Category Archives: streets and street use

Cycling and walking infrastructure that works: what are the next steps?

2222Our sister publication Local Transport Today recently published a viewpoint from Gary Cummins, a transport planner at JMP Consultants Ltd, and previously an activist for the London Cycling Campaign in east London.

We thought it was worth sharing, and if you think so too, join us at Cycling and walking infrastructure that works on November 13 in London, where we will hear what the deciosion-makers, from Highways Agency to DfT and TfL, have to tell us…

Compared to those of our North European neighbours, conditions for cyclists in the UK are far from perfect, or arguably even good. Nevertheless, cycling is rising up the political agenda and usage is increasing. There is a press advertising campaign currently running for the Fat Face clothing company. It depicts four good-looking twenty-somethings dressed in the casual chic style of that clothing brand, all riding traditional-style sit-up-and-beg bicycles in an idealised English country lane. When the ad men start using bikes as a reference marker to indicate the aspirations of their target audience, you know it’s the thing to be doing. Continue reading

Confused approach to out of town retail: Government paying lip service to its own ideas, says high street ‘guru’ Portas

Last week in the press, headlines (albeit small ones) screamed: High street guru Mary Portas has blasted Cabinet Minister Eric Pickles in her fight to rescue the nation’s High Streets…

While the decision to make Portas the official ‘Queen of the High Street’ may have been a cynical stunt (why do we need a celebrity to enlighten us to what we already know? Sadly, because she gets her voice heard…), her policy suggestions (many provided by exhaustive consultant reports) were sound. In the future, she says, high streets could see a move away from retail.

But it transpires that Mary’s celebrity voice is not enough. Lately, Portas has accused the Government of paying little more than ‘lip service’ to the ideas she has put forward. She was highly critical of Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles recent support for the building of an 82,000 square foot supermarket on the seafront at Margate, one of the Portas Pilot towns chosen to be awarded a share of the Government’s high street innovation fund.

Access a selection of RUDI’s high street and town centre analysis

Portas has rightly said the Government needs to introduce clear policies and plans to save British high streets, describing them as the ‘heartbeats’ of each community, and claimed that more ‘joined-up thinking’ is needed. There certainly seems to be some confusion. Already this month, Communities secretary Eric Pickles has approved outline plans for a business park on the outskirts of Burbage in Leicestershire, after ruling that it would meet the need for office space in the area and would ‘not damage nearby town centres’.
Continue reading

Infrastructure to be fast tracked: why not housing and mixed use?

The Growth and Infrastructure Bill, currently plodding going through Parliament, had a second reading this week. The planning lobbyists and press are beginning to why mixed-use projects, including major residential or retail schemes, offices, factories, warehouses, and conference and exhibition centres (measuring more than 40,000 square metres) cannot also choose the fast-track system if the so wish.

The RTPI has suggested that the fast track list should include housing, provided it is part of a mixed-use scheme. If the Government is so keen to boost housing, why are these schemes excluded from fast tracking?

For example,says the RTPI, developments including ‘substantial volumes of housing’, such as King’s Cross regeneration scheme, could be good examples of schemes that have ‘achieved substantial regeneration but only with the inclusion of a major housing element’.

With the current confusion surrounding ways to boost the delivery of new communities, isn’t this worth a look?

Re-booting smarter travel initiatives

The sustainable transport field is changing and there is a tremendous opportunity to develop new integration and networking. The Department for Transport has accepted that its draft guidance on appraising ‘smarter choices’ measures does not sufficiently mention the evidence of the impact of interventions to change behaviour.

The DfT draft guidance omits or downplays key evidence, such as from car clubs and cycling towns. It downplays the effect of smarter choices packages and combinations of packages and hard infrastructure.’

Keith Buchan, chair of the Transport Planning Society and Professor Phil Goodwin of the University of the West of England, are pioneering an alternative smarter choices guidance draft, which they refer to as the “expert version”.

Access a selection of RUDI.net’s content on related issues, including the advent of peak car, communications technology, ITS, urban design and planning, shared bikes and cars, and active travel

Plus, there’s lots of interesting new thoughts on marketing active travel, such as this piece (below) on cycling from Local Transport Today, written by Charlotte Welch, senior consultant at Steer Davies Gleave and a director of the Transport Planning Society.

Join us in Bristol, December, for a ground-breaking discussion on sustainable travel issues

Marketing cycling: Are we trying to reach the people who might actually listen to our message?

Recent campaigns to encourage people to cycle more have generally focussed on everyday cycling: pictures of people like you and me riding bikes in normal, everyday clothes. The thinking behind these sorts of campaigns is to be as inclusive as possible, not putting people off the idea of cycling because they don’t fit in with the image portrayed but, while this may seem like a good idea, is it possible that we are jumping ahead of ourselves?

Why might this be wrong?
In his 1962 book, Diffusion of Innovations, Everett Rogers proposed a theory about how new ideas spread over time, reaching different stages of the population at different times. The idea of cycling as an everyday mode of transport is not a new idea but it is an idea that hasn’t yet spread very far throughout our population. Despite increases in the number of cyclists in London following initiatives to get more people cycling, mode share in the capital is only 2%.

Rogers’ theory is that new ideas or innovations spread through parts of the population in sequence and that, in order to reach the mass market, we first need to get our idea adopted by the small proportion of the population who try things before everyone else.

The way that ideas spread can be plotted on a chart that takes the shape of a bell curve, with the people who try things first on the left, representing a small proportion of the population; the mass market in the centre; and the laggards, or people who it will always be a struggle to convert, on the right of the curve. What is important to note here is that the spread of a new idea is sequential: the mass market won’t adopt a new idea until someone else has tried it first. We’re all at different stages of this curve at different times and for different things. Just because someone you know was the first to adopt one new idea, doesn’t necessarily mean they will do this for all new ideas. Continue reading

Transport & towns; parking and policy: it’s finally time to get it right

The current focus on re-vitalising our town centre and high streets has, intentionally or not, perfectly illuminated many vital flaws and contradictions at the heart of planning policy. The new measures aiming to boost town centres highlight the startling lack of robust evidence and consistent policy underpinning investment and policy approaches.

Three ways to help get it right:
View our handpicked content on these key issues
Join us at for a key debate on 26 April 2012 in London: the key people will all be there!
Meet the protagonists: challenge the status quo with us on July 11 and 12 2012

The issues currently exercising our network of urban, movement and parking professionals relate to this inconsistency and lack of rigour. The indications are everywhere: the DfT was this month urged to review its National Transport Model (NTM) by a leading traffic expert who claimed the model’s forecast of major road traffic growth in London, at least, is ‘implausible’. Transport Planning Society chairman Keith Buchan said the forecast was ‘so far away from reality that there must be an urgent review of how this has come about’. And as such potentially flawed forecasts underpin decisions on what transport infrastructure gets built, and what kinds of urban realm investment shape our towns and cities, this is more than merely worrying.

The transport profession has dominated the making of place for the past 50 years because it has counted and modelled. Measurement is power. Urban practice has much to learn from the transport industry if its legacy is truly to be one that is great.

Getting value for money, based on the best evidence, is what we need more than ever in this post-recession world. Our publication Local Transport Today has noted that a shift to smaller-scale transport schemes ‘could be a good thing’ in the spirit of recent thinking around the virtues of ‘smarter’, lower cost interventions. These may well fit in with other recent studies that clarify the drivers needed to support a move to healthier (and so desirable in social funding costs) cycling and walking behaviours, and with those that note how technological developments are increasingly influencing positive changes in living and movement patterns.
But, alas, several recent studies – some commissioned by the developers and investors who insist that they ‘know’ their market – suggest that many private car owners wish to drive and park their cars even when there are convenient and cost-effective alternatives. How can we begin to encourage more realistic behaviours across the board if we don’t begin with the easier targets?

Similarly, in hard times, parking is prioritised as a potentially juicy revenue stream by politicians and practitioners alike, in terms of both collecting and modelling future incomes. But how reliable are such models? Traffic- and car-choked high streets don’t appeal to anyone but those lucky enough to grab a spot while they pop into the chemist.
Yet with infrastructure development decisions, thanks to the lack of rigourous evidence underpinning them, being used to further political rather than social agendas, we still see the lion’s share of infrastructre funding going to private car-based transport modes.
And nor do new planning policy frameworks offer increased consistency. The new NPPF has been criticised for favouring car-based urban sprawl, and the localism agenda, which claims to place new emphasis on supporting accessibility and activity for a wider range of people and places, offers potential but no real resource. As the move to localism cries out for investment in placemaking support, it is, as Julian Dobson, co-author of the Business, Innovation and Skills report into the much-reported demise of the high street notes: ‘ironic that government has withdrawn from serious investment in placemaking at precisely the time when placemaking skills are most needed.’

The challenge for enlightened place and movement professionals is to work together to demonstrate how integrated spatial planning leads to quality of place, which in turn generates demonstrable economic and social value.

The tools and processes necessary to help us understand the real nature and needs of the world around us, and so generate robust evidence bases that support informed decion-making already exist: all we have to do is get (much) better at using them.

Shared space: the debate continues

Well, shared space is certainly getting it’s fair share of attention, even making it onto Radio 4 last week. But do wider ideas from the public serve to clarify or cloud the issues of what makes great streets? It seems to us at RUDI rather ironic that, just as designers and practitioners begin to feel comfortable with shared spaces – or rather aware that a suitable level of design/engineering compromise has been identified and documented – that a groundswell of opinion from the public urges practitioners to go further, or not to go anywhere at all.

Change liability laws; ban traffic outright from so-called streets (as opposed to roads) ; and step up parking penalties are some of the issues being raised – again – by anti car, pro cycling and pedestrian lobbyists. But surely there must be some better way to get everyone on the same page: regarding traffic flows, links and places, high street accessibility, mobility and, quite simply, reality?

Sample some of the recent ideas and suggestions on RUDI’s friend and participant As Easy as Riding a Bike blog, and let us know what you think?

High streets in crisis: great suggestions from the experts…

As Mary Portas delivers her review on the future of high streets, it’s positive to note that some of her ideas were similar to those suggested by the range of experts at the RUDI/LTT Better Streets event a week or so ago. But being the practical guys they are, our speakers went much further, outlining how they’d give our high streets a shot in the arm – and all for good value, too…and with great examples!

Get the background from RUDI

PLUS: There’s lots more information on these and related issues on our sister sites RUDI.net and TransportXtra.com

Creating the streets we want…

Back when RUDI.net started out, few people were ever heard discussing street use and town planning in public. Yet today, the state of our streets, our high streets, our town centres and our communities in general seems rarely to be out of the news or out of the pub.

Perhaps the promise of localism, along with the dire job the so-called professionals seem to be doing, has inspired us to have a go. After all, we can’t do any worse, surely?? It is in this spirit that RUDI.net has bravely undertaken to make sure that its event in November, Better Streets – what really works, will candidly dig through the myths and fluff and sacred cows of street design and explore what is good and what is not – and yes, that means that you can come along and have a say! There are always places available at our events for informed and interested volunteers, campaigners and community groups: contact us on [email protected] to find out more…

Designers take note: public are voting with their feet and voices for their favourite streets…

As the importance, and understanding, of placemaking rises alongside the rise of localism, the public are getting increasingly involved in their streetscapes and how they work. This week, the BBC reported that the UK’s favourite street, at least according to BBC listeners, is Gloucester Street close to the an area known as the People’s Republic of Stoke’s Cross, a Community Interest Company dedicated to preserving the unique spirit of quirky independence that makes the area so beloved to locals. What makes Gloucester Street so special, says Elizabeth Winkler of the People’s Republic of Stoke’s Cross, is the look and feel of the many independent shops on the high street; the stock, the painted facades, the innovation.

Watch other RUDI’s videos on great integrated streets

Many of these issues will be explored in a RUDI-supported event on 29 November in London about shared public spaces, which will re-visit and explore many of urban design’s ‘sacred cows’: is integration is better than segregation, and what mix of uses works best for our streets?…. Continue reading

Out of our space: development is removing large parts of the city, including the streets, from a genuinely public realm

As the debate hots up about the viability and acceptability of economic-led planning and development practices, scrutiny about access to truly public spaces is back on the agenda. While cash is king, the impact of developer-led development, especially retail-led ‘semi private’ developments such as Liverpool One.

Writer Anna Minton, a regular speaker at RUDI events and the author of Ground Control, has some interesting new comments to make in the politcal magazine Red Pepper: ‘Removing large parts of the city, including the streets, from a genuinely public realm and handing them over to private companies.

‘These would own and control the entire area, policing it with private security and round-the-clock surveillance. The consequence has been the creation of a new environment characterised by high security, ‘defensible’ gated architecture and strict rules and regulations governing behaviour. Read the full article here