User-friendly streets

Kevin Carey Chairman, Royal National Institute of Blind People says in STREETSCAPES:

Everyone should be able to use our streets. RNIB’s campaign Who Put That There helps people with sight loss to lobby local authorities to reduce transient clutter: advertising boards, pavement parking, bins and rubbish. Whereas a limited number of permanent objects such as benches and lampposts provide friendly landmarks

Archie Robertson OBE Chair, Living Streets says

Our programme to encourage children to Walk to School brings benefits for health and wellbeing, the environment and road safety. With more pupils walking to school, car congestion around the school gate is reduced. Children who walk enter the classroom feeling alert and ready to learn.


Having dealt with visual quality, efficient movement and road safety, we now consider the improved quality of life that a street offers to all sorts of people, including those with disabilities, doing other things as well as just passing through.   Local authorities have a public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 that includes having due regard to eliminate discrimination and advance equality.

A prime question is how can a street accommodate all these additional activities, such as children walking to school and the equipment they need, and how they interact with each other. At the same time it can be part of a pleasant, enjoyable and distinctive streetscape within a city, town, suburb or the countryside.

Apart from traffic the most basic use of a street is for walking. It can be enriched by being in a pleasant, interesting place but made uncomfortable, or even impossible, for people with disabilities, if it is obstructed by too many café seats, parking machines and advertising boards, or simply left looking uncared-for when there are no people about. The principles that we examine next are to what extent different activities can take place without precluding others.

A seaside sandy beach is a good example of a place being used for many activities without the need for permanent equipment. The people themselves bring everything they need so that they can walk, run, sit, have picnics and play games, and at the end of the day they take away their seats and windbreaks, and the tide comes in to clean the whole beach. In a city, given reasonable weather, people will use whatever is available to sit on, even the steps of a cathedral. It doesn’t need to be specially constructed formal seating.

These principles can be applied to ordinary streets. Though there may need to be some sensible compromises.

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