Street design and management

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How can streets be transformed into safe, attractive, enjoyable places where people want to walk? This area of the website brings together resources and case studies from Living Streets, professionals, government and around the web to support you in creating better streets. Covering everything from shared space schemes to simply tidying up, we've talked to the professionals involved to get honest views of the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

Street design myth busting

Declutter and tidy up

If a street features clutter, piles of litter, broken street furniture, confusing markings or uneven surfaces, people won’t feel safe to walk there.

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Rethink the traffic

Rethinking the traffic is about making sure pedestrians have the space they need to travel, and challenge ‘one size fits all’ solutions such as one way streets and gyratories.

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Recreate the street

Thinking of streets as places, rather than just corridors for traffic, opens the door to exciting new design approaches like shared space.

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Safer neighbourhoods

Last winter, around 20,000 people in the UK were admitted to hospital after slipping on ice and ...

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Talking about better street design is just anti-car

We are all pedestrians. 'Motorists' and 'pedestrians' aren't separate types of people - most of us will be both at different times and in different places. Better street design can improve places for all users if done well.

Motorists support safer speeds in the UK: the British Social Attitudes Survey 2011 found that 71 per cent of all adults wanted 20 mph speed limits in residential areas, with only 15 per cent against them.

Case study: Broadway Boulevard, New York

Broadway Boulevard. Photo by Wikimedia Commons user JeromeBroadway and Times Square are some of the most famous places in New York, but also some of the busiest. In 2009 the City carried out a major redesign to make walking easier and create pedestrian plazas in these key destinations. Since the redesign, vehicle traffic flows have increased, but despite this the travel times of taxis and buses have decreased by up to 15%, showing a reduction in congestion. Injuries to motorists and passengers have reduced by 63%.

Case study: Drachten, the Netherlands

DrachtenAn unattractive, congested junction in the town of Drachten was transformed in 2003 into a ‘shared space’ by creating an attractive central public square, replacing traffic lights with a central roundabout and a vast reduction in road signs and markings. Traffic collisions decreased eightfold, and delays for both vehicles and pedestrians have reduced by around 20 seconds – despite a 30% increase in traffic volume. The proportion of people rating congestion at the junction as ‘bad’ has fallen from 66% to 5%.  

These case studies are featured in more detail in Living Streets’ research report, Making the Case for Investment in the Walking Environment.

Different approaches to street design could endanger vulnerable road users

Case study: Julian Road, Bath

Julian Road, Bath

This busy road had experienced problems with speeding traffic for years, despite a string of measures designed to make it safer for pedestrians, including children walking to the nearby primary school. In 2003-4 a basic ‘shared space’ layout was implemented, with signs and road markings removed and a new surface used to create an informal junction. Whereas 9 people were killed or seriously injured in 2002-3, this went down to zero from 2005-2009.

Case study: Kensington High Street, London

Kensington High StreetThis key pedestrian and vehicle route, an important London shopping destination, underwent some simple improvements to improve mobility and make the street more attractive. Much of the work consisted of ‘decluttering’ the street by removing unnecessary signs, markings and obstructions such as guardrailing. A boulevard effect was created by realigning kerbs, while more space was provided by widening pavements and a central reserve created to provide cycle parking and tree planting. New crossings were added, but the redesign also meant safer speeds for traffic and more opportunity for pedestrians to cross informally. During the three years after completion traffic collisions in the affected area reduced by more than 40%, with pedestrian casualties reducing by 59%.

This case study is featured in more detail in Living Streets’ research report, Making the Case for Investment in the Walking Environment.

Making changes to the streets will surely be bad for businesses

Pedestrians are key customers. Living Streets’ Making the Case report highlights a study in Bristol which found that retailers on a local high street overestimated the proportion of shoppers arriving by car by almost double at 41%, compared with the actual proportion of 22%. In fact, over half of the shoppers had arrived there by foot, and greater proportions had arrived by bus and cycle than estimated by retailers. Pedestrians also tended to visit more shops than those arriving by car. Similarly, Transport for London's Town Centres Survey 2003-4 found that people walking to a town centre spent an average of £91 per week in the area, as compared to £64 for car drivers or passengers, while bus users spent just £1 less per week than those arriving by car.

The success of a town centre has very little to do with parking. Providing more parking is often cited as a way of improving the business climate in town and local centres, but this isn't backed up by the facts. Parking costs money to provide, takes up prime space and tends to increase car use and therefore congestion and pollution, worsening the town centre experience for shoppers and others. A study commissioned by the Department for Transport concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that limits on car parking provision have a negative economic effect or result in developments or investment not going ahead - in fact limiting parking can have a positive effect. Our Making the Case report shows that money is far better spent on improving streets for all.

Paved with gold: Research from the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (now part of the Design Council) brings together evidence on the economic benefits of better streets.

Valuing urban realm: Transport for London have developed a toolkit, Valuing Urban Realm, which allows practitioners to calculate the potential economic benefits of a good street design scheme.

Case study: Exeter City Centre

Exeter City CentreExeter has undergone a series of improvements to its public space, including improved paving and lighting, pedestrianisation and an increase in seating, including cafes. The result has been an increase in footfall from shoppers of around 30% between 2002 and 2010, with the economic value of the improvements demonstrated in a rent premium of around £5 per square foot for top-end retail space, maintained in 2009 in the face of the economic downturn.

This case study is featured in more detail in Living Streets’ research report, Making the Case for Investment in the Walking Environment.


New street design doesn’t fit with historic environments

Valuing Places from English Heritage uses case studies from across the UK to demonstrate that the public realm can be modernised and enhanced whilst still protecting the character of Conservation Areas. The centre of Cambridge, Nottingham’s Lace Market and Peterborough’s Cathedral Square are good examples.