We all use streets almost every day of our lives.
How we design and maintain our streets and streetscapes expresses how we see ourselves as a civilised society.
Many of the aspects of streetscapes hit the headlines every day: the setting of a historic building and enhancement of conservation areas; the need for efficient modern transport, both private and public; the safety of cyclists and the reasons why drivers sometimes make tragic mistakes; the amenity of people with disabilities and all the other purposes that we use streets for. Not forgetting the constant concern about how it is all paid for, such as funding from taxation and the viability of retail areas and visitor destinations.
When we walk or cycle along a street, or ride in a bus or car we see it and experience it as a complete and single entity. But streets are designed and managed through a complex system of often unco-ordinated actions by many agencies – private and public over different timescales.
To make any sort of impression or change for the better seems almost impossible. How can we begin to untangle how streets come about and what makes a really great street?
Streetscapes explains that system and examines five design objectives that need to be in place for a street to be successful: attractiveness, efficient movement, road safety, concern for the many categories of people who use streets, and the questions of who pays and economic viability.
But this is not just a theoretical exercise. 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. Places are different and have their own characteristics. A start is to consider what makes a good street in a city centre, small town centre, suburb or rural village. We thoroughly examine case studies and see how each of the five objectives can be achieved in different ways according to the special character of a place.
The conclusion is that the five design objects that need to be in place for a street to be successful not only can be met, they have been met.
This website supports the book Streetscapes and adds more case studies and up dates advice and shared experience.