 2008, we never for a moment considered calling it “World Roads”. Our focus was and is on the fact that if roads are for vehicles, streets are definitely for people. Let us have a look at what one young “lapsed engineer from India” has to say about this in the context of his home city of Mumbai, with lessons that ring just as true in places like Manhattan, Madrid, Melbourne . . . or surely your city as well. Continue reading

Listening to children

Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice
Volume 15, Number 1. March 2010

Editorial – John Whitelegg:

This issue contains two articles that on first reading may appear totally unrelated. This is not the case. The Kinnersly article – “Transport and climate change on a planet near you ” – is a comprehensive reflection on the links between economic growth, poor quality democracy, lack of will to deal with sustainability and biodiversity and the perversity of reckless decision taking that supports a business as usual (BAU) model of the world.

Tranter and O‟Brien in “Positive psychology, walking and well-being: Can walking school buses survive a policy of school closure?”, show convincingly and persuasively that a child-centred policy based on listening to children, thinking about the wider issues around children and the journey to school can bring about a very different outcome to the ones currently on offer.

Kinnersly‟s well-founded worries about BAU are neatly dealt with by the child-centred model (CCM) advanced by Tranter and O‟Brien. Equally there will be other non-BAU models that raise alternative visions and perspectives and this journal want to hear from older people, those with mobility difficulties and those who live in the accessibility poor “facility deserts” that we have created in many British cities.

It is clear from both articles in this issue that we cannot expect intelligent, ethical, human-centred, quality of life outcomes from our expert led, neo-classical economics, “bean counter”, top-down perspectives.

The failure of the Copenhagen climate change summit last December which is dealt with by Kinnersly captures these points in a rather dramatic manner. It is clear that whatever was going on in Copenhagen it was nothing to do with a human-centred, ethical view of the world and nothing to do with precautionarity or quality of life.

We are lucky that the politicians and world leaders who drew up the failed “accord” in Copenhagen last December were not around in the first couple of decades of the 19th Century. If they had been around they would have presented a wonderful story in favour of continuing the business known as “slavery”. Slavery is after all very good for the economy, it would be disruptive to ban it, any ill-informed criticism of slavery can only result in “foreigners” benefitting from the desirable business model and it will still be there anyway. Abolishing slavery was not easy but luckily there was a different mood around and it was done.

Kinnersly also represents a valuable tradition in the development of so-called western civilisation. Like David Engwicht in Australia (see end note) he has thought about his subject matter very deeply and produced a fine intellectual product with a strong policy resonance.

This is lacking in the ranks of professional planners, economists, traffic engineers and others and highlights the need for “citizen science” or productive engagement between the professionals and those who have something highly intelligent to say. This productive engagement does not exist at the moment. Our professional world of science and expert evidence has produced an arrogant, dismissive model of the universe.

The dismissive model applies to children. Asking children about the journey to school as described in Tranter and O‟Brien is a brilliant way of sorting out what we should be doing for children and is more likely to produce more active travel, less obesity and happier children than high-blown waffle in official documents.

Clearly we do not listen to children and like Tranter and O‟Brien. I have heard
children speak eloquently about roads and traffic and against the closure of their school and seen a completely dismissive response. The roads and traffic policies continue to ignore children and to prioritise the needs of the person in the car to the detriment of the child on foot or bike and a very fine secondary school in Hornby (Lancashire, UK) much-loved by its local community, was closed in spite of massive protest and a unanimous vote by a group of councillors to keep it open.

This is now being repeated in the decision to close Skerton primary school in a deprived community in Lancaster UK which will produce the result of exposing children to severe traffic danger as they travel to more distant schools.

This issue contains important messages about a desirable future, the real need for alternatives to BAU and the importance of other voices, and we look forward to more of this in future issues

John Whitelegg Editor

Engwicht, D. (2005) The smarter way Envirobook, Annandale, Wales, Australia

Abstracts & Keywords

Transport and climate change on a planet near you
Patrick Kinnersly Creating a sustainable transport system requires more than merely reducing carbon emissions from vehicles. A superficial greening of transport is essential to the continued expansion demanded by a market-driven model of unlimited growth, inducing further carbon emissions and resource conflicts and preventing the sustainable development required to avert climate crisis.

Keywords: Transport, climate change, carbon emissions, economic growth, environment

Positive psychology, walking and well-being: can walking school buses survive a policy of school closures?
Catherine O‟Brien and Paul J. Tranter Children provide an insight into our understanding of the link between walking and happiness, as walking is a playful experience for them. Many adults make trips simply because they are focussed on getting to a destination. Children on the other hand, are more often able to enjoy the “places” along the way, rather than being focused on the “next task.” Evidence from positive psychology indicates that happiness and positive emotions contribute to our health and well-being. Slowing down, enjoying life’s pleasures, and appreciating our friends, community and environment are all linked to enhanced well-being. Despite an awareness of such benefits, government policies can often be seen as undermining well-being, even by discouraging walking to school by children. This paper examines the impact of a policy of school closures on the viability of walking school buses.

Keywords: positive psychology, walking school buses, children, community, environment

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* Click here for full issue:

About the authors:

For the past decade Catherine O’Brien has been leading efforts in Canada to create child and youth friendly communities and Catherine is currently developing child and youth friendly land use and transport planning friendly guidelines for every Canadian province. More recently, she has been exploring how sustainability and happiness studies can contribute to a more
sustainable future. Catherine is an education professor at Cape Breton University where she developed the first university course in the world on sustainable happiness! Articles on sustainable happiness can be found at Catherine lives in Sydney, Nova Scotia with her husband, two teenage children, a dog, a cat, and a turtle.

Paul Tranter is Associate Professor in Geography in the University of New South Wales. He writes: “Creating resilient cities? It’s child’s play! Paul’s research in the areas of child-friendly environments, effective speed, road safety and sustainable transport, has led him to the realisation that if we can create environments where children can playfully and safely explore their neighbourhoods and cities, we will also be creating places that are happier, healthier and more livable for all city residents, both now and in the future.”

Patrick Kinnersly describes himself as follows: “Patrick blames Mrs Thatcher for turning him into a transport activist. After two decades campaigning against the hazards of work he escaped to write a novel, but wherever he went one of her ‘roads to prosperity’ was heading for the place. In 1993 he helped form an alliance of local groups that dismantled government plans for a ‘superhighway’ between the M27 and the M4. They had to do it again as local councils revived dead schemes for their own ‘strategic corridors’. It took ten years and a fortune in professional fees to make ministers reject the last of these ‘undead’ roads. Such victories are rare. Expanding roads, runways and ports still dominates transport policy – and the lives of objectors with better things to do. But the folly is so obvious it may not need a novel to expose it!”

John Whitelegg is visiting Professor of Sustainable Transport at Liverpool John Moores University and Professor of Sustainable Development at University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute, and is founder and editor of the Journal of World Transport Policy and Practice. John is a local councillor in Lancaster, and Leader of the North West (of England) Green Party.

"We need faster horses."

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses”. – Henry Ford

Hmm, sounds quite good but, well, I am not quite sure how I feel about this — but anyway those are Henry Ford’s famous words, as quoted by German Federal President Horst Köhler in a challenging speech on January 14th of this year to ADAC, Germany’s and Europe’s largest automobile club – a speech widely ignored by the German media.

He then added this: “In other words, mobility has to be thought ahead. You, leading representatives of the car industry, be ahead of your customers! The phrase “that’s what the customers wanted” is not set in stone for all eternity. As leaders you have a responsibility to lead. And part of that is to recognize shifts in the tide – on the markets and in society – and to react promptly and get new products ready for the market.”

The fact that he then segues into the importance of a massive move into electric cars troubles; it repeats one bad old habit of some parts of the political and administrative establishment in many places, which is to assume that they somehow can make wise determinations about technology. They cannot. That’s not their competence, that’s not their job. What we expect of wise governance is to set ambitious, but achievable performance parameters, standards if you will, that lead us toward better, cleaner, safer and fairer mobility. But not to tell us which technology is best suited to do the job. They, quit frankly, do not and can not know.

And in any event if you ask me, what we need is slower horses. It’s at least a start. Someone please tell that to whoever it is in Germany who continue to resist setting speed limits on the autobahn.

You can read the full text of his talk which touches on matters of mobility, technology, entrepreneurship and governance here:,11165.661675/Speech-by-Federal-President-Ho.htm?global.back=/en/-%2c11165%2c0/Speeches.htm%3flink%3dbpr_liste.

Thanks to Markus Heller of Autofrei Wohnen in Berlin and Pascal van den Noort of VeloMondial in Amsterdam for the heads-up.

Op-Ed. Twenty is plenty

A pedestrian hit by a car at 40 mph has a 95% chance of being killed, at 30 mph this becomes 50% and at 20 mph it becomes 5%.

– Dr. Stephen J. Watkins, from the National Health Service, UK Continue reading

The Battle for Street Space – Part II

Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets

– Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Traffic Calming—The First Wave
For several decades there have been efforts to use roadway modifications, such as humps and chicanes, to control motor vehicle speeds on streets whose primary roles are non-traffic ones (Hass-Klau 1990). Such traffic calming began in north-west Europe and by now is familiar almost everywhere.

Early traffic calming tended to focus on streets at the lowest levels of the roadway hierarchy to reinforce the primacy of access and pedestrian activity at that level. More recently, adaptations of traffic calming techniques have been applied to some streets at higher levels of the hierarchy, such as short stretches of shopping streets and the main streets of towns. An early Dutch traffic calming innovation, the Woonerf or “home zone”, involved a complete redesign of urban residential streets to make it clear to motorists that they were guests in a home environment. This was a precursor to the more ambitious shared space experiments.

Tempo 30 Zones (Or “Twenty’s Plenty”)

A variation on traffic calming is to simply signpost very low speed limits, notably 30 km/h (or 20 miles/h). Many European cities now have extensive Tempo 30 zones (Figure 1). Graz in Austria has been a pioneer, with a blanket 30 km/h speed limit over much of the city. Only major roads allow higher speeds of 50 km/h or more. Sweden’s “Vision Zero”, which aims to eliminate road deaths and minimise the effects of the “foreseeable crashes” between pedestrians and motor vehicles, has prompted more Tempo 30 zones in that country.

Shared Space (Or “Naked Streets”)

The shared space approach to streets emerged in the 1990s, pioneered by the late Hans Monderman in towns across the northern region of the Netherlands. Sometimes called “naked streets”, this approach is also seen as a second generation of traffic calming that has been spreading rapidly with trials underway in many countries. Shared space completely overturns the idea that urban road safety depends on predictability and on clearly defining who has the right of way (Hamilton-Baillie 2008). Shared space designs often remove most traffic lights, signs and kerbs. No particular user or movement has automatic right of way. This forces road users (car or truck drivers, bicycle users and pedestrians alike) to proceed cautiously and to negotiate their way forward, mostly through eye contact. Australian innovator, David Engwicht (2006), calls this “safety through intrigue and uncertainty”. If this is difficult to imagine, then the videos at will help.

Low speeds are both a consequence of and a necessity for this social mode of negotiated motion. In high-speed traffic the human mind is not capable of negotiating with other road users through eye contact. We can only do this at or below about 30km/h. Both crash incidence and the probability of death or injury, even for pedestrians, are very low at these speeds (Shared Space project 2005). Trials have included main streets and intersections in town centres. Surprisingly, travel times hardly suffer because, although top speeds between junctions are much lower, there is much less stopping at intersections.

Even though shared space includes motor vehicles, they become very much part of the public realm at low speeds. Monderman made clear that shared space design is only for the parts of the network that can be designated as public realm. His vision of an expanded public realm includes many surprisingly busy streets. However, it does not include those major arterial roads on which high speeds remain important. These remain traffic space.

Accidental Shared Space

The informal emergence of shared space street dynamics can be seen when pedestrians and/or slow vehicles dominate a street space, leaving motorists little choice but to proceed on a negotiated and cautious basis. This is common in inner urban streets of many developing countries (Figure 2). It can be seen also on the narrow streets of Singapore’s Little India area. Such “chaos” is of course widely lamented, with pedestrians and other road users blamed for indiscipline. Moreover, at times of low pedestrian activity, traffic speeds do rise and crash risk and severity can become very high. However, the imposition of traffic-focused design in such places would often be a mistake. A better option for these streets might be shared space by design rather than by accident.

Bicycle Boulevards/Slow Streets Network

Traffic-calmed “bicycle streets” on which bicycles have clear priority over motor vehicles are common in German cities, among others (Pucher and Buehler 2008). A number of North American cities, notably Berkeley, California, have successfully used bicycle boulevards to enhance their network of safe, low-stress routes for bicycle users. Bicycles enjoy relatively uninterrupted journeys along these streets, whereas motor vehicles often face detours.

Multi-way Boulevards

Surprisingly, it is also possible to create public realm and local access functions on very busy roadways that move a large volume of fast-moving traffic. Multi-way boulevards are one way to do this. The Boulevard Book by Jacobs et al. (2002) highlights their potential and provides guidance on design. The trick this time is to create slow spaces at the edges

Some of the most elegant and successful streets in the world, such as many of the avenues in Paris, are multi-way boulevards. They are typically grand streets that have a central zone that is primarily traffic space. Then there is a tree-lined landscaped zone with walkways. This wide median separates the main traffic lanes from a smaller roadway next to another footway and the building line (Figures 3 and 4). In the best boulevards, this side-access street forms the low-speed public realm where traffic, bicycles and pedestrians can share the space safely. The authors argue that well-designed multi-way boulevards, such as Avenue Montaigne in Paris or the Passeig de Gracia in Barcelona, have good safety records, and the traffic lanes work better than equivalent space on conventional roadways. Many countries in Asia, including India, China, Vietnam and Indonesia, also have a tradition of multi-way boulevards. Some, such as CG Road in Ahmedabad, already work well while others could benefit from an effort to ensure low traffic speeds in the service lanes in order to include these lanes and their adjacent medians as part of the public realm.

“Road Diets”

“Road diets” is another innovation that allows public realm to be created with minimal impact on the utility of traffic space. As you may guess from the name, arterial roads have their traffic lanes reduced (and sometimes narrowed). However, a centre turning lane or turning bays are added, often with medians and an expansion of pedestrian and cycling space as well. In many situations, all this can be done without a loss of vehicle capacity.


Department for Transport (DfT) U.K. March 2007. Manual for Streets manforstreets

Engwicht, D. 2006. Int
rigue and Uncertainty: Towards New Traffic Taming Tools. Creative Communities International (This is an e-book which can be downloaded via

Hamilton-Bailie, B. 2008. Shared space: Reconciling people, places, and traffic. Built Environment 34 (2), 161- 181.

Hass-Klau, C. 1990. The Pedestrian and City Traffic. Belhaven Press, London.

Jacobs, A.B., Macdonald, E. and Rofé, Y. 2002. The Boulevard Book: History, Evolution, Design of Multiway Boulevards. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Patton, J.W. 2007. A pedestrian world: Competing rationalities and the calculation of transportation change. Environment and Planning A, 39(4), 928 – 944.

Pucher, J. and Buehler, R. 2008. Making cycling irresistible: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany. Transport Reviews 28 (4), 495-528. http://

Shared Space project. June 2005. Room for Everyone: A New Vision for Public Spaces. Report of the European Union Iterreg IIIB project ‘Shared Space’. Available via

Shared Space project. Oct. 2008. Final Evaluation and Results: It Takes Shared Space to Create Shared Understanding. Report of the European Union Iterreg IIIB project ‘Shared Space’. Available via http://www.sharedspace. org

Svensson, Å. ed. 2004. Arterial Streets for People. Report of the ARTISTS Project (Arterial Streets Towards Sustainability). Available via themes/urban_policy/urban_environment/La

Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where he teaches infrastructure policy, urban policy, transport policy and an introduction to public policy. He has published studies of transport policy in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. His current research interests are in innovation in transport demand management, public transport regulation, and contested priorities in urban transport policy.

This article appeared in the May number of JOURNEYS, a new LTA Academy publication (The Land Transport Authority of Singapore) and is reproduced here with their kind permission and that of the author. We felt that this is such a good survey it deserves wide circulation and international, and we are pleased to provide it here. To view the original article and illustrations, you are invited to click here.

The Battle for Street Space – Part I

Earning a Public Space Dividend in the Streets

– Paul Barter, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, University of Singapore

Abstract: Experiments with shared space or “naked streets” have captured imaginations and considerable media coverage in recent years. Most of the excitement stems from surprise that streets without kerbs, road markings or signage can work well and achieve “safety through uncertainty”. This paper looks at another equally important insight from shared space.
It focuses on a series of innovations that, like shared space, re-arrange the roles of streets in new ways to yield a “dividend” of expanded urban public realm, with little or no loss of transport utility. Such a space dividend should be especially welcome in dense cities that are both congested and short of public space.


What are streets and roadways for? An obvious answer is traffic movement. But that is clearly not the whole story. A second role is to allow the reaching of final destinations— the role we call “access”. Thirdly, streets can be valuable public places in their own right. In addition, moving high-speed motor vehicles differ enormously from movement by low-speed, vulnerable modes such as bicycles. Unfortunately, speedy motor traffic movement and the other roles of streets are in serious conflict. For almost a century, the tension between these roles has been at the heart of debate over street design (Hass-Klau 1990; Jacobs et al. 2002). This article reviews emerging resolutions to this tension.

The Battle for Street Space

The essence of a street is that it serves all these roles simultaneously—providing for traffic movement and access, and as public space for urban activities. However, mainstream roadway management has spent many decades seeking, like Le Corbusier, the “death of the street”. It tends to turn everything between kerbs into “traffic space” where motor vehicle movement is the design priority (Patton 2007).

Motorised traffic, slow modes and pedestrians are strictly segregated in both space and time. The role of streets as “public realm” has been largely restricted to the pavements (sidewalks) and to pedestrian zones. Most cities are desperately short of attractive public space and space for the networks needed by the gentle but vulnerable modes such as walking and cycling.

Since the 1930s, traffic engineers have routinely classified every roadway in a hierarchy according to the degree to which it serves either traffic movement or access. Major arterials and expressways which are at the top of the hierarchy are managed primarily for maximum vehicle mobility. Any access functions are carefully limited to contain “friction” with the mainstream traffic. Only streets at the lowest level of the hierarchy are used mainly for access. Furthermore, the planning process often seeks to remove as much activity as possible (and hence, the “public space” role) from roadways and their vicinity. The influential UK report of 1963, Traffic in Towns by Colin Buchanan, reinforced the idea that segregation was essential (Hamilton-Baillie 2008).

The roadway hierarchy has no place for streets that serve both traffic and multiple other purposes (Svensson 2004). Yet, traditional urban streets and main streets remain ubiquitous. They provide (inadequately) for both access and mobility and are sites of perennial conflict. Such conflict is especially obvious in the heavily used streets of many dense Asian cities. The conventional traffic engineering approach offers little guidance for such multi-role streets (Svensson 2004).

Expanding Public Realm without Evicting Motor Vehicles

Recently, a series of promising street management innovations has emerged that re- assert in new ways the multi-purpose nature of the street. (See Box Story “Innovations that Expand Public Realm in the Streets”.) They offer ways to increase the public realm without removing the motor vehicles or seriously undermining the utility of the motorised traffic system. Does that sound too good to be true?

These innovations exploit common insights and principles. First, they involve making a strong distinction between “traffic areas” or “highway” and public space or the “public realm” (Shared Space project 2005). Traffic areas are the realm of conventional traffic engineering where high-speed motor vehicle movement is primary, with its flow carefully segregated from slower users like pedestrians and cyclists.

Second, some of this redefined “public realm” can be shared. It includes new spaces designed for the peaceful co-existence of public place activities, slow movement by vulnerable modes as well as motor vehicles, especially those seeking access to the vicinity. The key to such co-existence lies in keeping speeds low, ideally to no more than about 30 km/h (Shared Space project, 2005). Low speeds mean that motor vehicles need not be excluded but those present will mainly be making access movements or on the “last mile” (or the first) of their trips.

Third, these innovations shift the boundary between public realm and traffic space, so that a surprising amount of what we now think of as traffic space becomes part of the low-speed public realm. In shared spaces and in other slow zones, such as Tempo 30 zones and bicycle boulevards, whole streets and intersections are converted to public space. In multi-way boulevards, public realm includes everything from the building line to the outer edge of the central, high-speed traffic lanes. This newly expanded public realm serves local motor vehicle access, slow-mode movement, public space roles and sometimes some through-traffic (with low priority and at low speed). Only the high-speed traffic movement is excluded and kept within traffic space.

Fourth, a key design goal is that both the public realm and traffic space should work better by being kept distinct (Shared Space project 2005). Cities still need high-speed traffic space of course, just as some pure pedestrian space must also remain. But a surprising amount of shared public realm could be reclaimed without diminishing total traffic capacity. The key is that most of the expansion of the public realm envisaged here would take over traffic space that does not work very efficiently anyway. For example, the capacity of many of today’s motorised traffic lanes is reduced by turning movements, kerbside drop-offs, parking, loading and other street activities. After transforming such spaces into public realm, the remaining traffic space can be re-designed more thoroughly for its traffic function. Moreover, the new public realm retains some traffic function, albeit at low speed, as a safety valve at times of extreme congestion.

A high percentage of traffic volume in most cities is carried by roads at the top of the roadway hierarchy. Much of the remaining traffic is in fact short-distance traffic, or is on the first or last “mile” of a longer trip, or is circling for a parking spot. Such traffic does not need high speeds. In fact, a slower environment is more appropriate for access movement. Furthermore, although public realm requires very low peak speeds, the approaches discussed here also usually reduce the need for stopping and starting, so that average speeds and travel times are often little changed. Therefore, reclaiming such space as public realm has less impact on traffic performance t
han one would think based purely on the percentage of traffic space “lost”.

Expanding the low-speed public realm would also allow us to be much more tolerant of a diverse range of small, vulnerable vehicles that currently do not fit easily into our transport systems. These include bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards, kick scooters, wheelchairs and many other “Personal Mobility Devices”.

Barriers to Change

As with most innovations, change will take more than a simple policy decision. In most countries, roadway management practices are deeply embedded in institutions, their missions, objectives, performance-measures and boundaries of responsibility between agencies; in professional guidelines, codes and design standards; and in traffic rules and road user education.

Fortunately, little change is needed in conventional roadway management when it is applied to its appropriate domain i.e. the highspeed arterials and highways. It is only within an expanded public realm and at its boundaries that drastic change is called for. Standard practice must no longer apply to such spaces. Level of service (LOS) has no place here. Nor do conventional approaches to road safety, such as removal of “fixed hazardous objects”. Roadways that form part of the shared public realm should not resemble highways despite the presence of motor vehicles. Design principles for such streets, including signage and road markings, must be different from those for traffic space.

The public realm of streets needs a whole new set of procedures, guidelines and metrics of success. More research is needed to develop them. This is beginning to happen through experimentation in many countries (Shared Space project 2008; Hamilton-Baillie 2008; Jacobs et al. 2002). The Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom have revised their guidance manuals on street design (e.g. DfT 2007). Traffic engineers will need to adapt their problem solving to the special challenges of designing shared public realm. They will need to collaborate more with urban design professionals and urban planners, who will also need to take more interest in the streets that they have long neglected.


This article has provided a quick review of promising new ways to reconcile movement, access and place-making within our precious urban rights of way. New public space is gained through including low-speed access movement by motor vehicles within the public realm. It is this “public space dividend” that has been my focus. It may be too soon to tell if these ideas can deliver on their promise. We may only find out by trying them out.


This article was first published in the May edition of JOURNEYS, an Academy publication of the Land Transport Authority of Singapore(LTA). We thought that many of our readers might not have picked it up, so we are most pleased to reprint here with their kind permission and that of the author.

Paul Barter is an Assistant Professor in the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore where he teaches infrastructure policy, urban policy, transport policy and an introduction to public policy. He has published studies of transport policy in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. His current research interests are in innovation in transport demand management, public transport regulation, and contested priorities in urban transport policy.

WHO on Road Safety: 'We are responsible for our future'

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Monday its first global report on road safety worldwide. The news is grim.

The report is based on data drawn from a survey of 178 countries. It concludes that something on the order of 1.3 million people are dying in traffic accidents each year, that this number is accelerating, and that anywhere from 20 to 50 million people are injured as a result of traffic crashes. If you check out their five minute video on this page, you will hear them reminding us that these numbers sum to one person being injured in traffic every second, and someone dying — being killed rather is a more accurate way to state it — every thirty seconds. (Keep that image in mind as you work your way down this page.)

Of these totals roughly half (46%) of the victims killed on streets and roads worldwide are pedestrians, cyclists, and riders of motorized two wheelers – the most vulnerable road users.

Dr. Kelly Henning, director of global health programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation that has sponsored and paid for the work behind the report, recommends that the answer lies in more laws and better enforcement of them. To this the report adds recommendations for increased use of seatbelts and helmets, along with tougher punishment of drunken drivers.

The point needs to be made that these recommendations are heavily influenced by the fact that over 90% of the world’s fatalities on the roads occur in low-income and middle-income countries, which have only 48% of the world’s registered vehicles. But as we here know both these figures are increasing every year. And we know too, sadly, that the measure currently in place to reverse these trends are altogether inadequate to do the job.

Those are certainly good steps in the right direction if properly conceived and implemented, and certainly golden counsel for the low and middle income countries in which the slaughter is the most tragic. However it will never have the impact which is needed if driving is to be less of a personal tragedy, social menace, and economic catastrophe.

It is our view here at World Streets that we need to dig deeper if we are ever going to get a major reversal of this disastrous trend. One of the authors of the report, Adnan Hyder, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, gives us a clue when he points out that:

Road safety is an area in which we truly as a global community can say, ‘We are responsible for our future’.

Let’s step back and take a quick look at this from a new mobility perspective and see what that might suggest.

First a reminder as to why people get killed or injured in traffic? Because someone is traveling too fast in a motor vehicle, which is far heavier than the victim and hence less likely to suffer the same level consequences.

Now if you have been following over these first three months the various detailed statements and views from many quarters that collectively define the New Mobility Agenda, you will note that our dual focus is (a) to reduce considerably the number of cars, buses and trucks on the road (less traffic but with better mobility), and (b) when it comes to areas in which there are pedestrians and cyclists on or near the road to slow it down dramatically. Less traffic moving slower is certainly the best answer to this part of the old mobility challenge.

The WHO recommendation on this reads: “Decreasing speed is an important way of reducing road traffic injuries, particularly among vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists). Urban speed limits should not exceed 50 km/h, while local authorities should be able to reduce these where necessary – for example around schools or in residential areas.”

However as is often the case in the complex and highly diverse world in which we live, the ultimate solution is going to be some combination of all of the above. And for sure different combinations and permutations for different places.

Click here for WHO video presentation of report.

We at World Streets and our collaborators in different parts of the world look forward to working with all those behind the WHO report in order to see how we might contribute to the process which now needs to be put in place to deal with these issues from the very beginning.

* To obtain a copy of the WHO report, please click here.

Honey, you got to slow down

– David Levinger, Mobility Education Foundation

The Obama Administration and the world at large can learn a lot from other practices at the leading edge about speed mitigation. Traffic safety research supports the adage that “speed kills.” In State Highway Safety Plans mandated by the 2005 SAFETEA-LU legislation, many states have targeted “speeding” as a top priority. There is an important difference between this focus on “speeding” and a focus on “speed” in traffic safety and congestion management. When law enforcement agencies target “speeding,” they focus on extreme behavior, but ignore the normative behaviors.

Federal policy makers and transportation leaders can have tremendous impact on safety, congestion, and road construction costs by learning from many international efforts to mitigate traffic speeds to benefit of all roadway users. Here are several effective and inspiring innovations:

Lower limits for residential areas. Residential streets should have maximum speed limits of 20 mph (presently states have minimum speed limits of 25 mph or 30 mph). (EUROPE)

Due Care provision. Implement driver training to a national standard of “Due Care”. This requires drivers to yield to anything obstructing their path, even if that thing should be yielding right of way to the driver. (UK)

Home Zones/Woonerven/Living Streets. An American pilot programs should be launched to make neighborhood streets conducive for community interaction and safer children to play next to. (UK & THE NETHERLANDS)

Enforcement should be at 4 mph over the limit. US enforcement agencies typically provide a lenient 10 mph buffer before they enforce speed limits. This means that the defacto speed limit on a 25 mph residential street becomes 35 mph. New Laser RADAR increases accuracy, and has resulted in countries formally adopting policies to enforce at 4 mph over the limit. (SWEDEN)

Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA). ISA is an in-vehicle system that informs, warns and discourages the driver to exceed the statutory local speed limit. (SWEDEN)

Dynamic Variable Speed Limits. The M25 in London and highways elsewhere actually vary their speed limits for maximum flow and safety. (UK, FRANCE, others).

Lower speed standards for urban highways. Present standards make US highway replacement cost-prohibitive. Introducing a new “urban highway” classification with lowered speeds through dense urban areas would eliminate the need for wide shoulders and travel lanes, saving Billions of dollars in construction costs, increase fuel efficiency, and reduce the toll of traffic noise. Compliance with a 50 mph speed limit is achieved via automatic photo enforcement. (EUROPE)

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David Levinger, is President of the Mobility Education Foundation, in Seattle, WA, USA

Editor’s note: Click here to read a good earlier piece under this same title by Robert Winkle which originally appeared in the New York Times on 13 November 2005

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See for latest version of this report of the New Mobility Agenda.

Street Code: Collisions Between Asymetrical Parties


Your suggestion that, in the case of a collision in a public street, regardless of fault, the larger, faster party bear the responsibility for redress. This is close to my proposal that the party in the larger vehicle (who usually doesn’t get injured) lose their privilege to drive for as long as the smaller (usually also slower) party takes to recover and to resume the mode of travel they were using at the time of the collision.

Your proposal could be a little even-handed if the fault principle (based on the Highway Traffic Act) would apply to that portion of the outcome that _would_ have entailed had the two parties been the same size and moving at the same speed as the more benign party, while the rest of the outcome fall at the feet (as it were) of the larger, faster party, regardless of fault.

BTW, the other posting on the new site is very important. I used it for a missing set of stairs in a small park near my home a few minutes ago, and it took my material, including a photo, quite well. However, I had to reply to my own post, to correct the software that would not let me reposition the icon to a more accurate location. I also posted a second photo, getting it properly turned upwards (mea culpa).

I see this as the way to create stewardship over public places, and to remove from cities the right of controling the records of complaints (“Oh, you’re the first person to complain.”)

Chris Bradshaw

America before streets were civilised

Some Reflections from 2017
Looking back at 2009 from the closing days of Barack Obama’s presidency, it is sometimes surprising to appreciate how much has changed in the relationship between people, places and traffic, and to grasp the effect of the dramatic policy change that took hold back then. Aware that successful cities are judged on the quality of their public realm, policy makers began to transform city streets from soulless arteries for vehicles into spaces shared equally by pedestrians, cars, taxis, buses, bicycles and every kind of social activity. Given the huge benefits that sprang from the multiple use of public urban space for safety, movement, accessibility, and economic vitality, it is now hard to recall how different typical streets once looked.

Until 2009, they looked like everywhere else. In those days. the roadways providing running space for vehicles were carefully separated from pedestrian spaces. Kerbs, steel barriers, bollards and paint markings reinforced this separation. Different organisations looked after the two worlds that this segregation created, one managed by “traffic engineers”, the other by “urban designers”. Traversing this divide required specific crossings controlled by traffic lights, buttons and beeping signals. Standardised signs, traffic islands, poles, control boxes and illuminated bollards littered the spaces between buildings. Behaviour in the roadway was controlled by the state via cameras, and normal social courtesies were discouraged.

Inspired by pioneering examples from Europe, and particularly by the work of Hans Monderman from The Netherlands, people suddenly realised that all this highway clutter was no longer needed. Without traffic signals, signs and markings, traffic flowed slowly and more smoothly. Congestion diminished. Casualty rates, particularly for children and vulnerable pedestrians, declined sharply. Shops flourished as pedestrian footfall increased, with people negotiating their way through slowly moving traffic using informal communication and courtesy. Bus companies reported more reliable running times. Every street in America began to reflect its history, context and purpose, reflecting the richness and diversity of the country’s huge geography and infinite variety.

Only the most busy traffic arteries remained segregated, such as the freeways and major arterial highways. All the remaining city streets became “shared space”. Back in 2009, most found the change surprising and a little daunting. It seemed almost perverse and counter-intuitive to take away rules and regulations, signs and signals, and to rely on people’s commonsense and adaptive skills. And yet, just as crowds seem to develop an intuitive choreography in busy complex spaces such as railway station forecourts and departure lounges, so drivers and pedestrians engaged in a new respectful relationship at busy intersections. Speeds remained below 20 mph. Delaying a bus or lorry became a serious social gaffe. Eye contact and hand signals became more sophisticated. Driving behaviour adapted to the times of day and rhythms of the city, with quite different styles when schools were coming out, when the bars were closing, or when streets were empty before dawn. Pedestrians walked where they wished to walk. Bicycling became the norm in the low speed, smooth flowing streets. Taxi drivers still grumbled. Traffic signal engineers were retrained as park keepers and window cleaners. Civility flourished.

So many changes in the past eight years, but none more significant for the quality of everyday life in America as the moment when engineering merged with creativity and commonsense.

Ben Hamilton-Baillie,
Hamilton-Baillie Associates Limited,
Bristol, United Kingdom

Contribution by the author to the world wide collaborative project “Messages for America: World-wide experience, ideas, counsel, proposals and good wishes for the incoming Obama transportation team”. See for latest version of this report of the New Mobility Agenda.