Nick Searl, Partner, Argent
Max Martinez, Associate Director, Space Syntax
Bruce McVean, Associate Director, Beyond Green and Founder, Movement for Liveable London
Tom Platt, London Manager, Living Streets: Speak up for your high street (1st April 2014)
The Living Streets Speak up for your high street campaign aims to ensure councillors elected on 22nd May champion people friendly high streets following election.
The campaign proposes six practical steps councils can take to help breath new life into London’s high streets by making them more inviting places to walk and spend time. Write directly to party leaders in your borough and ask them to take the Living Streets pledge.
The quick, the cheap and the temporary: Speeding up the transformation of London’s streets and public spaces
6.30pm, Wednesday 22nd January at The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, EC1M 6EJ – in partnership with Sustrans London
Is it time London learnt to loosen up and lighten up in its approach to the design and delivery of cycle infrastructure and other public realm improvements?
Over the last few years New York has been rapidly reclaiming street space for pedestrians and cyclists using little more than ‘paint and planters.’ Temporary and pilot projects are now being refined, adapted and made permanent. Should London be doing the same?
We hope you can join us for the first Street Talks of 2014 when our panel of speakers will explore the potential for quick, cheap and temporary projects to speed up the transformation of London’s streets and public spaces:
In an age of austerity and localism Sustrans DIY Streets projects allow communities to develop affordable solutions to make their streets safer and more attractive places to live. The DIY Streets project in Haringey, which ran from 2010 – 2012, led to a 10% average reduction in traffic volume at monitoring sites; a 23% increase in traffic travelling 20mph or less; a 61% increase in residents who felt the street was attractive and a 34% increase in residents who felt the street is place to socialise.
We hope you can join us for July’s Street Talks when Ben Addy, who leads Sustrans DIY Streets work in London, will explore how local residents and other partners can work together to create high quality urban environments that promote sustainable travel and are safe and pleasant to live in and visit.
Upstairs at The Yorkshire Grey, 2 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8PN at 7pm on Tuesday 2nd July 2013 (bar open from 6pm).
Ben Addy is the London Communities Manager with Sustrans. He is responsible for managing the Communities projects in London – including DIY Streets and Pocket Places. Prior to his current role, Ben delivered a two-year DIY Streets project in Turnpike Lane, London Borough of Haringey. Ben has an MA International Studies from the University of Denver and has extensive experience working on social justice projects and campaigns in both Europe and North America.
If not now, when? Prospects for a cycling revolution in 2012/13 – Presentation to Newcastle Cycling Campaign by Bruce McVean (12th June 2012)
Many different factors – topographical, historical, economic, social, demographic and political – have contributed to the borough of Hackney becoming arguably the most liveable in London. We hope you can join us for Street Talks in June when Trevor Parsons and Vincent Stops will explore these factors, outline the many problems and constraints which still remain, and discuss strategies for overcoming them.
Upstairs at The Yorkshire Grey, 2 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8PN at 7pm on Tuesday 4th June 2013 (bar open from 6pm).
Vincent Stops has been a councillor in Hackney for 11 years. For two he was the lead member responsible for transport, streets and environment issues. For the last seven he has been the Chair of Planning. During all that time Vincent has promoted the benefits of a great public realm, great built environment and the importance of bus, cycle and walking. Vincent has worked in transport policy for several years.
Trevor Parsons lives in Hoxton and tinkers with computers. He became involved in his local London Cycling Campaign group when it appealed for help in the struggle against the building of the M11 Link Road. He has remained active at the borough level ever since, and claims the first use of the word ‘permeability’ in relation to planning for cycling.
A brief (and over simplified) history of transport and the city
Cities have always been shaped by transport, while the planning and design of cities impacts on transport choices. The first cities were inherently walkable – the primary mode of transport was people’s feet and cities were necessarily compact in size and form as a result.
Public transport allowed cities to grow well beyond a size that would allow a person to comfortably walk from one side to the other. The expansion of train, tram, bus and tube lines helped suburbia spread, but the component parts of suburban growth remained walkable – homes needed to be within walking distance of train stations, tram stops, bus routes, shops and services. Today we’d say that cities were expanding through ‘transit orientated development’.
Mass private transport came in the form of the bicycle, which enabled people to travel further for journeys not served by public transport, bringing new personal freedom of movement that helped whet the appetite for the even greater freedoms promised by the car.
Aspirations towards car ownership were matched with aspirations towards home (and garden) ownership. After the Second World War rising car ownership freed developers from the need to provide easy access to public transport. Shops and services no longer needed to be within walking distance. Aggressive lobbying by car manufacturers, government investment in road building, and changes in planning policy and development economics all helped fuel the rise of the car as the transport mode of choice.
Now those who live in suburbia have little choice but to drive – trapped in a vicious cycle of car dependency as the separation of land uses continues to place jobs and services beyond the reach of those on foot, while low densities make the running of decent public transport nigh on impossible – and most people looking for a new home have little choice but to buy in suburbia.
Of course, it wasn’t just suburbia that was being shaped by the car. In existing urban areas perfectly functional buildings and even neighbourhoods disappeared under the wrecking ball to provide the road and parking space necessary to bring the car into the heart of the city.
The problem with cars
The negative impacts of our love affair with the car have long been acknowledged. As have the difficulties of trying to do anything meaningful to address them. In 1960 the Ministry of Transport commissioned a team led by Colin Buchanan to look at the problem, resulting in the publication of Traffic in Towns in 1963. 50 years on the project steering group’s famous acknowledgement that, “We are nourishing at immense cost a monster of great destructiveness. And yet we love him dearly…” still rings true.
Undoubtedly many people still aspire to car ownership, or view owning a car as essential to maintaining a high quality of life. And who are we to deny them? Engines keep getting more efficient and electric cars will help wean us off carbon dioxide emitting toxic fossil fuels. What about those self-driving cars we keep hearing so much about? Aren’t they going to use road space so efficiently that congestion will be a thing of the past, along with crashes? Perhaps, but what kind of city do we want to live in? One where everyone zooms about in their own metal box, completely removed from their fellow citizens? Ask anyone how they think their city can be improved and the answer is unlikely to be more cars – self-driving or otherwise.
Technology may soon address the problems of the internal combustion engine and the contribution that car travel makes to carbon emissions and air pollution; but technology alone can’t solve the myriad of other negative impacts of car dependency that are neatly summarised in the diagram below from the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution’s report The Urban Environment. Tackling carbon emissions and air pollution is an essential task, but it’s not the only task – the big villain isn’t the internal combustion engine, it’s the car. As Taras Grescoe argues in Straphanger, “The automobile was never an appropriate technology for [cities]. As a form of mass transit for the world, it is a disaster.”