Category Archives: Safe Streets

Safer Streets LA – Wrap a couple of spare neurons around this one

From the 2012 Safe Streets Challenge project:
If you are (a) into safer streets and (b) ready to dig in to understand that things out there are not necessarily what one might necessarily think, may we suggest that you check out here this slightly counterintuitive piece that was posted this morning in our parallel Safe Streets project. Continue reading

Defining principles: Remembering Mrs. Jacobs

As we move ahead with the Safe Streets project over the course of the year ahead, there will be a small group of people to whom we shall be referring from time to time who have, through their insights and contributions, basically redefined the entire field of transport in cities. And Mrs. Jane Jacobs is of course one of this wonderful group. We are honored to be able to share these leadership profiles with you, and for Mrs. Jacobs we pass the word to Michael Mehaffy who reminds us of her contributions and takes on her critics head-on. Continue reading

Safe Streets defining principles: Remembering Donald Appleyard

Safe Streets is a collaborative worldwide project which will aggressively network over the whole of 2012 in our search for shaping ideas with some of the leading thinkers, groups and programs in the field , looking to the future but also not forgetting the past — including drawing attention to the defining contributions of a certain number of leading thinkers. teachers, writers and sustainability activists, who are no longer with us but who through their work have laid down some of the most important principles which we now need to recall and take into account as we move to create a broad common framework for sustainable streets all over the world. For those of you who do not already know about the formidable vision and work of Donald Appleyard, we have pulled together a collection of reference points that should give you a good first introduction, and at the end of this piece some additional reference materials for those wishing to go further (as indeed you should).
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Man – > Technology – > Speed – > Distance – > Destruction of proximity

This out of control bulimic spiral begins with man’s uncontrollable tool-making itch, and from thence ,and unknown to us at the time, to tools which take on transforming lives of their own — one of which in the domain of mobility being ever-increasing speed, which in turn leads to ever-increasing distances, and which finally and in largely unnoticed fatal tandem destroys the reality and oh-so important qualities of proximity and community. That’s the deal and facing all this is the challenge of this collaborative project for 2012. What we thought was merely more convenient transportation, has snuck up on us and turned into very inconvenient and altogether unanticipated transformation. Continue reading

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

More on public, private and social space. Andrew Curry reports from occupied London – Part II

Hopefully we have learned at least one hard lesson of life, and that is that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. And here right before our eyes we have a case in point with the Occupy movements that are sweeping Europe and North America, a public crisis that is most unexpectedly taking place on “public land”. And then suddenly, with no advance notice, everything starts to morph and the issues involved start to encompass not only the continuing unchecked egregious abuses of the financial community but also important (for democracy) issues of public  space — one of our consistent concerns here at World Streets. So in an effort to make sure that we do not miss the opportunity behind this crisis, we pass the word back to Andrew Curry so that he can build further on his article under this title earlier this week Continue reading

A Mayor’s-Eye View of Sustainable Transportation

The letter that follows is, as you will quickly surmise, not an actual communication from one elected official in one case, but rather a composite, the distillation of experience that I have had over these last years of trying to push the sustainable transportation agenda in many parts of the world, almost always in conjunction and in dialogue with mayors and other city leaders. As you will see, it is not that they are adverse to or not interested in the concepts behind sustainable transportation and sustainable cities. It is just that they have a great many other things on their mind, including staying on top day after day of the considerable challenges of managing their city — and, in not very long, running once again for reelection. This is the political reality of which those of us who would be agents of change must be aware, that politics is the art of the possible. Now let’s turn the stage over to our mayor:

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Common Mobility Cards (Big brother is watching in India too)

A trickle of media reports over the last year or so have been hinting about a new single unified ticketing system or fare collection method being pushed through various big and small cities. That sounds promising, but is there more to it that we should be considering? (Venkatesh Nayak. Access to Information Programme . Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative) 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

Walkability Assessment in 13 Asian Cities

The poor state of pedestrian facilities in some Asian cities was highlighted in the report published by the Asian Development Bank and the Clean Air Initiative for Asian Cities. Ironically, the lowest walkability ratings are found to be along public transport terminals and schools where footpaths, pedestrian amenities and access for persons-with-disabilities are sorely lacking. Continue reading

What percent of your city’s street space is allocated to non-car uses

The pie chart you will find just below  graphically illustrates the state of street space allocation today in New York City, after four years of hard work on a committed local effort by city government and many associations to free street space for pedestrians, bikes and buses. All that for less than one half of one percent of the public space given over to cars. So here is our question this morning: Do things look any better in your city in 2011? We invite your reports and comments. Continue reading

What’s a life worth?

Gladwyn d’Souza comments from California an article that has just appeared in the New York Times on this subject. “The United States Environmental Protections Agency, EPA, should really be discussing the allocation of risk. A large curb radius for example transfers risk from the speeding driver to the pedestrian. The issue is that speed and convenience embody an energy bill whose consequences are not repatriated on the basis of least harm to public safety. While the consequences are local, an injury on your street corner, the impact under NAFTA, etc., of comparative or qualitative instead of preventive risk assessment is habitat destructive.  . . . ” Continue reading

Cars and the no-choice syndrome

World Streets gives considerable time, space and thought to the whole complex tissue of the relationships that exist between people and cars. Auto-dependence and freedom of choice. People and the ways in which they access and use cars. Their reasons for owning a car. And when it comes up, people vs. cars. Robin Chase, one of the founders of Zipcar has given a lot of thought to this too, and today shares with us some ideas about the inevitability of choosing cars.

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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

# # #

* Click here for full issue: http://www.eco-logica.co.uk/pdf/wtpp15.4.pdf

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 http://www.sustainablehappiness.ca. 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.

Honk! Will technology save us from ourselves?

When is “an important safety advance” perhaps not that safe after all? Is the answer to accidents between large, powerful and fast-moving motor vehicles and anyone else, pedestrians, cyclists and straying children and small animals included, to load on the technology to save us from ourselves? Or might it be something else, perhaps like slowing the cars on all our streets, is a better way to tackle this particular problem?

We of course vote for the latter, because we know from long experience that there are always drivers who are going to go as fast as the conditions permit. That’s a fact and since this is the case, we have to slow them down through appropriate street architecture. Now let’s read what our World Streets Sentinel, April Streeter, has recently written on this subject.

* Thanks to Ms. Streeter for her permission to reproduce. For the original piece, click to http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/10/volvo-makes-car-that-brakes-for-kids.php

Volvo Makes A Car That Stops For Pedestrians (and Next, For Bikes)

by April Streeter, Gothenburg, Sweden on 10.26.09

We talk a lot about cycling at TreeHugger, and cyclist safety. But the truth of the matter is we’re all vulnerable pedestrians at one point or another, and speed still kills. But as Copenhagenize reports, Volvo, those Swedish safety experts, have been working on a system that recognizes pedestrians as they walk in front of a car’s front end, and if the car’s speed is under 25 kilometers per hour, automatically puts on full brakes.

Volvo may not be the best at snappy marketing monikers – the safety system is called Collision Warning with Full Auto Brake and Pedestrian Detection, and will be included in the next S60 sedan as an optional add-on in the $3,500 “premium package.” The system is far from perfect — it doesn’t work at night, and it doesn’t recognize bicycles — but Volvo says it will continue to improve upon the design.

* Click here to view the Volvo video –

The system is a radar hidden behind the car grill and a video camera mounted by the rear-view mirror. While the radar spots objects at a distance, the camera hones in to identify where the object is say, a lamppost or a little kid. If the system identifies a person and a potential danger, an audible warning is accompanied by a flashing red light, similar to a brake light, designed to prompt a driver to brake. If the driver doesn’t brake, the car brakes automatically.

Because pedestrians are definitely the most vulnerable members of the traffic fabric, Volvo engineers have focused on creating a system (10 years in the making) that could reduce accident rates — 16% of all traffic-related deaths in Sweden are pedestrians, according to the Copenhagenize post, and 11% of all serious injuries in accidents are pedestrians. In fact, those safety-focused Swedes have a national goal that “nobody should be killed or seriously injured on the road transport system.”

“Our aim is that this new technology should help the driver avoid collisions with pedestrians at speeds below 25 km/h. If the car is travelling faster, the aim is to reduce the impact speed as much as possible. In most cases, we can reduce the collision force by about 75 percent. Considering the large number of pedestrian fatalities that occur, if we manage to lower the fatality risk by 20 percent this new function will make a big difference.” Volvo’s Thomas Broberg said at motorward.com.

An even more interesting statistic is this — Swedish research into collisions finds that 93% of accidents that occur happen because the “driver was occupied with something else other than driving.”

Of course, there is the argument that smarter cars will equal dumber drivers. We vote for simply slowing down city traffic – when you are driving more slowly you have time to react to the unexpected, such as the child darting out in front of you. But would slower cars and trucks equal more road rage and more hatred for the human elements on our “complete” streets?

# # #

In this slot at the end of contributed articles, we generally try to place a few sober words that will permit our readers to know a bit about the author. But this time the temptation is too great, so now you have a short bio note in April’s own words.

“April is a former bilingual cocktail waitress who left the warm beaches of Hawaii to pursue an upstanding career as reporter on the new and exciting digital world for MacWEEK magazine in San Francisco. When she finally couldn’t stand the thought of writing about one more wireless local area network router, she recast herself as an environmental and sustainability journalist for Tomorrow magazine in Stockholm, Sweden. A few years later, she escaped the Scandinavian chill to become editor of Sustainable Industries magazine in Portland, Oregon. But eventually, the lure of endless months of darkness and sleety rain beckoned her back to Gothenburg, Sweden where she today is a freelance writer and Hatha yoga teacher forever on the lookout for a good/local/organic/sustainable/fair trade Swedish burrito.”

Bad News Dept: Law requires disabled people to wear signs (Indonesia)

Jakarta – June 28, 2009, The Straits Times

“Lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won’t run them down as they cross the street.”

Indonesia’s traffic nightmare

Jakarta – June 28, 2009, The Straits Times
NEW laws requiring disabled pedestrians to wear traffic signs have met with frustration and derision in Indonesia, where in the eyes of the law cars have taken priority over people.

The laws will do nothing to improve road safety or ease the traffic that is choking the life out of the capital city of some 12 million people, and serve only to highlight official incompetence, analysts said.

Within five years, if nothing changes, experts predict Jakarta will reach total gridlock, with every main road and backstreet clogged with barely moving, pollution-spewing cars.

That’s too late for the long-awaited urban rail link known as the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), which has only just entered the design stage and won’t be operational until 2016 at the earliest.

‘Just like a big flood, Jakarta could be paralysed. The city’s mobility will die,’ University of Indonesia researcher Nyoman Teguh Prasidha said.

Instead of requiring level footpaths and ramps, lawmakers voted unanimously this month to demand disabled people wear signs announcing their condition so motorists won’t run them down as they cross the street.

Experts say the new traffic law is sadly typical of a country which for decades has allowed cars and an obsession with car ownership to run rampant over basic imperatives of urban planning.

‘It is strange when handicapped people are asked to carry extra burdens and obligations,’ Institute of Transportation Studies (Instran) chairman Darmaningtyas said.

‘The law is a triumph for the automotive industry. It’s completely useless for alleviating the traffic problem.’ The number of motor vehicles including motorcycles in greater Jakarta has almost tripled in the past eight years to 9.52 million. Meanwhile road space has grown less than one percent annually since 2004, according to the Indonesian Transport Society.

‘Traffic congestion is like cancer,’ Institute for Transportation and Development Policy specialist Harya Setyaka said. ‘This cancer has developed over 30 years as Jakarta begins to develop haphazardly beyond its carrying capacity.’ A 2004 study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency found that traffic jams cost Jakarta some 8.3 trillion rupiah (822 million dollars) a year in extra fuel consumption, lost productivity and health impact. — AFP

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Thanks to Sudhir Gota of the CAI-Asia Center, Manila, Philippines for this heads-up.

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.

Introduction

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.

Conclusion:

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.

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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.