Streetscapes affect our lives every day

How we design and maintain our streets and streetscapes expresses how we see ourselves as a civilised society.

The quality of streetscapes hits the headlines all the time

Appearance matters. We all like visiting and living in really pleasant and interesting places. So the setting of a historic building and enhancement of conservation areas is important.

Streets need to handle traffic.  Every mode of transport: air, rail or sea, uses a street for at least part of the total journey. Streets are simply essential to move people and goods about. Without them the economy and everyday life would grind to a halt.

Road safety is paramount. Streets can be dangerous. The safety of cyclists and the reasons why drivers sometimes make tragic mistakes is constantly in the news.

Streets need to be welcoming for all users. People with disabilities, children and those simply enjoying themselves at a parade or street market expect everything to be in place for them.

Streets have to be paid for. Someone or some organisation ultimately has to pay the for the streets we use. This also affects the nature of a street.

Five design objectives

Streets are remarkably complex. Some are attractive but not particularly safe. Some may be safe but are unbelievably ugly. To objectively assess the success a street it is helpful to consider it from the viewpoint of five important design objectives that all need to be in place for a street to be successful:

Attractive streets: this depends on the locations. Cities are different from the countryside and need different design solutions.

Efficient streets: the efficient movement of people and goods is essential for the economy.

Safe streets: we are all vulnerable road-users but pedestrians and cyclists particularly so.

User-friendly streets: the concern for all the many categories of people and their activities that use a street.

Financing streets: someone or some organisation ultimately has to pay. Viability cannot be ignored.

Most streets tick some boxes. Great streets tick them all. Though it may seem unlikely, there are streets that really do perform well and score highly on all five objectives. But there is no single rule or universal specification that fits all streets. The starting point is to consider the place where the street is: its context. Places are different and have their own characteristics. So a street design that is appropriate for a city centre may to be for a rural village.

An example of a successful street design that has been designed to be pleasantly clutter-free  in a suburban shopping centre, carry high volumes of traffic, has a good safety record as well as being user-friendly is the Park Lane junction at Poynton, Cheshire

There are more practical tips at  www.PublicRealm.org

Our book STREETSCAPES includes more case studies and up dates advice and shared experience.