As dynamic spaces comprising of everything building-to-building, including building frontages, a ‘street’ by its very definition is for all user and transport modes. Unfortunately, most of London’s streets are dominated by a road that prioritises the free movement of vehicles. For streets to cater for all, they need to adopt a holistic and inclusive design approach that discards car-centric road-based design, in favour of a multi-modal, building-to-building design.
Designers must approach street design on a case-by-case basis, balancing pedestrians, cyclists, public transport, and private motor vehicles to ensure the street serves its context. In almost all cases, London’s streets need to better support walking and cycling, especially if they are going to respond to current active travel policy and if London is going to meet the Mayor and TfL’s vision of becoming the world's most walkable city. This will require a city-wide push to widen, declutter and green footpaths, as well as install resting places and increase the quantum of pedestrian crossings. For cycling we must expand our existing cycle facilities and link up to wider cycle network, in the surrounding boroughs and beyond.
How to achieve this is trickier, in some streets, tightening up existing traffic lanes, frees the up space to achieve systemic improvements, whilst maintaining all the existing functionality. On other streets, a reduction in the number of traffic lanes is required, a simpler task if existing traffic flows (volumes) permit, much harder if not. That said, a reduction in vehicle capacity might not be a bad thing, especially when considering citywide traffic must be reduced by at least 27% for London to achieve net zero by 2030. Regardless, we must always ensure these changes do not inhibit public transport.
In other instances, functionality, such as vehicle parking might need to be reconsidered. For example, on our recent Streetscape projects, the removal of parking spaces has been necessary to promote active travel and deliver impactful change, however, there will always be a need to provide disabled parking within the city centre to create a fully accessible city.
Existing policy could go further, active travel and SuDS should be a mandatory deliverable on every Streetscape project. Automatically permitting the removal of parking bays for Tree planting and SuDS, would be vital to creating resilient and healthy streets and go ways to tackling the climate crisis.
It is the role of urban leaders and designers to push for this change, and through meaning engagement, bring existing users, businesses, and residents along for the ride. Understanding everyone’s needs and the way they use the spaces is the only way to create a fully accessible and inclusive street!